Coen brothers develop Western series for Netflix

Visionary directors join big names working in television's golden age

Coen brothers
Coen brothers to make Netflix Western show
(Image credit: Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images for BFI)

Netflix is producing the Coen Brothers' first television project, a Western called The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.

Joel and Ethan Coen are developing a mini-series set on the American frontier, Variety. The show, set to premiere on Netflix next year, will feature six tales with each chapter telling a different story about the American West.

The Coens will executive produce, write and direct the project, along with Megan Ellison and Sue Naegle's Annapurna Television and long-time Coen Brothers collaborator Robert Graf. The Coen brothers released a statement about the show saying: "We are streaming motherf-ers!"

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So far, very little information has been released about The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, but the series will star Tim Blake Nelson in the title role of Buster. Nelson is best known for his role as Delmar O'Donnell in O Brother, Where Art Thou?

"The Coens are visionary directors, masterful storytellers and colourful linguists," said Cindy Holland, Netflix's vice president of original content.

The brothers' last feature film was Hail, Caesar!, a homage to 1950s Hollywood. The pair have also written scripts for Unbroken, Bridge of Spies and Suburbicon for Angelina Jolie, Steven Spielberg and George Clooney.

As Netflix expands its original programming, the company has been "attracting big names in both film and TV", says Lizzie Plaugic of The Verge. David Fincher is developing a Netflix series called Mindhunter, while Ava DuVernay is working on her second project with the streaming service, a miniseries about the Central Park Five.

Other notable film directors in the streaming arena include Woody Allen (Crisis in Six Scenes), Baz Luhrmann (The Get Down) and David O. Russell, who is developing a drama series for Amazon.

Ian Leslie, writing in the Financial Times, says we are living in a "golden age" of television with HBO, Netflix and Amazon "in a creative race to the top".

The newer cable and streaming services may not offer talent like the Coens the prestige and budget of a big broadcaster or movie studio, but could offer them "freedom", Leslie says. This has enabled an industry "once regarded as an artistic wasteland" to transform itself into "the most prolific source of new stories".

But "golden ages come to an end", warns Leslie, so we should watch shows like The Ballad of Buster Scruggs while they last.

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