There are plenty of TV events at this SXSW Film Festival, including a keynote address by “Girls” creator and star Lena Dunham and the premiere of the “Veronica Mars” movie. But 2014 also marks the inaugural year of the Episodic section, a new program created to showcase digital and television series, with six premieres, each only screening once, scattered throughout the festival. Fans with film badges or above can wait in line for their chance at a first look at these anticipated upcoming series, but we here at Indiewire thought it best to get everyone up to speed on the essentials of these premiere events whether you’ll be in Austin or checking in worldwide.
SXSW screening: Friday, March 7 at 10pm at the Paramount Theatre (one episode)
TV premiere: Sunday, March 9 at 8pm on all Fox networks, including Fox, FX, FXX, FXM, Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, National Geographic, Nat Geo Wild and Fox Life
Hosted by everyone’s favorite astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, “Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey” is a follow-up to Carl Sagan’s beloved 1980 series “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage,” which used groundbreaking visuals and a synthy Vangelis soundtrack to explore scientific themes like evolution and the structure of the galaxy for a mass audience. The new “Cosmos” is written by Ann Druyan (Sagan’s widow) and Steve Soter, both of whom collaborated with Sagan on the first series, and was made possible in part thanks to the unexpected participation of “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane, a huge fan of the original, who boarded this project as an executive producer and who hand-picked animators to handle effects. The premiere episode, which is screening at SXSW, is getting an unprecedented airing over all of the Fox-owned networks, making this a major event for science-centric television. The remaining 12 episodes will air on Fox with National Geographic rebroadcasting the episodes the next day. Tyson, Druyan, Mitchell Cannold, Brannon Braga and Jason Clark will be at SXSW for the post-screening Q&A.
SXSW screening: Saturday, March 8 at 11am at the AMC Theater at VCC (one episode)
TV premiere: Sunday, June 1 at 10pm on AMC
One of two technology-themed shows making their debut at SXSW this year, this AMC program is set in the festival’s home state. “Halt and Catch Fire” takes place in the Texas Silicon Prairie when PC culture was first on the rise — in the 1980s — and follows a trio of early adopters trying to build a computer that will change the world. Lee Pace (“Pushing Daisies”), Scoot McNairy (“Killing Them Softly”), Mackenzie Davis (“That Awkward Moment”) and Kerry Bishé (“Red State”) star, while two “Breaking Bad” executive producers — Melissa Bernstein and Mark Johnson — are on board, as is Jonathan Lisco, an EP on “Southland” and showrunner here. Juan José Campanella (“The Secret In Their Eyes”) directed the pilot, which is screening at the fest. Series creators Chris Cantwell and Chris Rogers are scheduled to be in attendance, as are Pace, McNairy, Davis, Lisco and Bishé.
SXSW screening: Saturday, March 8 at 4:30pm at the Vimeo Theater (one episode)
TV premiere: Tuesday, March 11 at 9pm on El Rey
When Robert Rodriguez got into television, he didn’t just created a series, he founded an entire network — El Rey, a cable channel that launched in December. “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series” will be El Rey’s first original series, and it’s obviously one close to the filmmaker’s heart, based on his 1996 cult movie written by and starring Quentin Tarantino. The series promises to expand the story of the film, which brought together a pair of sibling bank robbers on the run, the Texas Rangers in pursuit, a family vacationing in an RV, a strip club full of vampires and some Mesoamerica mythology. “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” star D.J. Cotrona and Zane Holtz take on the roles of the Gecko brothers played by George Clooney and Tarantino in the film, with Wilmer Valderrama, Eiza Gonzalez, Robert Patrick, Jesse Garcia and Don Johnson also in the cast. Rodriguez directed multiple episodes of the series, including the premiere, and will be at the festival alongside Cotrona, Holtz, Valderrama, Gonzalez and Garcia.
SXSW screening: Sunday, March 9 at 2pm at the Vimeo Theater (one episode)
TV premiere: Sunday, May 11 at 10pm on Showtime
Set in Victorian London, Showtime’s ambitious new horror series was created by Oscar-nominated screenwriter John Logan (“Hugo,” “Skyfall”) and executive produced by Oscar-winner Sam Mendes (“American Beauty,” “Road to Perdition”). It’s set to screen its first episode at SXSW more than two months ahead of its May premiere, a major vote of confidence from the network. The series stars Josh Hartnett, Eva Green and Timothy Dalton, but perhaps the show’s real stars are of the more fictional variety — Victor Frankenstein, his monster, Dorian Gray and other famous literary figures make up the lively cast of characters. Filmmaker Juan Antonio Bayona (“The Impossible”) directed the first two episodes and will take part in the post-screening Q&A along with Hartnett and Harry Treadaway, who plays Dr. Frankenstein.
SXSW screening: Monday, March 10 at 1:30pm at the Vimeo Theater (two episodes)
TV premiere: Sunday, April 6 at 10pm
Comedy godhead Mike Judge, creator of “Beavis and Butt-Head” and “King of the Hill,” makes his live action television debut with “Silicon Valley,” a half-hour HBO series set in the titular Bay Area home of the tech industry. Judge’s cult classic “Office Space” was a brilliant send-up of life at a ’90s software comedy, so here’s guessing the far stranger universe of contemporary startups, incubators and “fun” corporate culture will provide him with equally juicy material. Thomas Middleditch (“Fun Size”) plays Richard Hendricks, an awkward but talented programmer who works at the Google-esque Hooli and whose side project involves a compression algorithm that turns out to be much more valuable than he ever dreamed. T.J. Miller (“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”), Martin Starr (“Freaks and Geeks”), Kumail Nanjiani (“Franklin & Bash”), Amanda Crew (“Jobs”) and Zach Woods (“In the Loop”) also star in the show, and will be at the post-screening Q&A alongside Middleditch, Judge (an Austin local) and co-creator and executive producer Alec Berg.
SXSW screening: Tuesday, March 11 at 2pm at the Vimeo Theater (one episode)
Online premiere: Wednesday, April 9
Hulu is also joining the Episodic fray as the only internet-exclusive original programmer at SXSW. “Deadbeat” stars Tyler Labine (“Tucker & Dale vs. Evil”) as a ghost helper (as opposed to hunter). Labine’s character, Kevin, is a gifted medium living in New York who takes it upon himself to help ghosts solve whatever problems ghosts have. Brandon T. Jackson (“Tropic Thunder”) costars as his friend, Roofie. “Deadbeat” was created by Cody Heller and Brett Konner, who previously worked on “Wilfred” on FX. Executive producer and director Troy Miller of “Arrested Development” and “Flight of the Conchords” fame will join the creators at the premiere, along with Labine, Jackson, Cat Deeley and Lucy DeVito of the cast.