Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Dan Knauf Speaks About Carnivale's Cancellation

Ahh, so it's now official and I can finally speak.

First of all, I haven't commented to the press yet, so these are my first thoughts on this matter, and I can't think of a better group of people to share them with. Lots of you guys have been there since the beginning, and I've enjoyed your analysis, arguments, cheers and occasional gentle (but well thought-out) jeers.

I've read all the posts since Beth announced the cancellation (Could somebody please tell me where this woman gets her information? Talk about jacked-in!), have taken heart and encouragement from your kind words, have shared your outrage and sense of loss.

If you're hoping I'll slam HBO, I'm afraid you're in for a bit of a disappointment.

The fact is, nobody—-and I mean *nobody*-—would have even considered financing and broadcasting a show this expensive, this different, this technically challenging, even if the creator was a seasoned television writer-producer. The fact that I was an untested talent makes their courage all the more extraordinary. I will always appreciate Carolyn's dedication and passion to this project, Chris's support, and
Miranda's steady, guiding hand.

True, like many of you, I am ambivalent: HBO giveth, and HBO taketh away.

I feel like a father whose baby was doomed in vitro, somehow delivered, treated and kept alive by a brilliant team of surgeons, only to see that same team yank the child off life-support just as she began to show improvement.

Do I think their decision was boneheaded? Yes, absolutely.

Do I understand why they made it? Again, yes, absolutely.

Carnivale was an expensive show. Costs-per-episode have been guessed at on this board, and in every case those estimations have been low. Way low. Carnivale, in fact, represented one of the most costly—-if not *the* most costly—-pattern-budget ever invested in a weekly series in television history. If anybody has any resentment toward HBO executives, consider this:

• They have a fiduciary responsibility toward their stock-holders;
• The show was hugely expensive;
• The reviews were mixed.
• The audience was not large enough to support it.

Game. Set. Match.

Was Carnivale thrown into a hopeless time-slot? Definitely. Could we have done better with more promotion and support? Probably. Were marketing opportunities missed? Undoubtedly. Would we have broken out had we gotten a third season? I'm absolutely sure of it.

Would I bet my career, my reputation and--more importantly--tens of millions of stockholder dollars on it?

I sincerely do not know.

Would you?

I'm not here to play apologist for the network. Far from it. But in fairness, these things need saying, so there they are.

HBO taketh away, but, damnit...

... HBO giveth.

I was fortunate enough, for a too-brief, shining moment, to be part of a project in which every last contributor believed with all their hearts—-from the production assistants to the network executives.

Everybody on the show knew we were doing something special. Nobody delivered less than their best work. This is an exceedingly rare thing in the television world, where talented cast and crew are, quite frankly, wasted on pabulum. When asked what they're working on, the all-too-routine answer is "Some piece-of-s—-t cop show (or doctor show, or lawyer show)."

Meanwhile, we all got to work on Carnivale.

Now *that* is cool.

And you guys watched it. And got it. And appreciated it.

You guys counted down to Sunday nights.

You reveled in the show's mysteries, its characters, its world. You taped it, you TIVOed it, you played and replayed it. You caught every blooper and anachronism, every real and imagined flaw in our internal logic. You praised its authenticity and historocity. You researched our mythology. Unlike many of our critics, you not only welcomed the show's intellectual and narrative challenges, but embraced them!

Not one teeny, tiny shred of our time, trouble and work was wasted on you.

And that is very, *very* cool.

Folks have been asking what I want them to do in the face of this, Okay, then. If there's one thing I want from you guys, it's to simply know this:

Carnivale is not dead

Raymond Chandler was once asked by a reporter how he felt about Hollywood ruining all his books. He simply pointed at a shelf behind him and said, "Hollywood hasn't ruined my books. They're all right there."

Similarly, I might point at my boxed set of Season 1 (and soon-to-be-issued Season 2) and say, "The network didn't kill my show. It's right there. Wanna watch a few episodes?"

Carnivale, and this wonderful community that's joined to celebrate it, will continue to live as long as the work is viewed and enjoyed. It's pretty clear now that, for whatever reasons, we never found our audience.

But it's not too late.

Lend your DVDs to friends. Get them out there into the world. Capture eyeballs, collect converts. Donate sets to your local libraries. Throw viewing parties. Start discussion groups.

For God's sake, organize a Live CarnyCon!

And maybe—-just maybe—-in the (hopefully) not so distant future, some bright young executive will say, "Hey, remember that show Carnivale? You know, people are still talking about that! There's a monster fan base out there!" Maybe they'll order a season. Maybe a series of films...

Who knows? Stranger things have (and do) happen.

You can bet I, as well as many in our cast and crew, will be ready to support you in any way we can. As for me, I'll be weighing in on the lists, participating in chats like always. I'm not going anywhere. You guys are stuck with me.

Granted, it'll take some effort, but as a very wise friend of mine named Samson once said, "When it comes to livin, dyin's the easy part." And everything's impossible, til it ain't.

Fans, the ball's in your court, now. Take it and run with it.

Dazzle me.

I love you guys.


(As posted on the CarnivaleHBO yahoogroup)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

so good to finally be able to hear from you. thanks for the advice. this is the first i have heard the suggestion to donate carnivale dvds to libraries, i believe. that's a good idea.

girl who can't remember her blogspot password,
i w a k u r a

7:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like how this dude doesn't even acknowledge that they left the whole series in a stupid lame cliffhanger. It would have been better if HBO would have said earlier they weren't going to renew so maybe they could have given us a conclusion instead of this stupid ending. By ending it like they did, it went from one of the best to one of the worst TV shows of all time. Congrats.

9:27 AM  
Blogger BoxCar said...

I spent the entire day sulking when I found out about this. The state of television nowadays is dismal and with excellent shows like carnivale getting cancelled, I've lost all faith. This is happening to good shows across the board (can anyone say "please renew arrested development")... anyway, I digress.

DK, if you're ever up for some more hard work, please finish the story in book form. I really need to know what happens (I could guess but you always throw me for a loop).

Thanks for the awesome run. If there's any good in the world, we'll hopefully get to see the conclusion to this epic story someday (soon?)...

1:36 PM  
Anonymous Tate said...

For the love of Samson!! :-) Give us a conclusion! I can understand about the cost of producing this show, but how about a 2 hour finale to end the series?? (like Farscape on SciFi) I mean, you have "The Wire" which does not pull in the ratings of this show but then this one is cancelled?? And on the subject of time and money...If HBO (and others) don't want to spend the time and money to at least give us some sort of conclusion--then why should we as viewers, order HBO with "our money" and sit down every week faithfully and give of "our time" to show after show, no matter how well done and thought provoking like Carnivale, if they will just up and cancel it without the needed conclusions of the storyline??? I'm getting tired of this happening all over TV! Sending my telegram out today.

2:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was the best written, most well produced show, definately the most CREATIVE show I have ever seen. I am very dissapointed in HBO. I can't understand how they could cancel that, and start up a lame show like the Comeback, or continue with something as shallow as Entourage. I guess that is the mentality of the people who have the money to support HBO.

I intend to buy both seasons on DVD, force everyone I know to watch it, and write letters galore to HBO.

Mr. Knauf, you are incredibly gracious and talented. Please, do what you can to give us some closure with this Beloved show and cast. I think a movie would maybe do the trick. Remember Fire Walk with me?

2:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


We were all so lucky to be given these two seasons.

We are all so lucky that Dan gives a shit about us and communicates with his fans.

I am still so pissed with HBO, but in the same regard I am glad to have been a witness, from the very beginning, to the most amazing 'television show' that ever was. Thank you Dan, thank you Clancy, Thank you Nick, thank you to ANYONE involved in Carnivale.

Have faith. See ya in Vegas. Carny Con LIVE BABY!!!!!!


5:18 PM  
Blogger SWT said...

Great timing on my part. I just got the first disc of Season One from Netflix. Watched it, and I'm hooked. Now I hear this news ... damn.

Disc 2 will be arriving any day now ...

7:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

*Shakes fist at HBO*

12:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't watch it first season, but several of my friends and coworkers were always talking about the show. I borrowed the first season discs from a friend and got into the show, and then they take it away. Dissappointing and frustrating to say the least. Hopefully the will do what FIREFLY did in making a movie after the cancellation.
Do not go gentle into the good night, go kicking and screaming. After all, the sqweeky wheel gets the grease.

1:45 PM  
Anonymous Bradaviel said...

LOVED the show since day one.
Too bad it was cancelled because it was one of the two shows that i couldn't get my eyes off, and certainly the ONe show taht deeply talked to me.

Even if it saddens me most, I understand why this has to come.
And so can't do anything but hope that in a not too distant future it will come back one way or another.

I won't lose hope on this.
( * and shakes fist too, because, you know.. *sob )

1:58 PM  
Anonymous Drew said...

Funny thing happens when I mention Carnivale in passing. It seems most fans are quiet ones, who don't run out into the streets and proclaim to all the world that "Carnivale Rules!"

I've either talked to, or have heard of at least 50 different people today who watched Carnivale religiously, but don't know about the cancellation, nor any of these sites.

Even people who didn't quite watch it every week would admit that it was one of the better shows on television, and that HBO had gone off the deep end when cancelling it.

That makes me wonder how "closely" HBO watched the numbers, or did they just use that as the cookie-cutter excuse to can it? I do realize it was a very expensive series to shoot, but IMO, well worth it.

For $100 million in the film industry, you get some big stars, exotic locations, and 3 hours of film to tell the story with.

For (what I'm guessing) half of that per-season, you can get a superb creative staff, an ensemble cast that only exists in most writer's wettest dreams, and a whopping 12 hours in which to tell a far richer story than can be seen in film. Is it worth it? Simply put: Hell yeah!

Both DK and HBO had a huge influence on my own career path. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a top-notch film director that directs fun and entertaining stories. HBO showed me a format much denser than film with which I could tell my stories. DK showed me that there's stories out there that still need to be told; that we're not awash in a sea of rehashed 70's movies or mindless reality shows. He showed me that there's still hope for television.

That's why I absolutely refuse to give up on Carnivale. I don't mean to offend, but the story belongs just as much to the fans now as it does DK or HBO. We have a right to control what we see, and we want to see Carnivale reach it's "natural end." We just need to keep constant, steady pressure on HBO to open their ears.

I don't care if I'm the only one doing it ten years from now, but I'm going to be sending Chris Albrecht e-mail and snail mail every week reminding him of Carnivale, and how special it really was.

There's blockbuster shows out today like Desperate Housewives and Revelations. But do you honestly think people are going to remember those 10 years down the line? Do you think they'll still be watching them on DVD? I seriously doubt it.

Then there are the few shows... the diamonds in the rough that change the way we watch television. Carnivale was the first of that kind of programming I've seen in my adult life. It simply made TV interesting in a way it had never interested me before. For that, it will always be remembered.

So I don't want anyone acting like it's over. It's been less than a week, and I already see people giving up. Don't give in. Push this past the "grace period" every network gives after a cancellation to the disgruntled fans. When they think it's blown over, they'll still be hearing the grumblings of the fans. That's when they start to listen, and that's when we need to be heard.

I'm not cool with how it ended. I know many other people feel the same way. We need to show HBO that ultimate power lies in the remotes of the viewers, not a boardroom or some accountant's desk.

Let's get these guys their jobs back.

7:22 AM  
Anonymous David Gans said...

A very classy, and wise, statement, Dan.

2:11 PM  
Blogger margolik said...

I remember when I sat down to watch the first episode of Carnivale and didn't really know what was going on... in fact, I kind of felt that way through the entire first season, yet I still watched it. I probably just wanted to figure out what was so engaging and mysterious about the characters and the story... Honestly I didn't think it would be back for a second season. But I was pleasantly suprised when it did. And WHAM, the second season came with that ace up the sleeve.

I cannot believe it got cancelled after the second season. I can only picture the fan base growing considerably after a season like that.

If a 3rd season never comes, then we'll have two good seasons to watch on DVD. But I hope that someday we'll see the return of Carnivale.

Best of luck D.

- margolik

7:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trivia question:

What incredible, groundbreaking television show directed by a near genius was cancelled after the second season with an incredible cliffhanger, leaving thoughtful audiences wide-eyed, jaws-dropped and wondering what happened to art in television?

Carnivale has a kindred spirit in Twin Peaks now more than ever.

12:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

poetpiet says: EXCELLENT EFFORT HERE!!!!

6:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What needs to be done is to have every fan of Carnivale cancell HBO, and send a letter stating why. I did the morning I found out the show was cancelled. If all 4 million viewers - heck, if half of them did that, you know damned well the show would go back on.

Hit them in the wallet everyone!

3:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What gets me is all the shows that are still on/were on for longer and are just not even close to Carnivale. I mean Sex in the City? Bleh. Friends? eyuck. Desperate Housewives... have no ugre to see...I never cared for the Sopranos either. I figure most people are afraid of anything different, I mean how many CSI's do we need? I think one is too many.

*is still shaking a fist at HBO*


11:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OH MAN, I just found out that Carnivale was cancelled. I only keep HBO to watch Carnivale and I couldn't wait for Season 3. Well, hopefully the fans will be appeased in some way.

We were thinking of getting rid of HBO and at the end of Season 2 I turned to my husband and said, "There's NO WAY I can cancel it now". I guess I can understand with the high budget and all but PLEASE let him finish the story. Even if, like someone said earlier, it's a two hour "movie".

I'm very sad.


3:11 PM  

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