Like many an improv comedy hopeful, J.J. Watt has been quietly biding his time on home stages, awaiting his big break—doing some local commercials, picking up the occasional sitcom guest spot, playing defensive end for the Houston Texans, etc. But all of that work finally seems to be paying off. NBC announced this week that Watt will host Saturday Night Live on February 1, a gig that could potentially catapult Watt into a movie career to rival LeBron James’s. After all, Watt’s reels of New Girl cameos and Greek yogurt commercials have revealed that, in addition to his herculean physique and easygoing charisma, he possesses natural comedic timing (the selfish jerk), which should easily put him in the top tier of athletes to have hosted SNL—far more Peyton Manning than Michael Phelps. We certainly wouldn’t bet against him, at least not to his face.
Everyone Is Obsessed With Cheer
Of course, to even get to studio 8H, Watt will have to tear himself away from Netflix’s Cheer docuseries, the reality phenomenon that has snared the entire couch-bound country in the heightened drama of Texas college cheerleading. Watt recently tweeted about his obsession with the show, adding his all-caps voice to a chorus of celebrity endorsers like Reese Witherspoon, Chrissy Teigen, and Brie Larson. That also includes Ellen DeGeneres, who invited the Navarro College team to perform their routine on her show, and asked breakout star Jerry Harris to give her one of his signature “mat talks.”
Naturally, the internet’s been consumed by Cheer as well—perhaps no site so much as Buzzfeed, which has been cranking out Cheer-related hot takes and quizzes (a la “Is Monica Aldama, The Coach Of The Navarro Cheer Team, Proud Of You?”) at a truly athletic pace. Of course, with a meteoric rise comes the inevitable backlash, as The Atlantic’s Amanda Mull also wondered this week whether the show’s many fans “judged Aldama an inspirational American leader instead of a manipulative, reckless glory-hound.” Still, many people seem to find it moving, for a myriad of reasons: its celebration of queer black athletes; its portrait of well-intentioned people trying their hardest; the stories it tells of kids healing through community and transformative achievement. And others seem to agree with Booksmart star Beanie Feldstein that it’s the Friday Night Lights replacement we’ve needed for years now.
New Movie Will Tackle the Tragedy of the Von Erichs
On the slightly more dour end of Texas sports stories, Deadline reports this week that Martha Marcy May Marlene director Sean Durkin is readying a film about the Von Erichs, the storied family of Texas wrestlers whose lives were plagued by unthinkable personal tragedy. That story began with the Jewett-born Fritz Von Erich (real name Jack Barton Adkisson), a former Texas football player turned wrestling legend who, with his wife Doris, had six sons, five of whom died at a young age. Among them were fellow wrestlers Kerry, Mike, and Chris Von Erich, who all committed suicide within the space of just six years, leading to the whispers of a “Von Erich curse” that dogged the clan ever since. The Von Erichs’ tale has been told in various documentaries and TV specials over the years, often with the participation of surviving brother Kevin Von Erich. It’s unclear as yet whether he’ll have anything to do with this first attempt to dramatize his family’s story.
The First Trailer for DJ Screw TV Series Arrives
Evoking similarly bittersweet feelings of regional pride, the first trailer debuted this week for All Screwed Up, Isaac Yowman’s anticipated limited-series exploration of the life and death of Houston’s DJ Screw, a.k.a. Robert Earl Davis Jr. With newcomer Rosha Washington in the lead, the show follows Davis from his early days of scratching up his mom’s records to his becoming one of the most influential hip-hop producers of all time through his pioneering “chopped-and-screwed” technique. The clip suggests the series will largely focus on the turf war between the city’s north and south sides, with Screw’s actual music being just one element of that larger story. But whatever form it takes, it’s an overdue look at one of the state’s most enduring musical innovators. Hopefully it will officially find a network soon, so the wait won’t get any longer.
Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street to Be Adapted for TV
In the decades since The House on Mango Street was first published, author (and former San Antonio resident) Sandra Cisneros has always turned down offers to adapt her 1984 novel for film and TV, even as the book has come to be regarded as a classic of Chicana literature. But Deadline reports this week that the writer has partnered with Narcos production house Gaumont to turn the story of Esperanza Cordero into a TV series, with Cisneros serving as executive producer. The House on Mango Street would certainly seem to lend itself to episodic storytelling: told in a series of vignettes, it captures a year in the life of Cordero’s family as they move among the characters populating their impoverished Chicago neighborhood. As Cisneros told Deadline, the new era of TV storytelling, as well as the ongoing conflict over immigration, persuaded her to do it. “I write because the world we live in is a house on fire, and the people we love are burning,” she said. “Television has grown up in the last 20 years and now is the time to tell our stories.”
Mark Wahlberg Whales on Post Malone in Posty’s Movie Debut
Mark Wahlberg playing Robert B. Parker’s two-fisted, mononymous private eye Spenser is about as “Boston” as it gets. Still, this trailer for Netflix’s upcoming Spenser Confidential movie has a little bit of Texas in it. For one thing, Iliza Shlesinger (who plays Spenser’s old flame, Cissy) was raised in Dallas. Spenser also marks the film debut of Grapevine’s very own Post Malone, billed here as “Austin Post,” who finally puts those menacing face tattoos to work by playing the convict who menaces Wahlberg in the clip’s opening moments. There’s no telling yet just how big a part Post Malone actually plays in the film, but still: watching Wahlberg kick the crap out of him is probably enough for fans—and haters—alike.
THIS WEEK IN MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY
Winter is upon us in all its raw, 65-degree bluster, so what better way to warm ourselves than by the crackling embers of a Matthew McConaughey press tour? Guy Ritchie’s gangster drama The Gentlemen finally debuts in the U.S. this week, and in that enchanting lull between anticipation and reviews came the promotional puffery, where the prospect of any new McConaughey film, however middling, is always more than justified. Among the highlights was McConaughey playing a game of “Name That Review” for Rotten Tomatoes with his costar and junket buddy Hugh Grant, where McConaughey often struggled to identify which exactly of his films was being critiqued from a single blurb or Grant pantomime—and, occasionally, remember which of them he was in.
One of the main joys of this Gentlemen press gauntlet has been watching that unlikely friendship between McConaughey and Grant blossom, and now it seems like they’re ready to take the relationship to the next level: on Entertainment Tonight, the duo revealed that they’d actually followed through on their plans to set McConaughey’s 88-year-old mom up on a date with Grant’s 91-year-old dad, adding that their widowed parents would likely have a “red hot” time together. The arranged meet-up allegedly took place sometime this week, so we likely won’t have to wait long before McConaughey and Grant officially announce that they’re becoming stepbrothers—or whatever the casual, more common-law term is for friends who must awkwardly joke around the fact that their parents are hooking up.
Unable to elude the cameras even in his downtime, McConaughey was also spotted in Las Vegas, attending the UFC match between Conor McGregor and Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, alongside other stars like Jeremy Renner and Tom Brady. Considering that fight was over in about forty seconds, McConaughey also had plenty of time to catch the Cirque du Soleil with his family, then hightail it back in Austin in time to screen The Gentlemen for more than one thousand appreciative University of Texas students who’d been waiting hours to catch a glimpse of him. McConaughey also participated in a post-screening Q&A in which he mused on his new role as mentor and fount of unexpected wisdom: “When I say something and move on, I have a lot of students go, ‘Hey, that, that means something,’ and I say ‘Oh, you didn’t know that?’ and they say ‘No.’”
Finally, McConaughey shared yet more of this unintentional sage wisdom on his Instagram account, where he finally gave a definitive answer to the stock “What is a gentleman?” softball he says has been lobbed at him by so many journalists this week. Although McConaughey says he could talk for an hour on the subject, he charitably limited his remarks to the basic idea that “a gentleman never really intrudes or trespasses on someone’s territory without being invited,” up to and including not telling stories about other people (even the “cool” stories).
And if that seems both perceptive and disappointingly lucid, well, yet another one of McConaughey’s zen koans for Lincoln—in which he pilots his new Lincoln Aviator out to the Canadian Rockies for some much-needed alone time to go ice fishing in the wilderness—recently dropped. The ad forgoes his usual philosophical ramblings save for one line of dialogue, murmured as he curls up in the back of his climate-controlled SUV: “Beats jiggin’ in a shanty.” Hey, that—that means something.