Sundance Channel Has Its First Real Emmy Contenders

Paula Bernstein is an AwardsLine contributor. This story appeared in the June 19 issue of AwardsLine.

“I’m not a betting woman,” says Sarah Barnett, president and general manager of Sundance Channel. But if she were, she would be wise to bet on Sundance Channel when the Emmy nominations are announced live from the Leonard H. Goldenson Theater on July 18.
Following in AMC’s footsteps, Sundance has broken out of the niche movie category and branched into original programming, including high-end original series like Rectify (from the producers of AMC’s Breaking Bad) and coproductions like Top of the Lake starring Elisabeth Moss (from AMC’s Mad Men), both of which have received critical raves and attracted dedicated fans.
As a result, this could be Sundance Channel’s year to shine at the Emmys—with Top of the Lake stars Moss and Holly Hunter, as well as director Jane Campion, having potential for nominations. (Incidentally, Hunter and Campion took home their first Oscars for collaborating on 1993’s The Piano.)
Plus, because the TV Academy reversed its previous decision and decided to break out lead and supporting acting awards in a miniseries, Hunter and Moss won’t have to go head-to-head if they are both nominated.
“It was lovely to see our show as the sort of poster child for why the separation or supporting actress and lead in a miniseries made sense,” says Barnett.
Sundance’s first wholly original series Rectify is eligible in various categories, including director (Keith Gordon), outstanding lead actor in a drama series (Aden Young), outstanding supporting actress in a drama series (Abigail Spencer), as well as outstanding drama series. The cable network is also hoping that the star-studded miniseries Restless and edgy reality series Push Girls have a shot come Emmy time.
The last time the network received a nomination was in 2011 for Carlos, but it has never won an Emmy.
“It would be extraordinary and big for us,” says Barnett. “I look at the pool of networks we aspire to swim in, networks like HBO and AMC. For those two networks in particular, awards have been such a big part of building excitement around their original content,” says Barnett.

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