The Culture TV First Look

Coen brothers will make first TV show as praise for small screen quality work continues

Joel and Ethan Coen are reportedly working on a Western miniseries, 'The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.' It's just the latest indication that television is a destination for creatively impressive storytelling.

Directors Ethan Coen (l.) and Joel Coen (r.) appear during a photo call for the film 'Inside Llewyn Davis' at the 66th international film festival in Cannes, France on May 19, 2013.
Joel Ryan/Invision/AP
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Acclaimed directors the Coen brothers are turning to TV as the previously maligned medium continues to be praised for today's quality storytelling.

Joel and Ethan Coen, the Academy Award-winning writers and directors behind such films as “Hail, Caesar!,” “True Grit,” and “No Country for Old Men,” will reportedly write and direct a Western miniseries titled “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.” According to Variety, the story of the miniseries could also extend into film in some way. 

The brothers' decision to develop a TV project is just the latest indication that television is now the spot for some of the most creatively impressive work in entertainment, with some critics and stars even believing TV is now surpassing film in that regard. 

“Television is experiencing a renaissance,” actress Viola Davis, who won a Golden Globe this week for her work in the movie “Fences” and currently stars on the ABC TV show “How to Get Away With Murder,” told the website Indiewire last year. “You have so many different channels on television now. There’s so many different narratives and so many writers willing to write for actors and actresses who otherwise would be relegated to those five days of work on a movie. And now they’re leading the charge on television. Who’s writing like that for Robin Wright, or Glenn Close, or Julianna Margulies in movies? But in television, they get wonderful narratives.” 

Some argue that TV has actually been producing higher-quality work than movies for some time, as TV shows like “The Sopranos,” “Mad Men,” and “Breaking Bad” have been hailed as some of the best programs ever made. 

“Creatively, though, television still enjoys a few advantages over movies,” Entertainment Weekly writer Melissa Maerz wrote in 2015. “Long-form narratives offer more nuanced storytelling … With people like Matt Weiner, Jenji Kohan, Vince Gilligan, and Jill Soloway steering the TV industry, showrunners are the real stars, not directors, which means that unlike the film industry, strong writing is just as important as the spectacle of how things look on screen.”

But strong television writing might also be making a bigger splash off-screen, she added. 

“Most important, movies just aren’t provoking the same level of passionate discourse that TV shows do every single night of the week on social media, where conversations start with niggling disagreements over plot points and grow into epic discussions about morality and diversity and other big questions that deal less with entertainment than with life itself.”

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