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Ooh! Tarot Cards! Isn't That Just So Spooky...
by Iain Millar, Independent On Sunday - London (September 12, 2004)

That Fox's F/X channel is celebrating Christmas early with a turkey of generous proportions is no great surprise - they were, after all, the channel that brought us the execrable Mind of a Married Man. HBO were the production outfit behind that load of rank testosterone residue and are also the progenitors of Carnivale, a slice of processed cheese wrapped up as mucho-mysterioso American Gothic. (It's beginning to look like F/X are the dumping ground for the HBO experiments that no-one else will touch.)

Imagine David Lynch took a blow to the head and decided to combine the X-Files with The Grapes of Wrath, adding in just a teensy bit of The Waltons and re-animating the painter Grant Wood as his art director.

If I understood the interminably dragged out scenario, in the Oklahoma dustbowl of depression USA a young man with healing powers that he is barely aware of is taken in by a travelling freakshow and fair to avoid being returned to the chain-gang. Meanwhile a preacher is discovering that he is witnessing miracles and visions that imply a direct line to Christ. Or, to put it another way... when the preacher confronts a member of his congregation who has stolen a penny from the collection plate, she starts vomiting coins like a Vegas fruit machine delivering a rare jackpot. This was meant to be chilling, but all I could think of was Harry Potter's mate Ron Weasley chucking up slugs after trying to put a hex on Draco Malfoy. Meanwhile, back at the carnival camp, the young man's dreams nearly give the blind mind-reader a seizure, upset his friend the bearded lady, cause the mute, telekinetic quadraplegic woman to start flinging Tarot cards all over the place and give both the reptile-skin man with the Victor Lewis-Smith hairdo and the Siamese twins cause for concern. Apparently, the young man and the preacher represent good and evil and the plot turns around finding out which is which. If there are any devils out there reading this you can have my soul for a fiver on the condition that I never have to watch it again.

"There's one thing that cuts across all our realities: that's love." No, that's not from Carnivale, but from Living TV's The L Word, the lesbian lifestyle soap that began last week. I missed the first episode, but after watching the second it's pretty clear that it doesn't really matter. Living are on a win-win with this one. Apart from pulling in all the lesbians and bi-curious women with a satellite dish, they can bank on a large male audience for the vanilla sex scenes that save them a small fortune in punching their credit card numbers into some of the porn channels that lurk on the electronic programme guide. But if (if you'll pardon the expression) you strip out the lesbians, there's not a lot going on here plotwise that you can't get in an average week on Hollyoaks. All that you can be sure of is that after first contact, when the first drama is made about the love wrangles of the 17-different-gendered beings that inhabit the second planet circling Alpha Centauri, they'll all still look like models, they'll all meet over the cash registers in the local organic foodstore, and they'll all drive open-top sports cars.