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The 50 Best TV Dramas of All Time

36. Carnivàle

Network: HBO
Air Dates: September 7, 2003 - March 27, 2005
Stars: Nick Stahl, Michael J. Anderson, Clancy Brown, Clea DuVall, Adrienne Barbeau, Patrick Bauchau, Cynthia Ettinger, John Fleck, Carla Gallo, Amy Madigan, Brian Turk, Diane Salinger, Tim DeKay, Karyne Steben, Debra Christofferson

HBO, whether the network's executives cared or not, pissed millions of people off when it cancelled Carnivàle after its second season in 2005. One of the channel's densest shows ever, the Daniel Knauf-created oddity introduced dozens of fascinating characters over its 24-episode stretch, using said folks to deliver a story drenched in heavy, good-versus-evil mythology. Naturally, the second season's final episode did little to answer all of viewers' questions.

Which makes Carnivàle a tough show to revisit, since one does so knowing that hardly anything will get resolved once it's all said and done. Still, Knauf's highly ambitious brainchild was damn good while it lasted. Set in an effortlessly eerie carnival, the show blasted viewers with strange hallucinations, religious unease, and a disconcerting dwarf (Michael J. Anderson) who looked like he time-traveled from the set of Tod Browning's 1932 off-putter Freaks. —MB

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