Joel and Ethan Coen, one of Hollywood’s most acclaimed and respected filmmaking teams, have entered into something of an untraditional phase in their careers. They released Hail, Caesar!, an acclaimed and well-reviewed comedy, in early 2016, but the Coens, who have often had prolific stretches of a movie a year for several years, haven’t yet announced their next film project.
Instead, the Coens have lately been writing films, but not directing them - they’re among the credited screenwriters for 2014’s Unbroken, 2015’s Bridge of Spies, and are also reportedly writing an “Internet thriller” called Dark Web. Plus, a script of theirs is being used for George Clooney’s in-progress film Suburbicon. Now, another Coen project is on the way that isn’t a feature film.
According to Deadline, the Coens are attached to a project called The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. It’s described as a Western anthology series for television, which the Coens will write, produce and direct, in association with Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Television.
The project represents the Coens’ first foray into TV. While the well-regarded FX adaptation of their film Fargo, which is about to begin its third season, is made with their permission, it’s not with their participation. Perhaps most intriguingly, the Deadline story adds that Ellison's Annapurna Pictures “intends to pursue an innovative television and theatrical integrated approach to the project," indicating that perhaps the anthology could include a big-screen component. It’s not known what network might be the home of the series, or when it might start production.
Can the Coen sensibility work on television? Most likely, it can. The Coens have always been great at character work and storytelling, and they actually seem tailor-made for an anthology series. While the Coens aren’t involved with the Fargo series, their influence and style are all over it, and not only in the specific homages to their various work.
The other major question is, will the Coens actually stay hands-on with the series, or will The Ballad of Buster Scruggs work like Boardwalk Empire or Vinyl? On those shows, Martin Scorsese was credited as the co-creator, executive producer and director of the pilot, but returned to his movie career and had little to do with the rest of the series, even as they continued to use his name. As development on The Ballad of Buster Scruggs continues, fans of the Coen brothers will likely learn more about the exact nature of their involvement.
There’s no release date yet for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, but stay tuned here for more information on it.