During the Great Depression, an Oklahoma farm boy and a charismatic minister learn that they are key players in a proxy war being fought between Heaven and Hell.

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Top Rated TV #201 | Won 5 Primetime Emmys. Another 9 wins & 26 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

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 Henry 'Hack' Scudder 15 episodes, 2003-2005
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Karyne Steben ...
 Alexandria 12 episodes, 2003
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 Varlyn Stroud 12 episodes, 2005
Sarah Steben ...
 Caladonia 12 episodes, 2003
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Storyline

1934, America. The Dustbowl. A fugitive named Ben Hawkins finds refuge within a traveling carnival comprised of a tarot card reader and her catatonic/telekinetic mother, a blind mentalist, a bearded lady, and conjoined twins, amongst others. The carnival is owned by the mysterious and unseen Management, who has designs on the young Hawkins, for the boy is concealing an untapped gift: he can heal the lame and raise the dead--at a price. Ben also finds himself disturbed by cryptic and prophetic dreams, which he shares with a Methodist preacher in California, Brother Justin Crowe. Brother Justin, convinced by his dreams he is following God's will, has begun to practice his own extraordinary talents, although the preacher's plans increasingly lead to disturbing and tragic consequences. In this "last great age of magic," Ben Hawkins and Justin Crowe are moving toward a great conflict between Good and Evil, although it not yet clear on which sides these men will stand. Written by matta2k

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Their journey. Their battle. Our future. See more »


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TV-MA | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

14 September 2003 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La feria ambulante  »

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1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Both John Aylward and Clancy Brown appeared on several episodes of the TV series ER. See more »

Goofs

Sofie consistently deals Tarot cards incorrectly. When shown taking cards from the deck and placing them face-up on the table, she always turns them lengthwise, thereby inverting the card from its position in the deck. Since a Tarot card has a different meaning if upside-down, cards should always be turned over sideways, so that if they are right-side-up in the deck, they remain so in the spread. See more »

Quotes

Clayton Jones: Je-sus Christ.
Samson: On a bicycle.
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Connections

Referenced in Man Seeking Woman: Scepter (2015) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

HBO does it again...
18 September 2003 | by (Arlington, VA.) – See all my reviews

Leave it to the same cable network who gave us "The Sopranos" and "Six Feet Under," to find the nexus where the likes of John Steinbeck, Stephen King, Clive Barker and Ray Bradbury could co-exist and produce such a product of dark, disturbing and eerie wonder as this.

If Daniel Knauf is not David Lynch masquerading as someone else, then they are indeed cinematic soul mates.

How else could you explain the daunting premise of setting such a classic struggle of good vs. evil, in the bleak, Depression-ravaged setting of the Oklahoma dust bowl, circa 1930's?

It's a good sign that wherever the overall story arc is going, it was engaging enough to attract some top notch talent, from both mainstream features and more edgy, independent fare. TERMINATOR 3's Nick Stahl and HIGHLANDER and BUCKAROO BANZAI cult fave Clancy Brown face off as a poor dirt farmer and a charismatic preacher, respectively, both of whom seem to possess extraordinary supernatural gifts that neither understands, nor has the power to completely control. One is a "creature of light," while the other is a "creature of darkness," as intoned in the opening monologue by carny boss Michael J. Anderson, (of "Twin Peaks" fame, cementing the Lynchian vibe). The fact that the identity of each is never clearly or inanely foreshadowed or telegraphed to the audience, is one of "Carnivale's" many compelling hooks.

Add to the mix the usual collection of sideshow oddities, portrayed more than ably by some interesting actors: internationally renowned actor Patrick Bachau as Professor Lodz, the "blind" clairvoyant; Clea DuVall (IDENTITY and THE FACULTY) as Sophie, the tarot card reader with a telepathic yet comatose mother; Tim DeKay (BIG EDEN) as the boss' right hand man and Sophie's "love interest." And yes, there's a set of cojoined twins, a bearded lady, a tattooed "monkey man" with a tail (if that's what he is.) Even genre staple Adrienne Barbeau gets into the act as the mother of the strongman, (and if the previews are any indication, her part in all of this gets MUCH bigger later on.)

We even get the shamefully underused and underrated John Savage, in some mysterious and creepy flashbacks that seem to combine visions that would have not been out of place in any of Ken Russell's films, (particularly TOMMY or ALTERED STATES.)

This is the kind of television that TV rarely does anymore, dark, gritty, disturbingly inventive. No wonder the networks are slowly dying, since cable is quickly becoming a safe haven for filmmakers who dare to take the kinds of risks that make their audiences think "outside the box."

I only hope that "Carnivale" will continue to sustain and build upon the premise and the promise it presents in the first episode.


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