The real-time political documentary series “The Circus” returns to Showtime this Sunday. Award-winning reporters Mark Halperin and John Heilemann document the dramatic turns and comic interludes of a process that rivals anything seen on the scripted political TV shows “House of Cards” and “Veep.”
“The Circus” is so compelling because it delivers behind-the-scenes access to key players. Indeed, in the premiere,“Shocking But Not Surprising,” Halperin travels with President Donald Trump as he travels around the country to rally support for the Republican legislation to replace the Affordable Care Act. And there are interviews with Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, two conservative opponents of their party’s healthcare plan.
We also see Halperin and Heilemann as they ready for a series of appearances on NBC’s “Today” and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” in which they break down complex issues into readily understood terms. While it is not part of this episode, their appearance last week on “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” was equally compelling.
The pair of pundits had last chin-wagged with Stephen Colbert on his live election night special. The three reminisced about the tightrope they had walked that night, as the returns indicated that Donald Trump would pull off an upset over frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
As Halperin observed then, “Outside of the Civil War, World War II, and including 9/11, this may be the most cataclysmic event the country has ever seen.” Revisiting that remark on Wednesday, Halperin expounded, “more than half of the country that voted against him and is upset about his being president.”
To that end, the journos explained their decision to make more episodes of “The Circus.” While they may well have done so to chronicle Clinton’s history-making presidency, they admitted that the Trump administration was an even more compelling subject. Opined Heilemann, “The novelty of it pretty much made it impossible for us not to go back for a second bite of the apple.”
And, as Halperin observed, “You can go anywhere in America, this is what people are talking about.” Indeed, both Colbert’s talker and “Late Night with Seth Meyers” have seen upticks in their ratings since the election as viewers tune in more serious fare than can be found on those shows hosted by Jimmy Fallon and James Corden respectively.
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