'Scrublands' to Debut on Sundance & AMC+ in May

Jay Ryan as Father Byron Swift and Luke Arnold as Martin Scarsden pose in 'Scrublands' Season 1

Jay Ryan as Father Byron Swift and Luke Arnold as Martin Scarsden in 'Scrublands' Season 1 

Sundance Now/AMC+

As noted in our earlier post about Return to Paradise, BritBox is the home to British shows, but when it comes to Australian series and other shows from the Oceania region down under, the streaming services that tend to pick those up are the ones under the AAMC Networks umbrella. This is a legacy left over from Acron TV, which AMC Networks bought to add to the network of niche streamers it was building, in hopes that adding an already successful one to the group of also-rans would help lift all boats. Acorn TV was home to Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, and The Brokenwood Mysteries and soon after launched My Life is Murder, making it the home of Australian and New Zealand series. In the years that followed, Sundance Now and AMC+ have followed in picking up shows that also hail from that region, including the latest forthcoming debut, Scrublands.

Based on the debut novel of the same name by Australian author Chris Hammer, Scrublands was initially commissioned in February 2023 by Australia's 9Network and its streaming service, Stan, which is Australia's largest homegrown streaming service. The story is set in the isolated country town called Riversend, brought to its knees by endless drought, and features Australian star Luke Arnold (Black Sails) as journalist Martin Scarsden, who arrives in town on the one-year anniversary of a horrific massacre committed by the town's only priest, Byron Swift (Jay Ryan, It: Chapter Two), who opened fire on his parishioners one Sunday morning.

The series debuted with all episodes as a binge on Stan in November 2023 and did well in its home country. Now Sundance and AMC+ are hoping Americans will deign to notice it when it arrives in May.

Here's the show's synopsis:

In an isolated and struggling country town, a charismatic and dedicated priest, Father Byron Swift, calmly opens fire on his congregation, killing five parishioners. One year later, investigative journalist Martin Scarsden arrives in Riversend to write what should be a simple feature story on the anniversary of the tragedy. But when Martin’s instincts kick in, and he digs beneath the surface, the previously accepted narrative begins to fall apart, and he finds himself in a life-and-death race to uncover the truth.

Martin finds the people of Riversend deeply scarred and hostile to journalists, with local bookstore owner Mandy Bond, Constable Robbie Haus-Jones, and the widow of one of the massacre victims, Fran Landers, giving him short shrift. But each has a past with Byron Swift they have kept hidden…

Bella Heathcote as Mandy Bond sitting discontentedly on the couch in 'Scrublands' Season 1

Bella Heathcote as Mandy Bond in 'Scrublands' Season 1

Sundance Now/AMC+

Arnold and Ryan are joined by co-stars Bella Heathcote (The Man in the High Castle), Adam Zwar (Darby & Joan), and Victoria Thaine (Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries) as the three main suspects. The rest of the cast includes Martin Copping (The Dunes), Eliza Matengu (My Life Is Murder), Scott Major (Rocketman), Genevieve Morris (Bloom), Robert Taylor (Longmire), Stacy Clausen (High Country), Zane Ciarma (Crazy Fun Park), and Fletcher Humphrys (Ms Fisher's Modern Murder Mysteries). 

All four episodes of Scrublands were directed by Greg McLean (Wolf Creek) and written by Felicity Packard (Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries), Kelsey Munro (Bump), and Jock Serong. Packard executive produced with David Redman, plus Michael Healy and Andy Ryan for 9Network, Cailah Scobie and Amanda Duthie for Stan, and Ian Collie and Rob Gibson for Easy Tiger.

Scrublands will debut on Sundance Now and AMC+ on Thursday, May 2, 2024, and stream weekly on Thursdays through the end of the month. 


Ani Bundel has been blogging professionally since 2010. A DC native, Hufflepuff, and Keyboard Khaleesi, she spends all her non-writing time taking pictures of her cats. Regular bylines also found on MSNBC, Paste, Primetimer, and others. 

A Woman's Place Is In Your Face. Cat Approved. Find her on BlueSky and other social media of your choice: @anibundel.bsky.social

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