Carnivale title.jpg
GenreDark fantasy
Period drama
Created byDaniel Knauf
StarringMichael J. Anderson
Adrienne Barbeau
Patrick Bauchau
Clancy Brown
Debra Christofferson
Tim DeKay
Clea DuVall
Cynthia Ettinger
John Fleck
Carla Gallo
Toby Huss
Amy Madigan
Diane Salinger
Nick Stahl
Karyne Steben
Sarah Steben
Brian Turk
Ralph Waite
Theme music composerWendy Melvoin
Lisa Coleman
Composer(s)Jeff Beal
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes24 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)Howard Klein
Daniel Knauf
Ronald D. Moore
Production location(s)California
Camera setupSingle-camera
Running time45–60 minutes
Production company(s)3 Arts Entertainment
Home Box Office
DistributorWarner Bros. Television Distribution
Original networkHBO
Original releaseSeptember 7, 2003 (2003-09-07) –
March 27, 2005 (2005-03-27)

Carnivàle (l/)[1] is an American television series set in the United States Dust Bowl during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The series, created by Daniel Knauf, ran for two seasons between 2003 and 2005. In tracing the lives of disparate groups of people in a traveling carnival, Knauf's story combined a bleak atmosphere with elements of the surreal in portraying struggles between good and evil and between free will and destiny. The show's mythology drew upon themes and motifs from traditional Christianity and gnosticism together with Masonic lore, particularly that of the Knights Templar order.

Carnivàle was produced by HBO and aired between September 14, 2003, and March 27, 2005. Its creator, Daniel Knauf, also served as executive producer along with Ronald D. Moore and Howard Klein. Jeff Beal composed the original incidental music. Nick Stahl and Clancy Brown starred as Ben Hawkins and Brother Justin Crowe, respectively. The show was filmed in Santa Clarita, California and nearby Southern California locations.

Early reviews praised Carnivàle for style and originality but questioned the approach and execution of the story. The first episode set an audience record for an HBO original series and drew durable ratings through the first season.[2] When the series proved unable to sustain these ratings in its second season, the series was cancelled. An intended six-season run was thus cut short by four seasons.

In all, 24 episodes of Carnivàle were broadcast. In 2004 the series won five Emmys out of fifteen nominations. The show received numerous other nominations and awards between 2004 and 2006.[3]


SeasonEpisodesOriginally airedAverage viewership
(in millions)
First airedLast aired
112September 14, 2003 (2003-09-14)November 30, 2003 (2003-11-30)3.54[4]
212January 9, 2005 (2005-01-09)March 27, 2005 (2005-03-27)1.70[5]

The two seasons of Carnivàle take place in the Depression-era Dust Bowl between 1934 and 1935, and consist of two main plotlines that slowly converge. The first involves a young man with strange healing powers named Ben Hawkins (Nick Stahl), who joins a traveling carnival when it passes near his home in Milfay, Oklahoma. Soon thereafter, Ben begins having surrealistic dreams and visions, which set him on the trail of a man named Henry Scudder, a drifter who crossed paths with the carnival many years before, and who apparently possessed unusual abilities similar to Ben's own.

The second plotline revolves around a Father Coughlin-esque Methodist preacher, Brother Justin Crowe (Clancy Brown), who lives with his sister Iris (Amy Madigan) in California. He shares Ben's prophetic dreams and slowly discovers the extent of his own unearthly powers, which include bending human beings to his will and making their sins and greatest evils manifest as terrifying visions. Certain that he is doing God's work, Brother Justin fully devotes himself to his religious duties, not realizing that his ultimate nemesis Ben Hawkins and the carnival are inexorably drawing closer.

Other Languages
čeština: Carnivale
Deutsch: Carnivàle
español: Carnivàle
galego: Carnivàle
italiano: Carnivàle
Nederlands: Carnivàle
norsk: Carnivàle
polski: Carnivale
português: Carnivàle
română: Carnivàle
suomi: Carnivàle
svenska: Carnivàle
Türkçe: Carnivàle