Parents' Guide to


By Kari Croop, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 12+

Warts-and-all series looks at real life under the big top.

Movie NR 2010 360 minutes
Circus Poster Image

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This docuseries is entertainingly real. There's a lot we think we know about the circus, whether those assumptions come from observations we've made while sitting in the audience or from movies like Big Top Pee-Wee. But, for some, the most surprising lesson of this warts-and-all PBS documentary will be that circus life isn't always fun and games. Turns out, clowns can, indeed, be rather depressing, and a few circus folk are running from the law.

That's not to say the series unduly highlights these less-savory aspects of circus life, but it doesn't shy away from them either, even building the bulk of one episode around a young circus worker's arrest (and eventual release) for making an alleged bomb threat. (His response to the charges? "Tell them all to f--k off. They can all go to hell.") Thanks to amazing performance footage -- and the impossibly cheery antics of the company's can-do director (a real-life Corky St. Clair if there ever was one) -- there's plenty of razzle dazzle, too.

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