Netflix Picks Up the Coen Brothers’ Anthology Series, ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’


The Coen Brothers’ venture into anthology series territory with The Ballad of Buster Scruggs became public knowledge back in January, and now it seems that the directorial bros have skipped straight to the peakiest of peak-TV territory. Scruggs, The Hollywood Reporter just announced, will be a Netflix series. The Coen Brothers’ statement about this is, simply, “We’re streaming, motherfuckers!” The project is being produced by Annapurna, with a 2018 premiere date in sight.

There may be an anthology series based on a Coen Brothers film currently in existence — but Noah Hawley’s Fargo doesn’t exactly give a window into what a Coen Brothers TV series would look like, mostly because, you know, it’s Noah Hawley’s show.

The Coen brothers themselves haven’t really waxed poetic about Fargo, despite audience/critical acclaim. Joel Coen said of that series, back in a 2016 interview with the Radio Times, “We’re just not very interested. I mean, we’re perfectly happy with it.We have no problem with it. It just feels divorced from our film somehow.” He’d followed that up by saying, “Here’s the thing. We work short. Our longest movie (2008’s Oscar winner No Country for Old Men) is two hours two minutes. It’s just not how we think about stories. I mean, after two hours with a character we feel we’re pretty much done with them.” Ethan, however, then chimed in, “Would it be interesting to do something like that at some point? I don’t even know where you’d start frankly.”

And it seems like the brand of slightly-less-dismissive curiosity espoused in that last statement got the better of them: when it was announced that the Coen Brothers themselves were working on an anthology series, it was at once familiar and unprecedented, not to mention unexpected, given Joel’s seeming disinterest in the TV form, and maybe a little expected, given Ethan’s more open reply.

But then the fact that it’s actually a six “chapter” series — each telling an apparently separate tale about the American West — further seemed to confirm that this was the Coens doing TV on their own terms: they’re still getting to “work short,” even while working long. Complicating that, however, is the fact that, at least from the title, it does seem like the through-line could be one consistent character (maybe?): apparently O Brother, Where Art Thou?‘s Tim Blake Nelson will star as Scruggs; though whether or not all or one of the tales concern the titular character remains to be seen.