‘The Circus’ is back as Showtime political series resumes

Mark McKinnon helps stage ‘The Circus’ again

Alex Wagner, Mark McKinnon, and John Heilemann

Many people are having to learn new ways of doing things, including the makers of “The Circus: Inside the Craziest Political Campaign on Earth.”

The Showtime series recapping the previous week in politics resumes new Season 5 episodes Sunday, Aug, 16, but in a much different world than it left off in. The coronavirus pandemic was in its early days in the U.S. then, and “Circus” hosts John Heilemann, Mark McKinnon and Alex Wagner still had reasonably open access to those on the campaign trail — often hopping into the back seat of a car or aboard a bus with them. But now, as the parties’ conventions start? Maybe not so much.

“Our timing really hasn’t changed,” explains the friendly McKinnon, who has consulted on campaigns for President George W. Bush and the late Sen. John McCain among others. “Our season in the spring was scheduled to run through when we knew what was happening with the primaries, and we only cut that short by one week because of COVID-19. Then our plan was to come back for the conventions, and those changed from July to August, so we’re going to go cover those.

“Now, the question is, ‘What does that mean?,’ ” McKinnon notes. “We’re not exactly sure, because the Democrats and Republicans haven’t been sure. What are we going to cover, and how are we going to cover it? The good thing about our show and its format is that we’re really nimble. We often change our schedule day to day. The bottom line is that this will be ‘Circus’-style, fast and furious.”

The racial situation and the economy in the United States also are certain to be “Circus” topics in the coming weeks, and McKinnon reports Season 5 will continue until the week after the presidential election. He also promises the hosts’ group-meal scene that opens each episode will remain.

“It requires all of us being indoors in one place,” McKinnon acknowledges. “On a number of occasions, we’ve all been in different places and connecting (via technology) for our roundtable, so that’s what you’re likely to see.”

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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