"The Circus" gets unique access to "human drama" of 2016 campaign

If you want a behind-the-scenes look at the 2016 campaign trail, try watching "The Circus: Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth."

Co-hosts and executive producers John Heilemann, Mark McKinnon and Mark Halperin got unique access to presidential hopefuls for the political documentary series on Showtime, a division of CBS. While political documentaries more often take a look back at past events, "The Circus" aims to let you follow the "human drama of the candidates" in real time, McKinnon said.

"So it's like you're in the cockpit of the plane as it's taking off and landing. And the great part about it is it shows the humanity of this process. It shows the tough things these people have to go through. And people feel better not only about the candidates but about politics in general after," he said Tuesday on "CBS This Morning."

McKinnon, former adviser to President George W. Bush, said the big driving inspiration for the series was the Mitt Romney documentary, "Mitt," which was released after the 2012 elections and revealed a more personal side of the candidate. It left some voters wondering, McKinnon said, "So where was that guy during the election?" "CBS This Morning" co-host Norah O'Donnell pointed out, "Even Mitt Romney said that!"

So the producers pitched to the 2016 candidates that the series would show a side of them that voters want to see.

"Authenticity is more than ever the coin of the realm, and all candidates now get that," said Heilemann, who is also the managing editor for Bloomberg Politics. "The reason why this show's been successful to some extent is that people are really sick of seeing poll-tested, pre-packaged candidates shot from a riser, always seeing that same shot you see on cable TV. To get these really up-close, beautiful images that we do in the show, and show these people seeming like normal humans -- very appealing to a lot of voters."

Halperin said "The Circus" is "not cynical" about American politics and is also not partisan, with access to candidates including Democrat Bernie Sanders and the now presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

"Trump is like everyone else who runs for president. They all think, 'If people get to know me, they'll love me.' And we're there to try to help people understand what they're like," Halperin said.

As the series continues and the 2016 race is now whittled down to three candidates, the tenor of the campaign has turned increasingly nasty.

"It will make 2012 look like table tennis, and 2012 was a pretty ugly race," Heliemann said.