doesn't waste any time making its--wildly ambitious--aims clear. As carnival manager Samson (Michael J. Anderson, Twin Peaks
' diminutive backwards-talker) notes in pilot episode "Milfay," directed by Rodrigo García (son of Gabriel García Marquez), "To each generation [is] born a creature of light and a creature of darkness." With that the story begins. The year is 1934, the setting the Oklahoma dustbowl. In short order, Ben Hawkins (In the Bedroom
's Nick Stahl) loses his mother and his home. He's poor, he's alone--he needs a job. So he joins Samson's carnival, en route to the West. Hawkins, naturally, is the good guy. Waiting for him in California is the not so good Brother Justin Crowe (Clancy Brown, The Shawshank Redemption
), a fire and brimstone preacher with supernatural powers and a fiercely loyal sister (Amy Madigan). Hawkins, as it turns out, has similar powers....
Created by Daniel Knauf (Wolf Lake), Carnivàle feels like David Lynch (weird, slow, occasionally kinky), plays like American Gothic (Shaun Cassidy's cult series about a good kid and an evil sheriff), and looks like John Ford's Grapes of Wrath. It features one of television's most colorful casts of characters. They include Sophie (Clea DuVall), who reads fortunes--with her comatose mother's assistance, the vaguely sinister Lodz (Patrick Bauchau), blind absinthe-drinker and mentalist (he can see both the future and the past), and Ruthie (Adrienne Barbeau), snake charmer, strongman's mother, and all-around maternal figure. By the final episode of the season ("The Day That Was the Day"), also directed by García, one of these characters will be dead. Carnivàle won five richly deserved technical Emmys for its first year, including awards for cinematography and art direction. Like HBO's edgy Deadwood, it's period drama for people who don't normally like period drama. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
1934. The Dustbowl. The last great age of magic. In a time of titanic sandstorms, vile plagues, drought and pistilence - signs of God's fury and harbingers of the Apocalypse - the final conflict between good and evil is about to begin. The battle will take place in the Heartland of an empire called America. And when it is over, man will forever trade away wonder for reason. See the conflict of good vs. evil played out against a pair of vivid and unusual backdrops: a traveling carnival working the American Dustbowl circuit, and an evangelical ministry in California. DVD Features:Audio Commentary:3 Audio Commentaries with Creator Daniel Knauf, Executive Producer Howard Klein and Directors Rodrigo Garcia and Jeremy PodeswaFeaturette:"Making of Carnivale" Featurette detailing how set and costume designers collaborated to achieve the look of the Dustbowl in the 1930s