An open letter to HBO: if you love ‘Carnivàle,’ let it go


About ten years back, you aired the second — and final — season of a phenomenal little show called Carnivàle. Do you remember that show? I don’t think you do. Because you wasted an entire year between seasons, before you bothered to give fans any closure, and you nixed a plan that would have meant six full seasons of incredible storytelling.

Also, your NYC store features absolutely no Carnivàle merchandise. This is purely unacceptable.

I understand that this show was not cheap to produce. I understand that it dealt with lofty themes of good and evil (and everything in between). I understand that you may have had a difficult time finding 1) the right audience; and 2) an audience that seemed willing to stick with it. I understand that fans can be fickle and you took your money off into greener — safer — pastures. Like vampires. Because everybody enjoys vampires, right?


But what I also understand is the amount of world-building that went into Carnivàle. Creator Daniel Knauf — remember him? — wrote out a series bible, outlining the characters, the places, the stories, and the endings. He knew how the Creatures of Darkness and Light operated; he knew where the pieces would fall. Do you understand what kind of a Herculean effort it takes to create something this large, to plot the entirety of the mythos and track the movements of a cast that wide and deep? As a writer, I like to think I understand at least a fraction of what it means to come up with a new world, but I cannot even fathom the amount of imagination and love and sleep deprivation that went into crafting the complex web of storytelling present throughout the two existing seasons of Carnivàle.

I also understand how much character development happened, surely both on the page and in the minds of the directors and actors who collaborated to bring these people — because they sure felt like real people — to life. Your cast my not have been the pinnacle of Hollywood A-List good looks and charisma, but they were real. Those characters felt real to me. I sunk immediately into the slow burn of the approaching Ben vs. Brother Justin showdown; I remain so desperately heartbroken by the friendship/romance love triangle between Sofie, Libby, and Jonesy; I desperately wanted Ben and Sofie to bone. Fantastical and terrifying things happened on Carnivàle, but it was the people who kept me coming back — they were rough and dirty and faced with things far beyond their ability level, skill set, and even comprehension, but they fought on. They lived. And I understand what it is to  watch characters walk from beginning to abrupt end and know either that the whole thing felt like an unrealistic farce or that I was with them all the way. I was with the carnival all the way.

Pictured: rabid fans, demanding more Carnivàle
Pictured: rabid fans

And I understand the power of fandom. I know what it means to feel the magic swell within when I’m watching a show and I suddenly realize that I just get it. I know the urge to daydream backstories and future stories and ridiculous stories. I understand what it means to fall in love with a show too early or too late or only once it’s been taken from the world — I’m willing to take the risk, anyway. And I know I’m not alone. Fans will tell family and friends; fans will come back. Fans want to see these characters live their lives. They want to see Jonesy play baseball and they want to see Sofie take on the world. Fans have signed petitions and lobbied networks for other shows, and I know we could change your mind about Carnivàle, HBO, if you’d just listen.

And here’s the thing: I’m really just asking for you to set Carnivàle free. If you love something, you should let it go — you don’t need to do anything more than that. You must have loved this show once. It’s time that you admit that you no longer understand what this show is, that you have no idea what to do with it, and that you let the people who love it and understand it take a crack at finishing it. Why hold onto the rights to something you won’t even bother to promote? If you want to sell Carnivàle again in some way, that’s wonderful! Feel free to make another season, or a movie, or write a book, or even just print a goddamn t-shirt. But if you aren’t going to do anything with the property, I don’t see the point in sinking your claws into it and depriving fans of the chance to enjoy it again.

Immediately after you cancelled this special show, Daniel Knauf was in talks — serious talks, apparently; basically finalized talks — with Marvel to have them continue the story as a series of comic books. This would have allowed fans to get their closure, and everyone involved could have made a little extra cash. Hell, maybe this would have stirred up more interest in the show and been great for everyone in the long run. If there is one type of fan who is deliciously rabid, it’s comic book fans.

But this comic book continuation — the bare minimum of what we, the fans, could want and of what you, the network, could do, to be completely honest — could not happen, as you, HBO, refused to let go of the rights. Everything was in the works, and you wouldn’t let it happen. Do you understand what a gorgeous book that would have been, with great writing and the right artist? Do you understand how much good, old-fashioned fun a comic like that could have been to work on?

Do you understand that you’re being childish, HBO? Do you?

You killed Carnivàle once, and then you had to make sure to chop off its head, stuff the mouth with garlic, and put a stake through its withered heart. (Which you should’ve done to True Blood a lot sooner, buddy.)

And now, here we are. You still refuse to acknowledge that this show existed and that there might still be a cult following out there, somewhere, hungry for more. And we’re left out in the cold, starving.

You’re out there in the world, HBO, and you’re sleepwalking. I hope maybe this letter wakes you up.

With deepest disappointment,

P.S. – Eff you for not letting me ever see Ben and Sofie get their happily ever after.

P.P.S. – Yes, I understand they were probably never going to get a happily ever after; hush. I would’ve gladly taken more car sex and shut up about it.

P.P.P.S. – I hate you for canceling The Newsroom. But we can discuss that at a later date.

Foolishness, HBO.
Foolishness, HBO. Foolishness.

3 thoughts on “An open letter to HBO: if you love ‘Carnivàle,’ let it go

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