Joe Swanberg on the End of ‘Easy,’ Anthology Series Going Out of Vogue, and Hope for the Future

"Easy" creator Joe Swanberg spoke to IndieWire about Netflix "moving away" from anthology series — and keeping hope alive for a comeback.
Easy Season 3 Netflix
Dave Franco in "Easy"

Joe Swanberg wanted to make “Easy” for the rest of his life.

“When I first pitched the show, my dream was to make 30 seasons,” the writer and director told IndieWire. But now, after 25 episodes over three seasons, the Chicago-set anthology series is over. “Easy” Season 3 premiered May 10. Swanberg got the chance to wrap it up on his own terms, but saying goodbye wasn’t his choice.

“I talked to Netflix about it, and they’re basically moving away from the anthology format,” he said. “They love ‘Easy,’ and as I said to you before, I would’ve spent the rest of my life doing this show. But the anthology format and Netflix’s binge-watching vibe were not a great fit.”

Despite this, Swanberg remains nothing but appreciative of the streaming giant. He’s “grateful” to have known Season 3 would be the last, and said he “only had the best experiences” working on the show. “It’s extremely likely I do another project with Netflix,” Swanberg said, and — even after getting canceled — he hopes that project is “Easy.”

“My dream is still […] to hopefully come back and be able to do some kind of follow-up season or movies that continue to tell these stories,” he said. “My fingers are crossed that the world of ‘Easy’ has not ended, that we’re just kind of concluding it as a regular, running TV show.”

The indie filmmaker’s optimism isn’t based solely on a sunny outlook; he thinks the anthology series genre, which has been trending up for the past few years, is swinging back in the other direction. With Netflix, he sees the “extremely rewarding” appeal of ongoing narratives and how they can keep people coming back for years to come.

But Swanberg also noted how it makes sense that standalone, episodic stories grew to prominence in the streaming era, after the rise of YouTube popularized “clicking around between disparate videos” — that set up a generation of viewers for engaging with multiple, shifting narratives, which would make them more amenable to the anthology format.

“But you know as well as I do how trendy and faddy the industry is,” he said. “As anthology shows kept popping up, it just sort of leads to a snowball effect where creative people are like, ‘Oh, there are a lot of anthology shows on. Maybe I should pitch an anthology show.’ Networks respond thinking they should have their own anthology shows, and there’s this bubble that happens.”

“I caught that wave at a really nice time, and yet ‘Easy’ is one of those projects that’s running its course, and [now] Netflix is moving away from that anthology format,” he said. “I suspect over the coming years, [anthology series] will fade off a bit.”

Looking at the big picture, Swanberg’s argument toward the genre’s trendy appeal looks solid. Most major streaming services have at least one episodic anthology series: Amazon debuted “Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams” and John Carney’s upcoming “Modern Love” is perhaps the series most comparable to “Easy.” Based on the weekly column in The New York Times, the series will explore “love in its multitude of forms — including sexual, romantic, familial, platonic, and self love.” Hulu has the Blumhouse horror series “Into the Dark,” HBO offers the Duplass brothers’ “Room 104,” and CBS All Access just debuted Jordan Peele’s “Twilight Zone” revival last month.

Despite “Easy” ending, Netflix does have a number of anthology series in the works at the time, and representatives of the streaming service had no comment on their long-term plans for the genre. “Love, Death + Robots,” an animated episodic anthology from David Fincher,” debuted in March, more “Black Mirror” is on the way, and “Heartstrings” looks to tweak the formula ever so slightly, as each standalone episode is inspired by one of Dolly Parton’s songs. There’s also a slightly bigger swing: Guillermo del Toro’s “10 After Midnight,” which collects a curated lists of terrifying tales from the director behind “Shape of Water,” “Hellboy,” and “Pan’s Labyrinth.”

“I long ago gave up on trying to predict the future in this industry,” Swanberg said. “I just have to make the thing that is most compelling and interesting to me, at a given time, and cross my fingers that it lines up. I’ve been doing it for long enough that sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. That’s just the flow of the business.”

“Easy” Seasons 1-3 are streaming now on Netflix.

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