SundanceTV Turns 25: The Network’s 9 Best Programs

Rectify Abigail Spencer Luke Kirby
Tina Rowden/SundanceTV
Abigail Spencer and Luke Kirby in ‘Rectify’

SundanceTV, look how far you’ve come. Founded by actor Robert Redford, the network first hit the small screen as the subscription-based cable offering Sundance Channel on February 1, 1996, offering the independent and foreign films that viewers might see at Redford’s annual Sundance Film Festival.

Since then, SundanceTV has rebranded, joining the AMC Networks family, and branching into original programming. Along the way, its TV shows have earned just as much critical buzz as the film festival entries.

To celebrate the network’s anniversary, below are 9 of the most fascinating titles from SundanceTV’s first 25 years, from a simmering character drama about a wrongly imprisoned ex-con to a snappy Britcom about tippling spouses.

An Estranged Couple Fights for Their Marriage in 'State of the Union'See Also

An Estranged Couple Fights for Their Marriage in 'State of the Union'

The SundanceTV series stars award-winners Chris O'Dowd and Rosamund Pike.

Rectify

Coming a year before the hit true crime podcast Serial, this drama followed protagonist Daniel Holden, who, like Serial subject Adnan Syed, spends decades behind bars for the strangulation death of his high-school girlfriend. Unlike Syed, though, Daniel is cleared by new DNA evidence, and Rectify tracks his readjustment to life as a free man.

This Close

Deaf representation is still sorely lacking on TV, but at least we had this Sundance comedy-drama, written by and starring Shoshannah Stern and Josh Feldman as best friends navigating ebbs and flows in their love lives and their relationship.

The Red Road

After Jason Momoa played Khal Drogo on Game of Thrones, he starred on this two-season drama as an Indigenous tribe member who forms an uneasy alliance with a local cop — played by Grey’s Anatomy alum Martin Henderson — who’s hiding a traumatic family secret.

Hap and Leonard

Based on the stories of Joe. R. Lansdale, this Southern noir drama starred James Purefoy as an ex-con draft dodger and Michael K. Williams, a gay Vietnam vet with a hair-trigger temper, as his best friend, who get into trouble in 1980s East Texas.

The Writers’ Room

This Emmy-nominated series featured behind-the-scenes scoop from the writers — and stars — of critically acclaimed TV shows such as Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and The Walking Dead. Better yet, screenwriter and Community actor Jim Rash served as host, moderator, and wisecracker.

No One Saw a Thing

How could dozens of townsfolk in Skidmore, Missouri, have witnessed the 1981 murder of the “town bully” but denied all knowledge of the crime? This true crime docuseries investigated that question and examined how the unsolved case of vigilantism has ripped apart the town’s social fabric in the years since.

Iconoclasts

Like a TV version of Interview magazine, this long-running documentary series featured Hollywood stars and other creative types talking one-on-one about their lives and careers. Check it out, and then watch the SNL spoof with Kristen Wiig as Björk talking to Kenan Thompson as Charles Barkley.

Brick City

A decade before Cory Booker launched his U.S. presidential campaign, he was the subject of this Peabody Award-winning documentary series, which chronicled Newark, New Jersey, as a city of transition, with Booker as its magnetic mayor. (Documentarians Mark Benjamin and Marc Levin later gave Chicago a similar closeup in the 2014 CNN series Chicagoland.)

State of the Union

Created by High Fidelity screenwriter Nick Hornby and starring Rosamund Pike and Chris O’Dowd, this comedy’s 10-minute episodes document a couple’s weekly tradition of meeting up for a drink before their marital therapy sessions. Pike, O’Dowd, and the show itself all won Emmy Awards in 2019, and SundanceTV recently renewed the show for a second season.