Episode Summaries Emerge for Coen Brothers TV Show ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’
Here’s a new theory I’ve been testing out as of late: the more inscrutable a TV episode’s plot summary is, the better it will ultimately be. It first dawned on me during the glory days of Mad Men’s run, when viewers were regularly given no more to work off of than some variation on “Next week, Don does a thing, and is sad.” The current airing of Twin Peaks’ revival season doubled down on the concept, almost taunting viewers with how little salient information the summaries provide. (A recent highlight merely read, “Don’t die!” which is actually pretty solid advice when you’re watching Twin Peaks.)
The Coen brothers are now keeping up this proud tradition, having released one-line teases for each of the six episodes that will make up their developing TV series, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. The folks at /Film noted an item in The Albuquerque Journal in which the Coens clarify that their series will take an anthological approach, mounting six individual self-contained short stories united by the time period and genre trappings of the Western. The episode “summaries” play it pretty close to the vest:
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is about a singing cowboy. “Near Algodones” is about a high-plains drifter whose own fecklessness dogs his attempts at bank robbery and cattle driving. The third story, “Meal Ticket,” follows an actor and impresario of a traveling show. The fourth, “All Gold Canyon,” is about a prospector who happily finds a gold seam but then unhappily finds an evil encroacher. The fifth, “The Gal Who Got Rattled,” follows two trail bosses on the Oregon Trail and a woman on the wagon train who needs the help of one of them and who might be a marriage prospect for the other. Lastly, “The Mortal Remains,” about the five very different passengers on a stagecoach of mysterious destination.
If you, like me, assumed for some reason that this was on FX, think again — the Coens’ foray into TV has yet to find a network home, and to add another variable into the equation, the /Film item mentions a “theatrical component” to The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Perhaps they’ll end up with a O.J.: Made in America situation, where the episodes get stitched together and screened in theaters as one long single work. Then we’d get to re-argue what defines movies and TV, and won’t that be fun?