I've had the two seasons of Carnivale sitting on my "to watch" shelf for a while. I picked them up at WalMart many months ago. They were only 15 bucks a season. Normally HBO shows run 50-60 bucks a season, on sale, when they first appear, so it's worth it to wait sometimes. Both seasons are under twenty dollars each on Amazon right now. There are only 12 shows in a season, and though they are longer than network shows, running about 55 minutes an episode, that's still not much of a season. Of course, since it's HBO you can get pretty naughty, there's plenty of nudity and sex. You can also pack a punch with the makeup and violence and gore, or delve into themes that might not go over well on some other channels. Especially ones where there are sponsers needs to consider. We've got a show with a good vs evil theme with lots of religion, supernatural powers, family issues, sex, violence and wall to wall dust. It's heavy on symbolism, there are a lot of visions and dreams, and the images are often very unusual or disturbing. It's a weird enough show, visually and story wise, that I can see it keeping people from returning. Even though each episode has a story line that mostly wraps up in the episode it's all one long story that arcs over two seasons. The third and fourth season would have picked up the story 5 years later and season's five and six would again start 5 years after the second arc ended. It's been long enough since it got cancelled that I'm betting we won't get any more story. The series got the axe after the second season because of poor ratings. I read on the Wikipedia that the show started with 5.3 million viewers for the opening show, September 2003, and averaged about 3.5 million a show for the rest of the season. Second season, which started January 2005, averaged under 2 million an episode. That's sure not many people, no matter how you slice it. I wasn't one of them. I had already dropped HBO by then. I decided to spend that 13 bucks a month buying nice letterboxed dvd's.
Carnivale has a fairly complicated story with two main character tracks. In one track we meet Nick Stall, a young man on the run from a chain gang, who's returned home to watch his mother die. He has powers, healing, maybe more, yet something makes his mother fear his touch, even with her dying breath. He's trying to bury her in the hard dry soil when the bank comes to foreclose and the Carnivale stops to get involved. We later learn that Management, the sequestered owner of the Carnivale, had directed them there. In the other story track Clancy Brown plays Brother Justin. He's a preacher who has a connection to Nick. He's the Yin to Nick's Yang. Amy Madigan plays Clancy's sister and what a piece of work she is. Michael J Anderson plays the manager of the travelling show. He knows some of Nick's past and he knows about Scudder. The show is pretty run down but it's the depression and there's not much money around. I read that by 1937 there were 300 licenced shows travelling the USA. It's a great setting for a series and not one you see that often. It's not a big show but they aren't going to big places. If you lived in a small city or town and are a little older you know what you'd see there. There's a merry-go-round, a ferris wheel, some sideshow attractions, games of chance, and a cooch show. All populated with interesting and peculiar characters. There's a blind guy who really can read minds. He's dating the bearded lady. He tries to lead Nick down a path. That was a mistake. Clea Duvall plays a gal who tells fortunes. She communicates with her paralyzed mother mentally. What a back story mom has. It's a killer. Adrienne Barbeau plays the snake handler. She knew Scudder but that was a long time ago. All the actors are really great and it's a tough story with all sort of nasty and degrading stuff going on. The 1930's were a pretty tought time and people did what they had to do to survive. Each show doles out little bits of information as Nick tries to solve the mystery of his past and the meaning of his abilities. There's plenty of interesting stuff to look at, the characters are intriging and there's always some boobies popping out the screen. Even though we don't get the whole 6 seasons the 2 season arc ends pretty well and you can move on with your life. Some times there just isn't any more shit to see, move along.