I think the circus must mean something different now than it did when I was a child, when clowns were not yet established as people to fear — they could be scary, sure, but the idea they were actually out to get you hadn't yet become a pop cultural norm — and you still saw dancing poodles on prime-time TV. Indeed, among the first television shows I can remember was a thing called "International Showtime," hosted by Don Ameche and featuring European circus acts. Yes, children, I am very old. But I am not going to explain to you who Don Ameche was.
FOR THE RECORD:
"Circus": The review of "Circus" in the Nov. 3 Calendar section said that the six-hour documentary was directed by Maro Chermayeff and Jeff Dupre, the same people who made the 10-hour 2008 PBS documentary "Carrier." It should have said they played key roles in the making of "Carrier" —Chermayeff as co-creator with Mitchell Block, director and one of the writers and executive producers; Dupre as one of the producers.
Yet the circus does still come to town, and if it is not quite the American dream it used to be, it is still a kind of convocation of dreamers, coming together in an atmosphere that is at once historically august, family friendly and not entirely respectable. The enduring appeal of that combination is the stuff of "Circus," an absolutely lovely, six-hour series, premiering Wednesday on KCET, that looks at a year in the life of the New York-based. internationally known Big Apple Circus. It is not a survey of circuses, except as the participants in this particular circus happen to speak of them; but it puts you inside that world in a satisfying way. Most important, it is quite beautiful to see, photographed by Matthew Akers and Robert Hanna with a sensitivity to shape, light, color, movement, weather and the telling small detail.