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HBO's Carnivale


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#1 jayramirez9

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Posted 17 September 2003 - 10:19 AM

Did this pique anyone's interest? After hearing the director throw down the gauntlet as "one of the most complicated story lines in tv" I felt compelled to tune in.

It kind of struck me as tv version of "Something Wicked this Way Comes", with the sides switched. I haven't decided if this "dark vs. light" period piece is going to be interesting or too esoteric and intentially confusing.

It seems like the Carnivale people are going to be the good guys and Brother Justin the Methodist preacher is going to be the bad guy. Somehow these two "forces" battle it out using their special carnivale gifts.

If anyone saw this, what do you think the significance of the preacher, the old woman and all those coins?

Peace

#2 BethR

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Posted 17 September 2003 - 11:14 AM

From what I've read, it looks like an interesting concept, but since I don't have HBO, I'm not going to be seeing it anytime in the near future, so--no meaningful commentary from me, until it goes into reruns on SciFi or comes out on DVD--if it survives that long!

Keep us posted.

#3 Darrel Manson

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Posted 17 September 2003 - 10:13 PM

Carnivale got brief mention on NPR's The Treatment today. It featured Carolyn Strauss, Executive Vice President of Original Programming for HBO.

#4 Darrel Manson

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Posted 21 September 2003 - 09:06 PM

Now that I've seen it, I'm ready to continue with it, in spite of the negative reviews it's gotten. Esoteric often doesn't work for some people, but I sort of like the mystery of it. Even things like puking up money.

So far, there really isn't anything to show who the good/bad guys are, but I suspect jayreamirez is right. However, at this point there is no evil to be seen in Bro. Justin. In fact, he has a semi-halucination in front of the local whore house where it rains blood and the neon sign shorts out, except for a cross. I don't trust his sister at all though. I'm hoping that the sides stay pretty ambivalent for a while.

I like the setting in the Depression. A time of trouble, but also a time that has taken on a certain mythical and romatic quality in our time.

#5 Darrel Manson

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Posted 21 September 2003 - 09:08 PM

From what I've read, it looks like an interesting concept, but since I don't have HBO, I'm not going to be seeing it anytime in the near future,

I don't know Beth, you may have to find somebody to tape it for you. The one light, one dark in every generation has a sort of echo of BtVS. Only here we're not quite sure who's Buffy and who's Spike.

#6 BethR

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Posted 27 October 2003 - 12:05 PM

Thanks to a hotel tv system with HBO but no WB this past Wednesday night, I caught last week's ep. of Carnivale, in which the carnies attempted to exact "justice" for the rape/murder of the hoochie-coochie girl, but found that Babylon had only one "living" inhabitant to take the punishment (nice cameo by John Hannah). Guess it really was a kind of hell on earth?

Couldn't quite figure out where the boy came from who joined the troupe--a miner? How was he alive and not a specter like the rest? Or was I missing something?

And what's the story with the minister? Is his story happening elsewhere, and eventually he'll meet up with the carnival group, at which point we should expect major fireworks? I'm confused--naturally.

Interesting imagery, no doubt. Guess I'll just have to wait for the DVDs, though

#7 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 01:21 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8rhWUP_RxI

This is by far the weirdest HBO show I've ever seen. I saw both Seasons 2-3 years ago, and now a friend of mine just finished borrowing the DVD set from me and we've been talking about it. It's not perfect, by any means. But if there is one author I just can't help comparing Carnivàle to it is Charles Williams. There is the same complete and utter blurring of boundaries between the spiritual world from the physical world. There is the same providential determinations and mixing of mythology with modern times. It's also one of the strongest impressions of the Great Depression era that I've been given by a film outside of Grapes of Wrath.

I didn't know what to make of the Messianic imagery early on, but as the "healings" continue - particularly with a few of the important (and incredibly strikingly visual) healing occurrences mid-season 2 - you suddenly given a sense of the intense loyalty and devotion that this inspires in other characters. They become believing disciples, in spite of the fact that Harper is a loner and an outcast. I don't know if I've seen more powerful "miracle" scenes than in towards the end of Carnivàle.

As far as Brother Justin goes, my friend and I both had no problem viewing him as a false prophet one to two episodes in. It's hard to accuse the show of Christian bashing when the preacher/bad guy is so obviously selling a false (and probably demonic) version of Christianity. The necessary distinctions are made. Reverend Balthus and Ben both see him for being false. And, really, a false prophet sort of bad guy is one of the scariest bad guys I could think of - he persuades and brain washes and preys on the vulnerable, and when that doesn't work, he uses his own "miracles" to seal the deal. As an antagonist for Ben, who is very understandably the reluctant hero, Brother Justin seems unbeatable. The result makes for what turn out to be quite well constructed pay-offs and climaxes at the end of each season.

It's not one of HBO's best. But it's not too shabby either, and you don't find stories about the battle between good and evil set in a religious and spiritual context very often (without just comic book level demons and exorcisms). It's actually a TV show about spiritual warfare, without going into Frank Peretti territory.

And oh yeah, it also has one of HBO's best opening credits of all time.


#8 Ryan H.

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 01:58 PM

I can't say I admire CARNIVALE. Yeah, it's generally well-made and well-acted, but its storytelling is frustratingly muddled, and it ultimately boils down to bleak unpleasantness for the sake of bleak unpleasantness.

#9 NBooth

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 02:35 PM

It's been a couple of years, but last time I watched Carnivale I was very impressed. I think the preacher is a more complicated character than is suggested by calling him a "false prophet," though--he is certainly that, but he's also a sincere false prophet (with apologies to Linus); not so much in that he believes what he says as in the fact that he discovers himself to be the villain almost against his own will, just as Hawkins finds himself in the role of protagonist against his own will. Don't get me wrong--when Brother Justin finally embraces his role, he embraces it fully, but there's a good bit of tension leading up to that final resignation that was very compelling to me at the time.

#10 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 03:24 PM

I can't say I admire CARNIVALE. Yeah, it's generally well-made and well-acted, but its storytelling is frustratingly muddled, and it ultimately boils down to bleak unpleasantness for the sake of bleak unpleasantness.

Have you seen the whole series? Yes, your observations are true for single episodes, but the bleak unpleasantness (just like in Charles Williams or Flannery O'Connor) isn't for it's own sake, it has definite and intentional conclusions as the story continues. Many episodes do end in utter hopelessness - a sensation that is not enjoyable, but quite apt for a Great Depression era story. But in spite of all the bleakness and hopelessness, there are still characters holding out for good against all hope. It's the reliability of these characters, even when they fall, that make the story as a whole compelling.

It's been a couple of years, but last time I watched Carnivale I was very impressed. I think the preacher is a more complicated character than is suggested by calling him a "false prophet," though--he is certainly that, but he's also a sincere false prophet (with apologies to Linus); not so much in that he believes what he says as in the fact that he discovers himself to be the villain almost against his own will, just as Hawkins finds himself in the role of protagonist against his own will. Don't get me wrong--when Brother Justin finally embraces his role, he embraces it fully, but there's a good bit of tension leading up to that final resignation that was very compelling to me at the time.

You're right, Brother Justin's reluctance to fully embrace evil is important. It makes the loss of his conscience and and the loss of his ties to real Christianity (given to him by his mentor, Reverend Balthus) all the more tragic. There are fragments of goodness left in him that are slowly left by the wayside. They turn from real and sincere into manipulative facades to draw others in. The real-life historical and contemporary comparisons to be made are many. And it's a struggle that is constantly compared to Ben, as Ben's sin nature and selfishness are obstacles to his own calling as well. In fact, the one thing I'm not completely clear on are both of their predecessors. There is some question as to whether Brother Justin's predecessor was the good guy and Harper's predecessor was the bad guy that brings up the further question of how their destinies were still affected by their own personal free will.

#11 Ryan H.

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 07:19 PM

Have you seen the whole series?

I saw the whole first season and got a little more than halfway through the second before I gave up on CARNIVALE. Admittedly, I gave up on it more because I thought the series had become boring than because of any objection to its darker material.

Yes, your observations are true for single episodes, but the bleak unpleasantness (just like in Charles Williams or Flannery O'Connor) isn't for it's own sake, it has definite and intentional conclusions as the story continues.

If I felt that the spiritual struggle of CARNIVALE was sincere, I would stick with it despite the bleakness. But I didn't sense much conviction. It seemed like all the "spiritual struggle" material was simply there to be exploited for its "cool" components.

Edited by Ryan H., 02 March 2012 - 07:20 PM.


#12 NBooth

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Posted 03 March 2012 - 11:21 AM

You're right, Brother Justin's reluctance to fully embrace evil is important. It makes the loss of his conscience and and the loss of his ties to real Christianity (given to him by his mentor, Reverend Balthus) all the more tragic. There are fragments of goodness left in him that are slowly left by the wayside. They turn from real and sincere into manipulative facades to draw others in. The real-life historical and contemporary comparisons to be made are many. And it's a struggle that is constantly compared to Ben, as Ben's sin nature and selfishness are obstacles to his own calling as well. In fact, the one thing I'm not completely clear on are both of their predecessors. There is some question as to whether Brother Justin's predecessor was the good guy and Harper's predecessor was the bad guy that brings up the further question of how their destinies were still affected by their own personal free will.


Oh, right. I remember that. Interesting; now I want to pull out my season set and give the series another spin. Which, since I'm planning on doing the same thing with The Wire, could get problematic.

Have you been to Wikipedia to check out post-finale character fates? It looks like they had some really interesting directions for the series to go. It's a shame the show got cancelled.