Could there be a second season of Nick Hornby’s State of the Union? Sundance TV’s Jan Diedrichsen is ready and willing. “We, of course, love Nick,” he says. “We love the show, and we would love to do more.”
Diedrichsen’s enthusiasm is unsurprising, given that State of the Union has proven to be not only a new kind of viewing experience, but has also seemingly set a new trend for short form in general. Comprised of 10-minute episodes centering on a couple (Chris O’Dowd and Rosamund Pike) in the midst of marital counseling, the project brings quality writing and a major cast to a series ultimately directed at commuters watching it in increments on their phone, but which also makes sense viewed back-to-back as a complete film.
As Diedrichsen explains, their strategy in getting eyes on the show speaks to how people are changing their viewing habits. “One of the ways we wanted to connect with our audience was to say, ‘Hey, you are on your commute home, you’re on a train, maybe you’re carpooling, hopefully you’re not driving. Or you’re on a bus. You have these short bursts of time. Here’s the perfect show where you can watch one, maybe two, episodes on your commute home and really get a full beginning, middle and end in that short burst of time.'”
When Hornby’s material first came to Sundance TV through See Saw, Diedrichsen was completely sold. “It was brilliant,” he says. “It was smart. It was funny. It was insightful. It was biting. And it was unorthodox and unusual. And that’s one the things that we actually loved the most about it.”
The premise and style of the series also very much appealed to the Sundance ethos. “Our brand, and really the legacy of the Sundance brand across the board, starting with Robert Redford, is to break new barriers and try new things and be experimental,” Diedrichsen says. “And this felt like such a cool experiment. Not just in the fact that it was a short form series, but the fact that the series took place in one location with basically two actors. And was an examination of a marriage through this really unconventional filter.”
Going forward, will Sundance TV be investigating more short form projects, especially given the hugely-successful reaction to State of the Union?
“Yes,” says Diedrichsen. “I think the definition of an episode of television and the length of an episode of television, is evolving. And not only in terms of YouTube and the varying lengths of content that people watch now. I also think that there’s so much content that sometimes it’s just nice not to have to climb that mountain of an hour-long episode, or a 10-hour season to get a full story, while still having it be episodic.”