click to go to 'home page'

DVD: 'Carnivale' The Complete First Season
Toronto Star (December 16 2004)

"If It's Good Television, It Won't Last"

DUST, DEATH & DEPRESSION: There's an ill wind blowing in the dustbowl, and it's sooo good. HBO's Carnivale, the first season of which is now available on DVD got kinda lukewarm reviews. Tsk, tsk, I say. It's damn good storytelling, something that's in short supply these days. Throw in some old-time fire-and-brimstone religion, dwarves and bearded ladies, Apocalyptic signs wherever you look and strippers who haven't had their boobs done, and you're in for a treat.

Three episodes have thoughtful commentary; unfortunately the making-of featurette is a disappointment. Twelve minutes is far from enough to get a sense of how, what may be the best-looking television show ever produced, is made. When the costume designer says she had to clothe close to 5,000 actors and extras in Depression-era costumes, we want to know how that was accomplished; we also want to know how in the world they managed to make the travelling carnival look so real. And more info on the fabulousness of the soundtrack, which uses everything from period folk music through opera and Weill, would be great too. Maybe next season.

Another (minor) quibble is the fact that there's no play-all function, which means you have to go through an episode description before playing each episode and that kinda sucks, if, you know, you don't want to know what's happening. But never mind - you should still get this set; as someone says on the commentary, you need to watch this show more than once to fully grasp what is going on.