List of all Sundance tv shows in 2014 and earlier. In 2013, the Sundance Channel surprised me with what I believe to be the best series of 2013 in dramatic television, Rectify. It was their first attempt at co-producing tv shows, and with this fully owned slow-paced drama, and with the co-produced New Zealand based crime series Top of the Lake Sundance immediately deserved a spot among my American tv distribution / production houses to watch out for in 2014, next to Netflix, HBO and AMC. Let’s see what we can expect from the Sundance channel in terms of new original series in 2014 (two thrillers!), and of the new seasons to air in the next couple of months. I will also reserve this article to draw up a list of all the best Sundance Channel shows since 2013, and consequently of all time. Let’s hope it will be a quickly expanding one.
*please note that I will only discuss scripted series.
New Original Sundance Channel TV shows expected to be released in 2014
So far two 2014 Sundance Shows have been announced. Both of them are thriller series.
The Red Road (2014)
Created by Aaron Guzikowski
This is the upcoming Sundance channel drama scheduled for release in February 2014. It will be its first fully-owned original series after Rectify. The Red Road will be a complex thriller that depicts two conflicting views on American society, symbolized in two rivaling men. One a local sherrif, the other a dangerous member of a Native American tribe. So far it has everything going for it to become a success. It is created by Aaron Guzikowski, the writer of the in my opinion best American thriller film of 2013 (Prisoners), and by the comedy show Bored To Death’s producer Sarah Condon, and starring a.o. Game of Thrones‘ Jason Momoa. The trailer has been released yesterday. The first episode will be directed by a big name in American cinema, James Gray (The Immigrant, 2013).
*Review when released – The Red Road is to be released February 27.
The Honourable Woman (2014)
Created by Hugo Blick
The Honourable Woman being described by Sundance Channel as a ‘fast-paced labyrthine thriller’, is clearly playing into today’s hot topic of international espionage. It revolves around a woman who inherits her father’s arms business, and decides to transform it into a company that facilitates the laying of cable network between the West Bank and Israel. Grown into a role as promoter of reconciliation, she gets caught up in an international ‘maelstrom’. This Sundance mini-series is co-produced with BBC, and stars Maggie Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko, The Dark Knight). It is written and directed by Hugo Blick, whose noir thriller The Shadow Line I quite liked. It is going to be an 8-part mini-series.
*Review when released: release date is TBA
Other notable series on Sundance Channel
For those even slightly following European television series, the title ‘The Returned’ (Les Revenants) will have passed by from time to time. This French tv show about a small town in which local people considered dead re-appear at their homes, produced by Canal +, is the first French series after Engrenages (2005) (English title ‘Spiral’) and Braquo (2009) that without being a police series received international attention and recognition. It seems that France’s revival in cinema is also affecting its production of television series, as for the first time it is now France that has US audiences talking rather than Britain and Scandinavia.They ran marathons of it in December, but hopefully with Season 2 of The Returned will return on Sundance Channel in 2014. (Read more about it in our Top 5 French tv shows you need to watch in 2014.
Best Sundance Channel tv shows since 2013 – of all time
This list is of course rather short thus far. And it includes all Sundance shows produced up to now, but hopefully in the next couple of year’s it will be represent somewhat of a hierarchy in excellence.
2. Top of the Lake (2013)
Created by Jane Campion and Gerard Lee
By looking at the trailer and stills from the series, you might expect Top of the Lake to be yet another run of the mill, but solid police series. And indeed, at first glance this appears to be the case. But before you realize it the show transcends the police/detective genre and develops into a multi-layered psychological drama. In a sense it is more surreal than modern detectives like The Killing, but also more bleak than lets say a Twin Peaks. Top of the Lake is about Robin Griffith, a police woman specialized in child abuse based in Australia who is visiting her home-town in New Zealand because her mother is ill, and gets assigned to a local case. A young girl who seemed to be wanting to drown herself in the lake got rescued just in time. Then they find out the 12-year old girl is pregnant. The search for the man who could be the father gets sinister quickly, and Robin who has some childhood traumas to cope with herself, must try to remain professional. Until half way the show was incredibly gripping, but somewhere along the line it becomes a little too strongly metaphorical. It nonetheless a must-see detective series, but as the number two suggests not the best Sundance Channel show of all time:)
1. Rectify (2013)
Created by Ray McKinnon
This exceptionally strong drama series has not gone unnoticed. Most recently the A.V. Club ranked it as the best new show of 2013, and I could not agree more. You can feel that Sundance had something to do with it, as there is no other American show out there that feels so deeply like a quality American independent film. It is definitely the best Sundance series of 2013, and most likely with season 2 also of 2014. Very briefly described, Rectify starts off with the release of Daniel, a man who has been locked up for the last twenty years for the rape and murder of his high school sweetheart. Due to inconclusive DNA evidence, Daniel, gets set free until a new trial takes place. The introvert, but clearly intelligent Daniel is despite of his good looks a socially awkward man, and his home-town in Georgia to which he returns is uncomfortable with having him back. We follow Daniel while he struggles to reintegrate, and gets introduced to modern America. All the way with the viewer not knowing if he has done it or not.
You can buy both Rectify and Top of the Lake now on DVD/Blu-ray and watch them online.
Season 2 of Rectify will be released on the Sundance Channel in 2014. This list will be updated with all the new best Sundance shows.