‘Food porn’ goes with the politics on ‘The Circus’


John Heilemann and colleagues start Showtime series’ fifth season

John Heilemann of ‘The Circus: Inside the Craziest Political Campaign on Earth’ Sunday on Showtime


Q: With “The Circus: Inside the Craziest Political Campaign on Earth” starting Season 5, how do you see the show’s mission to cover the preceding political week as the 2020 presidential election draws ever nearer?

A: Although it’s a scary time for a lot of people in America to be alive and to see what’s going on — the level of divisiveness, the partisanship, just how emotional and how angry a lot of our politics are — from the standpoint of journalism, it kind of elevates our sense of commitment and the degree to which we enter this election with a sense of both enthusiasm and a certain amount of joie de vivre about covering something so big and so important, but also with a sense of the gravity of the fact that we have really significant responsibilities to do this and do it right.

Q: Regarding the present-day polarization of politics, do you think that by showing that, “The Circus” can have an effect on changing it?

A: Is there anything that we as a television show could do about that? I believe the answer to that question is “No.” It’s a much bigger problem, and the country will decide whether it wants to grapple with it or not. But the trajectory we are on is now a trajectory that’s been going on for at least three decades, and it’s getting more and more pronounced in that direction.

Q: Each episode of “The Circus” opens with you and the other hosts sharing a meal. Have you gotten a lot of reaction to that?

A: We wanted to set the table for the week, and we made that literal rather than metaphorical. We don’t want to be a studio show, we don’t want to be suits on sets … and when we started doing the very first episode, we needed a way to kind of tee up the show. We thought, ‘Well, let’s go to a restaurant.’

And once that started, it became a habit. And once it became a habit, it became kind of iconic. Strangely, we have a large food porn audience that follows the show explicitly for that reason.

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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