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An Idea Long Overdue Rises on Sundance

The Writer's Room


For much of it's life, The Sundance Channel has borne the burden of being the poor cousin of IFC, showing the same kind of movies with little of the spirit or brio of its fellow channel. Then, over the past couple of year, it has been dipping it's toes into the original series on market, and slowly but surely been finding it voice. Jane Campion's Top of the Lake was one of the finest limited series to run last year, featuring Emmy nominated performances by Elisabeth Moss and Holly Hunter. It's original drama, Rectify, a series about a prisoner being released from jail after seventeen years, with no clear picture to his actual innocence,, was astonishing. Even it's ventures into the non-scripted market have shown spirit with the enjoyable Roller Girls, a series about the lives for four twenty-something women confined to wheelchairs.

By far, its most intriguing concept came to fruition last year with The Writer's Room. Sponsored jointed by Sundance and Entertainment Weekly., and hosted by Academy-Award winning screenwriter Jim Rash, it does exactly what the title suggests and looks at the writers who brought us such groundbreaking TV as Breaking Bad, Dexter, Parks & Recreation and Game of Thrones.

This season, the show tries to increase it's visibility by letting fans of the series, ask the show's creators questions about events in the series, as well as express their own emotions about the show. Current examples include Scandal, which featured famously closed mouthed showrunner Shonda Rhimes, being very open and candid about how she and her staff run the show, and The Walking Dead, the most successful cable series in history, which also gave the series a chance to look at other comic-book based series such as Smallville. It also gave us rare insight to certain elements of the process, as Robert Kirkman, writer of both the comic book and the TV series, admits that he has to do a very careful balancing act when it comes to making sure certain characters fates in either are not sealed. (When he revealed one characters was dying, his entire staff was practically up in arms)

This isn't a perfect show. Rash is more of a fan then a journalist, so he doesn't delve into the behind-the-scenes drama that has been part of the series. (Walking Dead has fired two show-runners in four seasons.) And because the series is reluctant to reveal too much, it mainly deals with shows late in their run. But frankly, this is an idea that has been long overdue for any TV network, and I applaud Sundance TV for taking such a risk. Personally, I can't wait to see how the runners of The Good Wife will handle discuss Will's murder.