Change is inevitable, especially in an industry thriving on the output of creative minds. The format of television is one of the most rapidly changing aspects of entertainment, with set schedule times replaced with binge-watching, cable channels replaced with subscription services.
The television industry has been injected with megabucks in recent years, which in turn has attracted the acting and directorial elite, resulting in what many see as "The Golden Age of Television," a time when audiences are spoiled by the all-you-can-eat wealth of high-quality TV shows. In 2015 alone, there were over 1,400 primetime series on television, 412 of which were original scripted series.
The #CoenBrothers are the latest auteurs to move from the blinding lights of Hollywood to add to the rich abundance of choice (not counting the TV adaption of their 1995 film, Fargo), with Variety reporting their transition to TV with The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, an original script that the pair will direct and produce.
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'The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs' Will Be The Coen Brothers's TV Debut
The miniseries is set in the Old West and will be an anthology shown from six different perspectives, produced in conjunction with Annapurn Television. Little is known of the plot, but quality is assured; Joel and Ethan Coen are universally acclaimed as well-respected storytellers, and have already demonstrated a flair for the Western with No Country for Old Men (2007) and True Grit (2010).
Many Hollywood directors are now making the same transition, with heavyweights such as David O. Russell and J.J. Abrams joining the likes of David Fincher (House of Cards), Guillermo del Toro (The Strain) and Martin Scorsese (Boardwalk Empire) — but the significance of the Coen brother's project isn't so much in the pair's decision to turn to television.
Variety highlight that the Coen brothers chose television because the concept of Buster Scruggs was too challenging to fit the feature film format. They report that the show will "pursue an innovative approach that could combine television and theatrical," and although no specifics are given, it shows how far the evolution of TV has come.
The Evolution Of Television's 'Golden Age'
While the so-called Golden Age began in the early 2000's with the like of The Sopranos and The Wire — and was enhanced by binge-watchable shows such as Breaking Bad and Mad Men — TV was traditionally driven by the writers and producers involved. However, it was the limited series #TrueDetective that changed the landscape, starting a trend of director-led television.
In a 2014 interview with The Guardian, producer Richard Brown explained how the show — directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga — had flipped the creative process, making television a more appealing visual for high-flying directors. He said:
"It feels like big feature directors are seeing a way to do TV, whereas they weren't able to in the past because their role was somewhat diminished. Something like a True Detective, where the director is responsible for the whole series and the entire aesthetic vision, offers them a way in.
"It presents established film directors with the possibility of telling longer stories which go deeper into character than is usually possible in film."
The Next Step In The Rise Of TV?
Of course, True Detective wouldn't have been able to switch the dynamic of production had the landscape not been neatly tilled beforehand. The rise of online streaming sites such as #Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, and their subsequent investment in original content, unsettled the traditional format of TV by redirecting the focus from viewing figures to membership numbers.
The Coen brothers represent a further step. Here, you have two of the industry's most illustrious directors finding an outlet in television, not only in terms of narrative, but in terms of innovation. Traditionally, cinema has been the number one spot for developing technology, from CGI to 3D filming.
However, the Coen's choice to produce #TheBalladofBusterScruggs on the small screen, using a theatrical release to back-up the main project, shows TV is no longer playing catch up — instead, it demonstrates the potential to outperform cinema in some aspects. How they'll execute the idea, though, remains to be seen.
Are you excited to see the Coen brothers turn to TV?