- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 3, 2018

NEW YORK (AP) - Showtime says it is keeping its political television series “The Circus” alive despite the loss of co-host Mark Halperin on sexual misconduct charges.

The network announced Wednesday that the show will return on April 15, with Alex Wagner of CBS News and the Atlantic magazine joining holdover hosts John Heilemann and Mark McKinnon. The series explores the character and strategies of politics, and will focus this season on the upcoming mid-year elections.

The show’s future was in doubt when Halperin was dropped in late October. The veteran political reporter was accused by multiple women of unwanted advances and lewd behavior when he worked at ABC News.

Behind the scenes, Showtime executives had continued to stress their support for the show, McKinnon said. “Everyone said we hope the show goes on,” he said.

Showtime would not make an executive available on Wednesday to discuss the factors that went into continuing the show, and producers didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Wagner had appeared on “The Circus” in a couple of episodes during the first two seasons and there were already discussions about making her a regular before the news about Halperin broke. Halperin also lost his job at NBC News, a contract for a book about the 2016 presidential campaign and an HBO miniseries that was to be based on the book.

There’s no question that it’s a plus that Halperin is being replaced by a woman, McKinnon said.

“It’s even more important given all that is happening, not just the stuff with Mark, but culturally” with the flood of news reports about men behaving badly, he said.

Besides reporting on politics, Wagner is a co-anchor for the Saturday edition of “CBS This Morning,” having joined the network from MSNBC. She is a contributing editor at the Atlantic and co-hosts a weekly podcast for the newsmagazine.

McKinnon said he didn’t think “The Circus” would be on the air for more than one season, given that its initial focus was on the 2016 campaign.

“It turned out I was wrong,” he said. “In many ways, it was more interesting. Whether you’re for Trump or against Trump, everyone is fascinated by what is going on. It’s a national civics lesson.”

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