We’ve reached another pivotal moment in the COVID-19 pandemic. There is, at long last, some glimmer of hope that this crisis is creeping to an end, but getting there requires staying a frustrating course, and battling our collective fatigue with a year-plus of “pivotal moments” that have yet to pivot already. And of course, millions more Americans will need to be vaccinated before we can reach herd immunity—a hurdle that has become dismayingly political. Although vaccines have been proven to be remarkably effective at reducing the spread and the severity of the coronavirus, more than 20 percent of adults still say they won’t get one. That number is even higher among Texans, 28 percent of whom said they won’t get vaccinated and 16 percent of whom said they aren’t sure—and the skepticism has only intensified recently, after Johnson & Johnson’s shot was put on hold over a few extremely rare cases of blood clots. Getting to herd immunity, experts agree, means overcoming vaccine hesitancy and even hostility, a problem that nearly 200 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered without incident have yet to assuage, to say nothing of the bipartisan endorsements of medical professionals, President Biden, and former President Trump. So maybe Selena Gomez can take a crack at it?
After all, Grand Prairie’s multifaceted media queen has already convinced her legions to follow her just about anywhere—to Spanish-language albums, to cooking shows, and even to a movie in which she played a talking giraffe. By comparison, Gomez hosting the all-star Vax Live: The Concert to Reunite the World seems like a small ask. The May 8 event will find her simply encouraging viewers to “take the Covid-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them, call on world leaders to share vaccine doses equitably and to bring people together for a night of music in a way that hasn’t felt possible in the past year,” as Gomez put it in a statement. The special, which will broadcast simultaneously on ABC, CBS, Fox, and YouTube, also features performances by Foo Fighters, Jennifer Lopez, Eddie Vedder, J Balvin, and H.E.R., all of them hoping to accomplish what scores of politicians, physicians, and extraordinarily patient relatives have not.
If the vaccine skeptics won’t listen to Selena Gomez, maybe they’ll be lulled into compliance by Matthew McConaughey? The Austin actor will continue dispensing his peculiar brand of light- yet levelheadedness as part of NBC’s Roll Up Your Sleeves special airing this Sunday, April 18, at 8 p.m. CDT, appearing alongside the likes of Lin-Manuel Miranda and Michelle Obama to raise vaccine awareness through “comedy acts, informative packages, captivating real-life stories and heartwarming surprises.” Surely combining all four, McConaughey’s segment will find him once again interviewing Dr. Anthony Fauci, this time focusing on separating vaccine fact from the various myths that have somehow led to the point where we’re relying on Matthew McConaughey to get people to trust in medical science.
It’s a Good Time to Be Demi Lovato
Demi Lovato, like her fellow Barney and Friends alum Selena Gomez, has enjoyed her own unlikely rise from Disney star to respected activist. The recent documentary series Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil chronicles this rebirth of the Dallas-bred star, covering the dark period following her near-fatal drug overdose in 2018 up to the release of her seventh album, Dancing with the Devil . . . the Art of Starting Over, and showing how Lovato has channeled her personal struggles into some of her most redemptive work yet. That work has certainly paid off: This week, Dancing with the Devil entered the Billboard charts at number two, selling 68,600 copies to come within a hair’s breadth of knocking Justin Bieber from the top spot. At the same time, NBC handed an official pilot order to Hungry, the comedy starring and produced by Lovato about a group of friends grappling with eating disorders. Lovato capped off those triumphs with an intimate “Tiny Desk” concert for NPR, one that found her serenading the squirrels in her Los Angeles backyard and bragging that she’d even trained them to eat from her own hands. “That’s a big accomplishment,” Lovato noted after a week full of them, one she’s only likely to top by landing a major movie role, or feeding a much larger animal.
Hilary Duff Could Star in the “Female Entourage”
Speaking of Texas-bred Disney stars who have matured into major media players, Houston’s Hilary Duff might have lost her shot at rebooting Lizzie McGuire, thanks to execs who were squeamish at the thought of a thirtysomething woman familiar with sex, but she’s already looking ahead to better, raunchier things. As previously rumored, Sex and the City creator Darren Star is considering a spin-off of his Paramount Plus series Younger, which would revolve around Duff’s publisher character. Speaking to Variety this week, Star described the potential series as “a bit of a female Entourage,” HBO’s similarly L.A.-set show about young-ish celebrity strivers. The key difference, presumably, is that this time the females would be the focus, rather than a parade of disposable models there to entertain idiots between rounds of tequila shots. Star cautions that a Duff-centered spin-off is still just a possibility at this point, as we wait to see whether any TV executive can buy this 33-year-old mother of three as an adult woman.
Mckenna Grace Cements Her Rise as Disney’s Next Big Star
Like Hilary Duff, Demi Lovato, and Selena Gomez before her, Grapevine actress Mckenna Grace got an early career boost from a Disney series, appearing on Crash & Bernstein when she was just seven years old, before transitioning into bigger and bigger roles. But unlike those three, Grace is already well ahead of schedule: She’s been in everything from Captain Marvel to the upcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife; CSI to The Handmaid’s Tale—all before the age of fourteen. Grace has plenty of years ahead and no particular reason to outgrow her Disney days just yet, hence her role in the upcoming Disney+ supernatural series Just Beyond, based on the graphic novel from Goosebumps author R. L. Stine. Grace will lead her own stand-alone episode of the eight-installment anthology series, which will reunite her with Gifted director Marc Webb. Grace also has the Disney+ film Crater in production, though she’s yet to show any interest in dropping an album—but again, she’s got time.
Regina Taylor Cast as Michelle Obama’s Mom
The esteemed Dallas-born actress Regina Taylor has been cast as one of America’s most quietly consequential mothers, joining Showtime’s anthology series The First Lady as the pragmatic, forthright mom of Michelle Obama. Taylor is no stranger to capturing crucial moments in Black and U.S. history, having launched her career with an acclaimed TV-movie dramatization of the Little Rock Nine story, Crisis at Central High, before breaking wide as the star of NBC’s short-lived, yet long-beloved civil rights drama, I’ll Fly Away. As Marian Shields Robinson, Taylor will play the woman who encouraged both Barack and Michelle Obama to “behave honestly and remain grounded, even while living in the White House,” according to Deadline, something Robinson accomplished by actually moving in with the First Family during Obama’s presidency. The series promises to offer a “revelatory reframing of American leadership,” such as by revealing the surprising amount of stuff Obama got done with his mother-in-law all up in his business.
Ethan Hawke Stars in Web-Only Waiting for Godot
In the perfect combination of medium and material for our purgatorial moment, Ethan Hawke is set to star in a new production of Waiting for Godot, to be performed decidedly off-off-Broadway as an online-only stream. The Austin native joins John Leguizamo, Wallace Shawn, and others in Samuel Beckett’s existentialist classic, now reimagined for a world where we’re all essentially stuck in the barren void of our screens, vainly awaiting someone to enter the chat and give us some sense of purpose. Waiting for Godot premieres via the New Group website on Thursday, May 6, at 7 p.m. EST, with tickets available for either 72-hour or seven-day rentals, depending on how long you feel like hanging around.
Megan Thee Stallion’s Grammys Performance Receives More Than One Thousand FCC Complaints
If you, too, have been feeling trapped and abandoned in a world bereft of meaning and given to abject cruelty, perhaps it’s just the natural effects of watching Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s Grammys performance last month. That’s the general tone of the more than one thousand complaints that were lodged with the FCC, anyway, from viewers who witnessed the Houston rapper and her “WAP” collaborator bumping and grinding through their conservative media–titillating hit, barely stomaching it long enough to write a graphically detailed email. “This was a disgusting display of nothing more than sluts being sluts,” wrote one such concerned citizen, who vowed to file a lawsuit on behalf of everyone else who saw it and would like some money now. Other typical complaints ranged from those who framed their responses as proportionate revenge against cancel-crazy liberals for Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head, to the self-described “massage therapist with deep respect for the human body who found myself crying myself to sleep wondering how this could be allowed on television.” For those who missed it, or who have likewise been having trouble drifting off, the clip is still available on YouTube, alongside approximately ten million far more salacious things.
Shameless Chooses Spoon for Its Swan Song
In a far less controversial marriage of Texas music and gleeful immorality, last weekend saw Showtime’s Shameless going out much like it first stumbled in—with Spoon’s 2002 track “The Way We Get By.” The Austin group’s ode to scraping by, making do, getting stoned, and listening to the Stooges memorably popped up in the series’ pilot episode, becoming an unofficial anthem for the show about a dysfunctional family just struggling to survive beneath their drunk, neglectful patriarch. So naturally, it all had to come full circle in the finale, which found the entire Shameless cast taking to the streets and belting out the tune a capella as the Gallaghers’ story reached its inevitably bittersweet conclusion. Whether you’re a Pitchfork-reading snob or a working-class tough on the South Side of Chicago, we can all agree that Kill the Moonlight is a banger.
This Week in Matthew McConaughey
It’s been about a minute since anyone’s asked Matthew McConaughey whether he’ll run for Texas governor, senator, or maybe emperor for life, although we assume the answer remains a hearty laugh, followed by platitudes about honor and responsibility. If McConaughey is, as he promised, still giving the matter “true consideration,” he was surely encouraged to learn that a majority of Americans don’t find the idea completely ludicrous. In a recent Piplsay survey of more than 30,000 online respondents, 58 percent said they would support McConaughey and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson running for Texas governor and U.S. president, respectively, with 39 percent adding that Hollywood celebs in general could make for good politicians “if they have the political aptitude.” Granted, these online polls aren’t exactly maps of the body politic; a lot of those same people also said they’d like to see Robert Downey Jr., Angelina Jolie, and Dolly Parton run for president, largely based on the platform of “I like them.” Still, you can’t argue that Matthew McConaughey hasn’t shown some political acumen through his broad, bipartisan appeals to things every American enjoys, such as national parks and Matthew McConaughey, or his ability to make windy speeches about stuff like “values” sound kinda thoughtful and even vaguely inspirational.
But right now, Matthew McConaughey doesn’t have much time to save Texas and America from itself—because it’s soccer season, man. With the McConaughey-backed Austin FC playing its inaugural match on Saturday, April 17, the mogul’s ceaseless media tear has shifted fully into selling his club and the entire sport to a state that’s never really fully embraced it (just ask the late, lamented Dallas Sidekicks). It’s an admittedly uphill battle that McConaughey has framed as a “hundred-year war.” It remains to be seen whether Austin FC will, as McConaughey hopes, still be alive and kicking a century from now, with robot strikers passing around titanium balls or whatever. But in the meantime, McConaughey is assuredly all in on helping to lay the team’s foundation firsthand, telling Goal.com, “I’m not interested in being a mascot” for the franchise. Which is a shame—Matthew McConaughey shuffling along the sidelines to “Baby Elephant Walk” would be a surefire way to draw crowds—but the future governor does have to preserve some of his dignity.