Just days after losing its entire Disney catalogue in a split no one saw coming, Netflix responded in a major way. The streaming service will officially be home to the Coen brothers’ first foray into television. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, first announced in January, will be a six-episode anthology set in the American West.
The Coens will write and direct the series, which is expected to tell six separate stories about a singing cowboy, a high-plains drifter, an actor, a prospector, two trail bosses and the passengers on a stagecoach, according to a rundown of the episodes. James Franco, Zoe Kazan, and Ralph Ineson will star alongside Coen favorite Tim Blake Nelson, whose singing cowboy the series is named after.
The Coens will join prestige directors like David Fincher (Mindhunter, House of Cards), Spike Lee (She’s Gotta Have It) and Cary Fukunaga (Beasts of No Nation, Maniac) in a growing list of prestige directors who’ve chosen to take their talents to Netflix, which has shown a real willingness to pay for marquee talent. And while television as a medium once had the reputation of being beneath the world’s top directors, that’s no longer the case. Barry Jenkins and Nicolas Winding Refn are prepping shows at Amazon, while David O. Russell is currently shopping around a crime thriller starring Robert De Niro and Julianne Moore to both networks and streaming services.
It should come as no surprise that more and more top tier directors are flocking to television to spread their creative wings. The longer format allows them the freedom to explore certain impulses that might otherwise be frowned upon under the constraints of a studio system. And as Hollywood continues to shy away from new ideas in favor of functional-if-boring models (we see you Marvel), television has become the de facto home of original storytelling.
Could you even imagine the Coen brothers walking into a studio and pitching this idea as a movie? Of course you could, that’s how we got the shambolic mess known as Hail, Caesar!. It’s no wonder their excitement could barely be contained in their four-word press release: “We’re streaming motherfuckers!”
Hell yeah, you are.