‘The Circus’ prepares to fold up its political tent again

Showtime political-documentary series concludes its latest cycle

If the title “The Circus” already fit the American political scene, consider it with the word “impeachment” now in the air.

Showtime’s recap of the preceding week in politics (subtitled “Inside the Wildest Political Show on Earth”) reaches the end of its latest cycle Sunday, Nov. 10 … and hosts and executive producers John Heilemann, Mark McKinnon and Alex Wagner are likely to feel the familiar ache of not doing their show as circumstances leading to the 2020 presidential election continue to unfold.

“I think that (people) will be writing books and studying this for decades,” political-campaign veteran McKinnon says. “There’s a lot of contributing factors: There’s the evolution of the internet. There’s cable TV. There’s talk radio. Increasingly, there are outlets that contribute to what we call ‘confirmation bias,’ which just means there are things that reinforce opinions that we already have.”

Mark McKinnon

Journalist and author Heilemann reasons that 2020 “really is the most important election of our lifetimes, and I think there’s a wide consensus about that. Looking at the Democratic field, it’s unprecedented in its size, unprecedented in its diversity. And then you’ve got (President) Donald Trump, who is unprecedented in a million different ways as an incumbent. All of that adds up to a challenge that is huge, but it’s also a challenge I think the media — and the political media in particular — is trying to rise to, because they recognize that their responsibilities are greater than they’ve ever been before.”

As often as the stewards of “The Circus” have gotten one-on-one access to politicians central to the overarching story, fellow journalist and author Wagner stresses, “We’re your guides, we’re not the subject. The subject is the voters. The subject is the candidates and the campaigns, and I think that’s one of the reasons the show is so powerful. It’s because it’s not about us telling you what to think. It’s a documentary. And you see what’s happening out in the country, and how the debate’s being shaped in the very places that will come to define the contours of the (election’s) resolution itself.”

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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