Sundance ‘Lab’ yields strange brew

'Ice Cream Social,' 'Heart' likely air late next year

A sudser with Fabio and a short by musicvid darling Chris Cunningham are among the final four projects the Sundance Channel has selected for its “TV Lab” original special.

Unlikely pairing is in keeping with project’s mission of thinking outside the box. In June, net issued an open call for submissions asking for nontraditional ideas that would rethink TV, either by creating formats or tinkering with existing ones. Net also approached some creatives, yielding a diverse list of winners:

  • Variety show “Ice Cream Social” by artist-writer David Robbins, based on a series of installations he has set up around the country. Described as “American Bandstand” meets “Laugh-In,” show depicts a highly stylized gathering where everything is happening at once, from spoken word to musical performance.

  • “A Heart Lies Beneath” by artist Erin Cosgrove. A soap opera depicted in live action and animation in which a world-weary Fabio narrates from a lonelyhearts bar. Bar’s patrons are the characters he’s speaking about.

  • “Extended Family” by short filmmaker Miles Kahn. A longform improvised sitcom featuring Off Off Broadway improv troupe Nuclear Family.

  • “Rubber Johnny” by Chris Cunningham, who has worked with David Fincher and Stanley Kubrick, and directed videos for Bjork and Madonna. Concept will mimic visual style of an underground comicbook and feature a kid who lives with a mean dog. Helmer was approached by Sundance. “We wondered what television would look like through his lens,” said Adam Pincus, net’s senior VP of original planning and new media.

Projects, whose budgets averaged $40,000, are in post-production. They were selected from nearly 4,000 entries by a panel of judges.

“TV Lab” special will include pitches from the creators and five to seven minutes apiece of minipilots. Show represents Sundance’s latest foray into original programming and will most likely air late next year as hope is to expand beyond pilot into a regular weekly series.

Should “TV Lab” expand, said Pincus, another call for submissions will go out and some from the first round will be revisited.

“This is a dead-on target for what we’re all about,” said Pincus. “We believe our final choices, each in their own way, are synonymous with the kind of innovative and surprising programming viewers expect from Sundance Channel.”

Viacom Prods. (“Ed,” “Jake 2.0”) will have first crack at obtaining the rights to these four concepts and producing series based on them.

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