Watch Circus

  • TV-PG
  • 2010
  • 2 Seasons
  • 8.4  (123)

Circus is a documentary series that premiered on PBS in 2010. The show is a behind-the-scenes look at the world of the circus and follows the performers and crew of the Big Apple Circus as they tour across the country. The series is composed of six episodes, each roughly one hour in length. The first episode introduces viewers to the world of the Big Apple Circus and its history. The following episodes delve into the lives of the performers and crew as they prepare for shows, deal with injuries and personal issues, and navigate life on the road.

The show is narrated by John Lithgow, who also serves as an executive producer. Lithgow's warm and engaging voiceover sets the tone for the series, providing a sense of intimacy and familiarity that draws viewers into the lives of the performers and crew.

Each episode of Circus is structured around a few main characters. These characters range from performers to crew members, and their stories provide a window into the wider world of the Big Apple Circus. Viewers get a sense of the challenges and joys of life on the road, the intense physical demands of circus performance, and the camaraderie that develops among the performers and crew.

One of the main draws of Circus is the access it provides to the inner workings of the Big Apple Circus. Viewers get to see the performers train and rehearse, the crew set up and take down the big top, and the logistics of moving a circus from city to city. There are also glimpses into the personal lives of the performers and crew, providing a fuller picture of the people behind the scenes.

Circus is also notable for its stunning cinematography. The series was filmed in high definition, and the visuals are often breathtaking. The vibrant colors of the circus tents, the glittering costumes of the performers, and the beautiful landscapes of the American countryside all come to life onscreen. There are also some impressive aerial shots that give viewers a bird's-eye view of the circus setup.

Despite the mesmerizing visuals and engaging characters, Circus is not without its darker moments. The physical toll of circus performance is evident, with performers dealing with injuries and the risk of accidents. One performer, a trapeze artist named Ammed, suffers a serious injury that puts his career in jeopardy. Another performer, a clown named Mark, faces a personal crisis that threatens to affect his ability to perform.

The show also addresses the challenges faced by the circus industry as a whole. In one episode, the Big Apple Circus faces financial difficulties and is forced to cut back on certain aspects of the show. In another, there is a discussion about the ethics of animal performances in circuses.

Despite these challenges, the overall tone of Circus is one of warmth and positivity. The camaraderie among the performers and crew is palpable, and there is a sense of family that develops over the course of the series. The performers are shown to be dedicated and passionate about their craft, and their joy in performance is infectious.

Overall, Circus is a captivating series that provides a fascinating look into the world of the circus. The stunning visuals, engaging characters, and behind-the-scenes access make for a compelling viewing experience. Whether you're a fan of the circus or not, Circus is a series that will leave you with a new appreciation for the people who make this unique art form possible.

Circus is a series that is currently running and has 2 seasons (31 episodes). The series first aired on November 3, 2010.

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The Reunion
26. The Reunion
August 2, 2002
The race is still on for Ian and Carolina to make it to the airport to greet their two youngest children who have been staying with the grandparents for the past month. Meanwhile, Franco is forced to confront one of his greatest fears when the Vargas decide to visit the zoo. The performers rehearse the finale and Ian grows frustrated as they cannot seem to perform the task.
The Mad Dash
25. The Mad Dash
August 2, 2002
Ian and Carolina are racing from their last show to meet their younger children at the airport 1750 miles away. Troubles arise when one of the motorhome's airbags blows in a small town, with no one around to fix it. Not everyone is in a hurry though. The Stepanovs take a much needed break to fish and relax while some other performers visit a beautiful waterfall.
First of Mays
23. First of Mays
August 2, 2002
In this episode we meet a Circus band of several "First of Mays," newcomers to the Circus. Al decides to take two of the band members under his wing. The band members express some difficulties they are experiencing. Some of the "old timers" are losing their patience with the newcomers. Adjustments must be made in the arena to accommodate the human cannonball act.
Sleepless in Selkirk
21. Sleepless in Selkirk
August 2, 2002
Ian is frustrated with John, the lighting technician, as he continues to work out the kinks on his first circus tour. Floor manager Tommy gives John some sage advice. Working hard on little sleep to get through the "Northern Run," safety is becoming a concern.
On the Bus
20. On the Bus
August 2, 2002
On the way to Fort Francis Ian refers to this year as the "casualty tour" because of the number of injuries. Al the clown looks forward to his wife and three children joining him on tour. Ian and Caroline reflect on their romance as a new one blossoms between Franco and Niada.
Making Friends
19. Making Friends
August 2, 2002
On the drive to Dryden, Manitoba, we meet Albert and Zenaida. A roller-skating act that has been together for 20 years. Then, Alex, Ina and Lilia Stepanov explain how important it is to keep family together on the road. Meanwhile, Al the clown feels lonely without his family on tour and, missing his old trampoline troupe, Zaza must make new friends.
Zaza's Double
18. Zaza's Double
November 29, 2002
Zaza is planning a double somersault from the cannon, a feat never attempted before. He studies videotapes and practices at a circus school to prepare. When he is finally ready to try, Johnny is nervous and no one really believes the act to be possible. Will Zaza succeed and prove the team wrong?
In The Street
17. In The Street
November 22, 2002
Sarnia's small parking lot complicated the logistics of fitting all their trucks and trailers. Too big to fit through the entrance of the arena, a decision must be made to find somewhere to shoot the cannon. Protesters concerned with animal cruelty arrive at the arena and we get an opportunity to see how the animals are cared for.
Isabel's Arrival
16. Isabel's Arrival
November 15, 2002
Ian is still having problems with his voice and Brian finally gets his chance to announce the show. He does a great job but when a fellow ringmaster drops by for a visit, Ian asks him to fill in. Meanwhile, Al's wife, Isabel, is four hours late driving up from New York through a hail storm and Al is growing concerned.
The Chatham Curse
15. The Chatham Curse
November 8, 2002
For the second year in a row disaster has struck as the Circus arrives in Chatham, Ontario. Ringmaster Ian Garden, Jr. has lost his voice and can't announce the show. He begins his search for a replacement but has difficulty finding the right person for the job.
14. Kitchener
November 1, 2002
The Amazing Rinaldo wants to sell an idea of an animated TV show. With no experience creating a package to sell the idea, he hires an illustrator to help develop his characters. Zaza is anxious to attempt a double somersault out of the cannon. Meanwhile, two SPCA officers drop by the Circus to check on the animals. Will they be impressed by what they see?
Thompson, Manitoba
11. Thompson, Manitoba
October 11, 2002
On the last leg of the "Northern Run," The Garden Bros. cast and crew are tired and in need of a break. Ian and Carolina are anxious to complete the last show and head back to Toronto to see their two youngest children, Ciara and Chase, but Ian is concerned the roads will be rough as they travel through the night.
The Show Must Go On
9. The Show Must Go On
September 27, 2002
Carolina has a difficult time getting news after she learns that her brother Martin, who is working for another Circus, fell 28 feet to the concrete floor below as he was securing the rigging for the flying act. It's the last week of the northern run. Members of the cast and crew describe how tough the grueling tour has been.
Teetering on the Brink
5. Teetering on the Brink
August 30, 2002
More practice is needed as the teeterboard troupe has difficulties in rehearsals. Ian threatens to cut them from the show if they can't get their act together and new technical difficulties arise with the cannon. There is a mad dash to find Pierre when there is a commotion in the elephant pen. Costin is worried that his job may be on the line.
Treacherous Drive
4. Treacherous Drive
August 23, 2002
Everyone prepares for "three weeks of hell" on the Northern Run, which takes the Circus through Ontario to Manitoba. Performing up to three shows a day, the performers can go days without sleep. Dangers on the road causes delay and worry.
First Timers
3. First Timers
August 16, 2002
Experienced acrobat Zaza is chosen as the new human cannonball while Johnny recovers from his injury. Karchy must find a hospital in an unfamiliar town after twisting his ankle doing a double backward somersault in his BMX bike act and Pierre looks for a third rider for his elephant act.
The Big Show
2. The Big Show
August 9, 2002
Garden Bros. Circus prepares for the biggest show of the season at Toronto's Skydome. A last minute replacement, Johnny Rocket and his father "Smiley," scramble to prepare their human cannonball act. A leak is discovered in the 18,000 liter water tank used in the high diving act and must be fixed immediately. Meanwhile, Pierre's elephant, Marie is distracted by an African male elephant named Angus
The New Season
1. The New Season
August 2, 2002
There are still a few problems to sort out as Ian Garden Jr. and his crew make last minute preparations for another season on the road. The elephants are late arriving, Al's toilet paper gag is out of control, the music is all wrong and the 10-person trampoline act only has three acrobats. Will the team pull it together in time for the first show of the season?
Where to Watch Circus
Circus is available for streaming on the PBS website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch Circus on demand at and PBS.
  • Premiere Date
    November 3, 2010
  • IMDB Rating
    8.4  (123)