Like a cross between TWIN PEAKS and THE GRAPES OF WRATH, HBO's acclaimed television drama CARNIVALE sets an allegorical fable about the mythic battle between good and evil against the surreal backdrop of a Depression-era traveling circus. Having lost both his farm and his mother to the 1930s Dust Bowl, prison escapee Ben Hawkins (Nick Stahl, IN THE BEDROOM) joins an itinerant carnival in a desperate bid to escape poverty, the police, and his own discomfort with his miraculous healing powers. Ben's story is juxtaposed with that of California preacher Justin Crowe (Clancy Brown, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION), whose evangelical ministries with his sister, Iris (Amy Madigan), take on increasingly sinister overtones and hint at an eventual confrontation between himself and young Hawkins through the mysterious figure of former circus showman and WWI veteran Henry Scudder (John Savage).
As the main story arc builds to its apocalyptic showdown, the series takes dramatic detours into the daily lives of the carnival denizens. Lorded over by the unseen "Management" and a dwarf named Samson (TWIN PEAKS' Michael J. Anderson), the ragtag collection of sideshow freaks includes the blind soothsayer, Lodz (Patrick Bauchau); the bearded lady, Lila (Debra Christofferson); the snake charmer, Ruthie (Adrienne Barbeau); the troubled fortuneteller, Sophie (Clea DuVall); her catatonic mother, Apollonia (Diane Salinger); the wounded former-baseball player-turned-roustabout, Jonesy (Tim DeKay); and a family of strippers and prostitutes comprised of mother Rita Sue (Cynthia Ettinger), her daughters Libby (Carla Gallo) and Dora Mae (Amanda Aday), and their pimp-like father, Stumpy (Toby Huss). Creator Daniel Knauf surrounds this impressive cast with impeccable period-piece production design, a rotating roster of directorial talent that includes Alison Maclean (JESUS' SON) and Rodrigo Garcia (son of magical-realist writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez), and innovative storytelling that is at once sup.