Joining the illustrious likes of Firefly and Twin Peaks (which it shares a lot in common with) of brilliant TV that got canceled before it truly got going is Carnivale. I spotted it in Tesco a couple of months ago and have slowly been working my way through the twenty four episodes only to find that like both of them it left far more questions than answers.
For those not familiar with it (or maybe haven’t even heard of it) imagine a cross between Chinatown and The Grapes of Wrath, all filtered through a blend of Gnostic thinking (which to my lay-persons perception seemed surprisingly accurate) and typical HBO stylings – this is a programme that even I considered turning off at one point due to the level of grimness (the tarring and feathering in the second season being particularly nasty). However stick with it and one of the most well thought out over-arching plots I’ve seen for a long time emerges. Only Life On Mars springs to mind as a series where the writers knew what they wanted to say from start to finish and had the guts to say it – rumour has it that the writer envisioned the series as three “books”, each two seasons in length.
So why did it fail? Well, unlike the majority of today’s TV it did require a level of commitment that is unusual in current TV land and the heavy use of symbolism was probably off putting to many more used to those who want everything spelled out for them. It also shared much of the cast of Twin Peaks and I can’t help thinking that the memory of that other magnificent failure stirred in others when they watched it.
Still, give it a try – the writer is still looking for a way to complete the story in the manner he wanted and even if it is never truly finished it does have some wonderful ideas.