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Just When We Need It Most, Showtime's The Circus Goes on Hiatus

If ever a week called for a new episode of the Showtime docuseries, it's this one.
  • Alex Wagner,  Mark McKinnon, and John Heilemann in The Circus: Inside the Wildest Political Show on Earth. (Photo: T.J. Kirkpatrick/SHOWTIME)
    Alex Wagner, Mark McKinnon, and John Heilemann in The Circus: Inside the Wildest Political Show on Earth. (Photo: T.J. Kirkpatrick/SHOWTIME)

    Last week's episode of The Circus, Showtime's Sunday night docuseries following the prior week's political goings-on in the US ended with 60 Minutes correspondant and veteran journalist Lesley Stahl recalling the political atmosphere that ultimately led to President Nixon's resignation, noting that she was beginning to feel a “Déjà vu-ness.”

    And on that tantalizing note, the fourth season of The Circus ended. Nevermind that the coming week would bring untold revelations with history-making consequences; Ray Donovan is returning for its seventh season, which means Showtime no longer has time on its schedule for The Circus.

    Of course, these things are more complicated than that. The production of a near real-time documentary series that takes its three roving reporters and their respective crews to various locations across the country on a weekly basis has to be a grueling experience for all involved, and everyone needs a break. Not to mention the fact that the show's contract with Showtime is for a set number of episodes at predetermined intervals of time.

    But for those who watch The Circus and a growing universe of shows that take their cues from the news of the week (or the day, as the case may be), the friction between the never-ending news cycle and traditional TV seasons has never been greater. From Stephen Colbert and The Daily Show to Full Frontal, Patriot Act and Real Time with Bill Maher (to name just a few), if they're not doing a show on the day or week when news breaks, well... them's the breaks.

    It's easier to accept from the satirical news shows (even if they're where a certain subset of viewers get their news). It's harder with The Circus, which has become required viewing at a time when news comes at us so quickly that it's easy to fall prey to a certain kind of collective amnesia by week's end. Augmented with perspective and analysis from John Heilemann, Mark “M-Kat” McKinnion, Alex Wagner and their guests from across the political spectrum, the show does more than simply catch us up. 

    At its best, The Circus takes us behind the scenes with the real power players in Washington  — whether they be politicians, candidates, journalists, or political operatives (Roger Stone, Donald Trump Jr. and Steve Bannon have all appeared)  — providing an intimate perspective usually reserved for long-form documentaries that take months or years to be released. 

    The past season saw candid scenes with many of the Democratic candidates for President, including debate prep with Cory Booker (above), and Pete Buttigieg working to craft a speech that he hoped would set the stage for a one-on-one race with Elizabeth Warren. These are the types of moments that brought the show attention when it first premiered during the 2016 presidential campaign, and as the 2020 race for the White House heats up, there will only be more of them.

    In short, every week that goes by without The Circus feels like a missed opportunity. So what do you say, Showtime and Left/Right productions: Is there a way to give us more of The Circus in 2020? 

    Showtime hasn't announced a return date for the series, but it's expected to return before the Iowa Caucuses on February 2nd.

    People are talking about The Circus in our forums. Join the conversation.

    Jed Rosenzweig is the Founder and Publisher of Primetimer. 

    TOPICS: The Circus, Showtime, Alex Wagner, Cory Booker, John Heilemann, Mark McKinney, Pete Buttigieg, 2020 Presidential Election, Trump Impeachment Hearings