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Original Network: HBO
Number of Seasons:
Creator: David Knauf
Stars: Clancy Brown, Nick Stahl, Amy Madigan, Carla Gallo, Clea DuVall, Adrienne Barbeau, Michael J. Anderson
"Carnivale" premiered at a point at which HBO had certain "Sopranos"-inflated expectations about Emmy attention. This rich, mythology-heavy drama set against the backdrop of a traveling Depression Era carnival was perhaps too concentrated on intrigue over audience gratification, but premiering a solid year before "Lost," it was almost certainly ahead of its time. The milieu was so rich that "Heroes" ripped off "Carnivale" for its fourth season and "American Horror Story" is getting ready to do the same for its fourth miniseries. Plenty of questions remained from its occasionally screwy Good vs. Evil world-building, which combined theology with Masonic conspiracy-mongering. Someday we wouldn't mind answers.
Original Network: Fox
Creator: Josh Friedman (credited as developer, since most of the characters were introduced in the movies)
Stars: Lena Headey, Summer Glau, Thomas Dekker, Brian Austin Green, Garret Dillahunt, Richard T. Jones, Shirley Manson
FOX wanted a weekly equivalent of the "Terminator" films, but of course that kind of thing is impossible on a TV budget and production schedule. So Friedman eventually found an approach focusing on what TV can do much better than movies — prolonged character analysis — in showing how Sarah and John Connor (and later — in a revelatory role from "90210" alum Green — John's uncle Derek) coped with the emotional toll of knowing that the apocalypse was coming. This was a very compelling approach, but not a particularly commercial one — even if good Terminator Glau and evil Terminator Dillahunt occasionally got to throw people out windows — and FOX declined to order a third season, even though Friedman had set up a promising new direction where John found himself trapped in a Terminator-controlled future where he had never been around to lead the human resistance.