Mark McKinnon travels with Showtime’s ‘Circus’ of politics again


Weekly digest of government happenings starts Season 3


Mark McKinnon never knows just where “The Circus” will go, and that’s fine with him.

Showtime’s digest of the political week that was begins its third season Sunday, April 15, with McKinnon still one of the hosts and executive producers covering the preceding seven days … which typically means a tight deadline to finish each episode in time. John Heilemann also remains one of the principal reporters for “The Circus,” and while Mark Halperin left the program following misconduct allegations elsewhere, past contributor Alex Wagner now joins the show full-time.

Folksy columnist McKinnon has plenty of experience in the arena “The Circus” documents, having advised campaigns for President George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain among others. “Part of the challenge for us is that there’s so much happening all the time,” McKinnon says of assembling each “Circus” installment. “We’d never go off the air, but we do have a budget and we do have to maintain our health.”

McKinnon sees a definite benefit, for both viewers and staff, in how “The Circus” is scheduled. “Most people would take six months to a year to do what we do in a week,” he reasons. “It’s an opportunity for people to synthesize the week of news, which is always a complete firehose of things happening. We get to break it down, distill it and analyze it from a unique perspective.”


Mark McKinnon returns for Season 3 of Showtime’s political documentary series “The Circus” starting Sunday, Apr. 15.

With the continual churn of stories from and about the current presidential administration, McKinnon agrees that now is the optimal time for “The Circus.”

“Nobody’s ever done this before, and we weren’t even sure if it could be done,” he admits. “When I first pitched the show, I got a lot of interest in it, but some networks asked if we could do it monthly or quarterly. That’s where I drew the line. Viewers really want to feel like they’re in the cockpit of a campaign or the presidency as it’s happening, and what makes this work is that we’re literally right on top of it.

“We’re shooting and sending stuff back immediately, in real time, and that’s why I’m glad the show didn’t get greenlit years earlier when I first pitched it,” adds McKinnon. “We wouldn’t have been able to do it. We just didn’t have the technology. And with this administration, things happen so quickly that even by Thursday or Friday, the stuff we shot Monday and Tuesday seems old.”


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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