Coen Brothers’ TV Project ‘Ballad of Buster Scruggs’ Lands at Netflix

Coen Brothers
Matt Baron/REX/Shutterstock

The Coen Brothers’ first television project is heading to Netflix, the streaming giant announced on Wednesday.

As Variety reported exclusively in January, the Coens are developing a Western anthology titled “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.” It will feature six tales about the American frontier. Each chapter will feature a different story about the American West. The project will star Tim Blake Nelson as Buster.

“The Coens are visionary directors, masterful storytellers, and colorful linguists. We are thrilled for Netflix to become home to the full range of their talents,” said Cindy Holland, vice president of original content for Netflix.

Joel and Ethan Coen will executive produce, write, and direct the project. Megan Ellison and Sue Naegle from Annapurna Television will also serve as executive producers, along with longtime Coen Brothers collaborator Robert Graf. Annapurna Television will produce. It is expected to launch in 2018.

“We are streaming motherf—ers!,” the Coens said in a joint statement.

The Oscar-winning siblings are the latest in a long line of filmmakers who have made the transition to television. Among many others, the Wachowski sisters brought “Sense8” to Netflix in 2015. Though that show was canceled after two seasons, Netflix recently announced they will air a finale special. In addition, Ava DuVernay currently serves as the showrunner on the OWN series “Queen Sugar.” David O. Russell and Woody Allen also both have projects in the work at Amazon, with Allen debuting the series “Crisis in Six Scenes” on the streamer last September.

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  1. M says:

    A bold and brilliant move for the Coens. Netflix represents a much more effective and appropriate platform for releasing their work. There are simple truths that probably influenced this decision including:

    (1) The majority of their audience are no longer going to the cinemas. Rising ticket prices and a lack of engaging and original storytelling has resulted in a seismic shift to streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO Now, Showtime and the like for entertainment. Affordable home entertainment systems and rapidly improving technology have been providing consumers with legitimate options beyond a trip to the art house or cineplex. If the audience isn’t finding you, then perhaps you must find the audience.

    (2) Television – whether it be through cable or streaming – offers a venue for compelling and engaging content. It’s becoming more difficult for even the most accomplished filmmakers to do the work they want in a traditional studio or independent model. Look how long it took Martin Scorsese to make and release Silence. And why the heck can’t Charlie Kaufman get a film made these days? Other notable filmmakers (David Fincher, David Lynch, Woody Allen, David O. Russell and the aforementioned Scorsese to name a few) have migrated towards streaming and cable networks because of the greater creative freedom they are afforded as well as the potential to reach a larger audience.

    (3) Studios are saturating us with massive budget, tentpole films and brushing aside the smaller, auteur films. Mid-level Hollywood films intended for a niche audience are simply disappearing. The emphasis is on spectacle-filled, franchise-driven experiences geared toward an international market. All genres of movies are facing this reality as evidenced by a recent Judd Uptown interview in Vulture discussing the erosion of quality studio comedies.

    Looking ahead, it will be interesting to see how accomplished filmmakers like the Coens choose to distribute their work. They have an impeccable list of cinematic gems to their credit, but they are seemingly venturing into new territory with their first television foray. Will streaming platforms be their preference in the future?

  2. Robert Geismar says:

    Why aren’t they putting their writing into the TV Series Fargo?? Each season was different; characters, story and enjoyable. Damn.

  3. Bill B. says:

    I have little interest in westerns, but how can one not be interested in at least taking a peak at this?!

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