Sundance’s compelling “genre-buster” Brick City debuts tonight, follows Newark residents

The best new reality series of the fall, Brick City, debuts tonight on Sundance Channel at 10 p.m. ET, airing one episode every night all week long, and the whole series is currently available On Demand on most cable systems. The series follows the city of Newark, New Jersey, and four key residents who are dealing with crime and trying to revive their community: the mayor, Cory Booker, the police chief, and a Crip and a Blood who happen to be in a relationship and act as youth mentors.

Critics will try to call it a documentary, but producer/directors Mark Benjamin and Marc Levin told me earlier this summer that Brick City was planned to be a series from the start. Mark Benjamin said they wanted to “invent a hybrid genre-buster” and create a “new way of presenting reality. … We don’t have interviews, we don’t have a narrator, we don’t have a locked-off camera, we don’t have lights to make you think you’re watching a video live show. It does feel cinematic because of the style we shot in,” he said.

I’ll have a full review later this week, but stick with it: The series pulls you in more after it sets up its characters and progresses, and there are a lot of shocking and surprising moments, from fights to a chance meeting that carries a lot of emotional weight.

Sundance Channel has a bunch of clips on their site, including this, the first 10 minutes of the series:

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.