A number of us are—or should be!—stuck at home watching TV right now. So it makes a certain (if still bitterly ironic) sense that this year’s ATX Television Festival will find itself housebound as well. The annual Austin-based fest has joined South by Southwest in canceling all of its planned physical events and moving entirely into the virtual realm, and recently announced “ATX TV … From the Couch!” for the weekend of June 5–7.
Festival cofounders Caitlin McFarland and Emily Gipson said in a statement that “this will be a television experience unlike anything we’ve done before, and we are emboldened by the possibilities we are discussing with our panelists and partners,” although more specifics are still to come on that. This year’s fest was supposed to feature cast and crew reunions for Scrubs, Parenthood, and Cougar Town, a retrospective on HBO’s Oz, and a panel for Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, but there’s been no confirmation yet whether any of those will still happen. (Maybe on Zoom?) For anyone who bought their ATX passes based on the promise of actually sharing a room with Zach Braff, the fest is also offering transfers to the 2021 edition, when things should—hopefully—be more normal.
Willie Nelson, Lizzo, and Kacey Musgraves Performing in Your Living Room
In addition to ATX and SXSW Film, this week the venerable Farm Aid announced that it, too, is going virtual, with its top board members—Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, and Texas’s own Willie Nelson—all performing live, socially distant but together, at this weekend’s At Home With Farm Aid. Hosted by Nelson with his sons Lukas and Micah, the hour-long special airs live on Saturday, April 11, at 7 p.m. on the AXS TV cable network, and will stream via the AXS TV’s social media platforms and on the Farm Aid website.
Meanwhile, the next Saturday, April 18, sees fellow Texas superstars Lizzo and Kacey Musgraves joining the Lady Gaga-curated lineup of One World: Together at Home, a COVID-19 charity special that will also feature similarly quarantined performances and appearances from the likes of Paul McCartney, Elton John, Billie Eilish, and Stevie Wonder, plus a hosting team-up from Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, and Jimmy Kimmel. You can catch that one at 7 p.m., airing live on ABC, NBC, and CBS, and streaming live via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Amazon, among many other services.
Dennis Quaid Says “The Dennissance” Has Begun
Conversely, the coronavirus has taken quite the toll on podcasts, with listenership declining as much as 20 percent since March now that some listeners are no longer commuting. Still, that hasn’t stopped those same, quarantined-and-bored people from just making new ones, and as of this week, that includes Houston’s own Dennis Quaid. On April 8, Quaid launched his new chat show, The Dennissance, which finds the actor, musician, “animal lover,” and all-around Dennissance man in intimate conversation with guests and personal friends like Billy Ray Cyrus, Lance Armstrong, YouTube star Logan Paul, and Billy Bush.
Somehow, Quaid palling around with three of the most disgraced celebrities of the past decade isn’t the biggest controversy surrounding Quaid’s newest endeavor, thanks to a Daily Beast interview in which he praised Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic response, which then set off a social media backlash. It’s definitely one way to bring attention to a crowded and, at the moment, increasingly abandoned field. But will this be enough to make 2020, as Quaid declares, the year of the Dennissance? Could he maybe have picked a better year? Or—like the Renaissance and its roots in the bubonic plague—are we, too, about to emerge with a greater appreciation for the fleetingness of life and a renewed eagerness to spend it listening to Dennis Quaid talk to his buddies? Only time will tell!
Michael Arceneaux’s I Can’t Date Jesus Headed to TV
Houston writer Michael Arceneaux scored a New York Times best-seller with his 2018 essay collection, I Can’t Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I’ve Put My Faith in Beyoncé, in which he chronicled his coming-of-age as a gay man in a deeply Southern, devoutly Catholic household. Now he’s turning that story into a half-hour series for 20th Century Fox, with the help of executive producers Jerrod Carmichael and Lee Daniels. Deadline reports that the show will be marketed to cable and streaming services—which bodes well for it avoiding any sort of network sitcom sanitizing—and that Arcenaux himself will be heavily involved in the adaptation. Presumably that means the series will be set in Houston, if not also filmed there. Although, like with everything else, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Lubbock’s Erik Valdez Moves to Smallville
Lubbock-born actor Erik Valdez is also headed to prime time for his first major TV role since the short-lived Graceland, joining the CW’s Superman & Lois. Not to be confused with Lois & Clark (or any of the other million superhero TV series on air, many of them on the CW), the drama follows an older, married Clark Kent/Superman and Lois Lane as they raise their teenage sons, juggling the lives of working parents against the usual backdrop of supervillains and the occasional apocalypse. Complicating their relationship is Superman’s old flame, Lana Lang (played by Emmanuelle Chriqui), whom he reconnects with in their hometown—no doubt to the dismay of her husband Kyle, played by Valdez. Superman & Lois was ordered straight to series amid all the uncertainty of the COVID-19 shutdown, with the network no doubt figuring it needs all the proven, comfort-food concepts it can get right now.
This Week in Matthew McConaughey
Around here, of course, perhaps nothing has provided more solace lately than Matthew McConaughey. Austin’s Minister of Culture has been recording soothing messages of hope, stern messages of common sense, and even appearing alongside Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County judge Sarah Eckhardt to add some much-needed authority to their admonitions to stay home. And this week, he brought that mission of outreach to our most vulnerable and/or cutthroat, hosting a game of virtual bingo over Zoom with the residents of a senior living facility in Round Rock.
The spirit of McConaughey also found its way Down Under to the actor’s onetime home of Australia, where indie singer-songwriter Noah Dillon debuted his new single “Matthew McConaughey,” a tongue-in-cheek ode to changing yourself to please a partner—and specifically, into someone “more like Matthew McConaughey.” The song, which features an obligatory “alright, alright, alright” break, was released alongside a video where Dillon stars in low-budget re-creations of McConaughey’s roles in True Detective, Interstellar, and The Wolf of Wall Street.
There’s also a line about McConaughey’s “really nice hips”—which, sure. Dillon describes this whole idea of wanting to be more like Matthew McConaughey as “tongue-in-cheek,” and that’s exactly how we would play it off too.