At first, when executive producers Mark McKinnon and Mark Halperin were developing the idea for their real-time docu-series “The Circus: Inside The Greatest Political Show On Earth,” they thought the title might “a little over the top.”
“We didn’t want the title to be demeaning,” McKinnon said. But, he added, “We had no idea the election would turn out the way it did.”
“Donald trump’s mouth is more of a 24/7 phenomenon,” Halperin said. “In the last 24 hours he’s said seven things that make for pretty interesting stories.”
“There isn’t a week or a day or even an hour that goes by in this election where something fascinating isn’t happening,” McKinnon added.
The two political journalists discussed their Showtime show, returning in the fall, at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour. They were joined by Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg, the team behind the documentary “Weiner,” about disgraced former congressman and onetime New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, husband of close Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin. (The critically acclaimed documentary, which had a limited theatrical release, will premiere on Showtime on October.)
Steinberg and Kriegman described how they attained so much intimate access with their subjects, Weiner and Abedin. Partly, they said, it was because both husband and wife wanted their story’s full complexity to be laid bare. “He wanted to be seen as more than just a punchine,” Steinberg said.
“He’s so much more of a person than people thought he was,” Kreigman said. “He’s got his flaws and his talents… amidst all of the insanity and circus of Weiner’s campaign, you do see something somewhat noble or admirable [in him], a genuine intent to keep on going.”
Steinberg added, “Anthony and [Donald] Trump are very different, but they both understood that in order to get attention in this media age, you have to put on a show.”
Halperin pointed out that Weiner and GOP nominee Donald Trump shared four words in common: “Sometimes wrong, never boring.”
In response to a question that asked if Weiner’s combined blinkered delusion and clear-eyed observation were endemic to politics, McKinnon opined that it was “very common.”
“It’s just the nature of our politics, unfortunately — in many ways it has discouraged good people from going in and good people to get out, and attracts the sort of people who need the mirror of politics to see their own reflection,” he added.
Halperin and McKinnon also teased a bit of what will be happening on “The Circus” starting in the fall. Abedin, a fixture of the Clinton campaign, may feature in “The Circus.” They are also looking for “disgruntled Republicans” at “bars and churches in the Washington area.” There is also some discussion of airing something after the election, with footage that didn’t make it into the series originally, though the producers promise that nothing like a secret “Trump peyote scene” has been embargoed for after Americans cast their vote.