Fans of the YouTube style of short-form programming will want to check out an innovative dramedy series premiering this week on SundanceTV and Sundance Now.
In “State of the Union,” debuting today, Chris O'Dowd (“Bridesmaids,” “Get Shorty”) and Rosamund Pike (“Gone Girl,” “An Education”) star as Tom and Louise, an attractive and apparently successful London couple trying to repair their failing marriage through weekly marital therapy sessions. But before each visit, they first meet in the pub across the street to have a few and inevitably discuss their issues, which we come to learn are many.
Tom is a music journalist who lost his job with the downfall of his magazine and thus feels somewhat inadequate next to Louise, a successful doctor whose career is on the rise. As a result, he feels she's grown bored with him, which she picks up on. Infidelity soon follows.
As they're bending elbows and talking through problems, another couple is seen in every 10-minute episode exiting their therapist's office, much to Tom and Louise's fascination. They try to imagine what their story is.
“They are like the worst version of us,” O'Dowd explains. “So the couple that go before we go in, we've been kind of eavesdropping or peeking on the relationship through the pub window over the course of the last five or six weeks, and they have big blowout fights. And we're trying to imagine what's happening in their relationship, like it's our own personal soap opera. And we find solace In the fact that their relationship seems to be worse than ours and it's the only solace that we've been able to draw so we're holding onto it.”
The entire 10 episodes were filmed over two weeks last summer in an actual pub in West London, which made for 10 hour days for O'Dowd and Pike, who stayed after shooting was done to run over their lines for the next day over a glass of wine. With a cast of two, both actors were painfully aware that there was little margin for error.
“It was intense,” O'Dowd says, “because it was quite a lot to shoot in that (two-week) period. And as (a test) of memory, kind of knowing 12 pages off every day is quite a lot so it was quite the test. But I think we pretty much got it.”
Toward that end, O'Dowd was glad to be paired with Pike, whom he considers a true pro.
“As being kind of such a specific actor and hard-working and interesting, she's so solid,” he says. “Like she's got that kind of theater background thing. She just doesn't seem to f... up.”