This column is all about finding the nexus between the far-off la-la land of Hollywood and our own little, 268,597-square-mile corner of the world. This week brings that junction closer to home than ever: Texas Monthly’s very own the Texanist is headed to Fox, which is fast-tracking a sitcom adaptation of David Courtney’s long-running advice column. With a script from Cheers executive producer Rob Long, The Texanist will reimagine Courtney as “Dave, host of a popular Austin-area radio show that dispenses advice to Texas natives and newcomers alike on what, exactly, is the true Texas way.” As in Courtney’s articles, much of the humor comes from the fact that, these days, the “Texas way” is a bit more nuanced, leaving it to Dave to navigate that cultural shift with the help of his family and coworkers.
Long is a self-avowed fan of the column, and with credits that also include Kevin Can Wait and Sullivan & Son, he’s well-versed in shows about guys who are forced to square their deep-seated values with major life changes. And the Texanist is, of course, the Texanist: a wry and warm take on life in the Lone Star State that we can’t possibly recommend more. We look forward to seeing the show on our TVs, then nitpicking over whether it’s truly “Texan” enough.
SXSW Faces Class-Action Lawsuit Over Refunds
The cancellation of South by Southwest has been a nightmare for virtually everyone involved: the artists, the organizers, the entire city of Austin. Included but often overlooked in those numbers are the attendees, many of whom shelled out hundreds, even thousands of dollars in advance for their badges and wristbands, only to be told that their purchase would be honored for future festival dates, but not refunded. Two of those would-be attendees, Maria Bromley and Kleber Pauta, have now filed a class-action lawsuit against SXSW in a Texas federal court, calling the festival’s no-refund policy “unlawful, unconscionable, and unenforceable,” and seeking reimbursement on behalf of every other jilted fan.
In a press statement, a SXSW spokesperson cited the “extensive amounts of non-recoupable costs” spent prior to the city’s decision to cancel the fest, as well as the massive loss of expected revenue that left the company without enough money to cover refunds. Its “dire financial situation” was further compounded by an insurance policy that doesn’t cover pandemics.
Although SXSW is still officially planning to return next year, the fallout has left that future cloudier than ever. The fest laid off around one third of its full-time staff in March, and, as the lawsuit states, “even SXSW has acknowledged that future festivals may not occur.” In the meantime, the fest seems to be relying largely on empathy, with a spokesperson saying, “SXSW, like many small businesses across the country, is in a dire financial situation requiring that we rely on our contracts, which have a clearly stated no refunds policy. Though we wish we were able to do more, we are doing our best to reconcile the situation.”
Ted Cruz Calls for End to Chinese Censorship of American Movies
Anyone who follows Texas senator Ted Cruz on Twitter knows he has two passions: pop culture and condemning China. This week, those interests finally converged in a new bill Cruz introduced that would prevent the Department of Defense from cooperating with any film studio that allows its content to be altered by China’s notoriously strict censors. The department frequently allows its military bases and equipment to be used in movie productions, contributing to more than eight hundred films since the early days of cinema, according to the Independent. Cruz’s Stopping Censorship, Restoring Integrity, Protecting Talkies Act (SCRIPT Act) would force Hollywood studios to “choose between the assistance they need from the American government and the dollars they want from China,” the senator said in a statement.
Last summer, Cruz aired his displeasure with a trailer for the sequel Top Gun: Maverick, coproduced by China’s Tencent Pictures. The preview saw Tom Cruise’s flight jacket seemingly scrubbed of patches for the Japanese and Taiwanese flags—presumably in a preemptive attempt to appease Chinese censors. The senator said he would not stand for the desecration of what he deemed “an American classic,” calling it emblematic of a broader capitulation to China’s “information warfare.” Much like Cruz’s love of The Simpsons, this is one of those rare instances where even liberals agree with him: writing in the Week, culture critic Jeva Lange lauded Cruz for having “landed on a good idea with the wrong motivations,” pointing out that—while it was clearly spurred by the current attempt to pin blame for the COVID-19 pandemic on China—Cruz’s bill could still end up sending a larger message about “preserving the integrity of what makes art art.” First Ted Cruz became a sobering voice of reason about self-quarantine; now he’s standing up (however indirectly) for the artistic freedom of Hollywood elites. These truly are strange times.
Friday Night Lights Cast Members Reunite on Zoom
Trapped inside their houses with no prior commitments to excuse them, the casts of our favorite TV shows are now all but duty-bound to reunite for our quarantined entertainment. This week, that onus fell to the cast of Friday Night Lights. Adrianne Palicki, Aimee Teegarden, Scott Porter, Derek Phillips, Gaius Charles, and Buddy Garrity himself, Brad Leland, all gathered via Zoom to rewatch the pilot episode of that quintessentially Texan show, offering live commentary as part of Global Citizen’s “Together at Home” charity series. Although it was plagued by technical difficulties—Phillips couldn’t get his Hulu to work, and Teegarden accidentally shared her desktop for a solid two minutes—and most of the talk was dominated by everyone just trying to sync up their streams, it was a rambling, improv-heavy slice of cinema verité in the style you’d expect from Friday Night Lights. You can revisit the whole hourlong affair on YouTube to see these now thirty- and fortysomething actors reflect on their (fictional) high school glory days, hear some shout-outs to their old Austin haunts, and marvel at Leland’s impressively burly mountain-man beard.
St. Vincent Launches Podcast in the Shower
The coronavirus has caused a dramatic dropoff for both podcasts and (anecdotally speaking) showers. Podcast ratings are down, felled by a lack of commuters looking to kill time. Showers have fallen prey to a more generalized apathy. But what if the two were combined, and it also involved St. Vincent? That’s the big question posed by Shower Sessions, a new video and audio podcast series that finds the Dallas artist also known as Annie Clark hosting up-and-coming musicians inside a shower, where she has them take advantage of the forgiving acoustics for a live performance. The first six episodes—all taped well before we went under lockdown—debuted this week via all podcast platforms as well as the official Shower Sessions website, courtesy of Progressive Insurance (proud sponsor of shower-related mishaps). They feature Clark talking to the likes of Kassi Ashton, Loote, Donna Missal, Duckwrth, Banners, and Amber Mark, all while wearing a bathrobe and Gloria Swanson-esque turban. You can check out a preview below.
THIS WEEK IN MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY
As has been the case since mid-March, no one had a better week than Matthew McConaughey, who continues to ride out these turbulent times with the windows down and the radio up—metaphorically speaking. Even McConaughey acknowledged that he’s been having a relatively “damn good pandemic” in a new interview with the Washington Post, saying he realizes just how fortunate he’s been to spend this downtime doing puzzles, playing in the yard, and generally reconnecting with his family. Meanwhile, he says, “There’s people over there sweating bullets, pacing the house with three crying kids, and a wife or husband they only like spending an hour a day with and now have to spend 18 hours with. And there’s a bottle over there that sure would be nice to hit at noon. That’s hard. That’s real.”
To that end, McConaughey says he’s been trying to spread those messages of caution and reassurance for which he’s lately become even more famous. That includes his PSA starring the mask-wearing character “Bobby Bandito,” a spot that McConaughey now reveals was shot by Mud director Jeff Nichols in McConaughey’s own backyard. (Sure, it’s a possible violation of all those “stay at home” orders he’s been endorsing, but it was obviously well-intentioned.) This week saw the debut of another PSA, with McConaughey recruiting champion boxer Canelo Álvarez to help him reach out to the Latinx community, then speaking in impressively fluent Spanish about the need to “Solo sigue viviendo” (“Just Keep Livin’”).
McConaughey also brought his message to the Texas Standard on Austin’s KUT radio, where he told host David Brown that—although he understands the need to restart the economy—he’s still concerned about Governor Greg Abbott allowing Texas businesses to reopen on May 1, saying he plans to remain at home. For now, at least, it seems the closest Austin will get to having Matthew McConaughey out on its streets again is an episode of Joe Jonas’s recently premiered Quibi travel show, Cup of Joe, which finds McConaughey giving Jonas a walking tour of the city he loves and that, McConaughey says, leaves him feeling so “creatively turned on,” even when he’s indoors.
Actually, being confined to his living room only seems to have goosed McConaughey’s productivity. It’s certainly made him even more in demand: the man is simply popping up everywhere right now, from next week’s livestreamed 504LIFE telethon for New Orleans first responders (where he’ll appear alongside Octavia Spencer and Nicole Kidman, among many others) to this week’s Today show, where McConaughey talked about his recent good works as well as life under quarantine, before “busting” hosts Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie for discussing his attractiveness during a commercial break.
Whenever this is all over, in fact, it may take a while to get used to seeing Matthew McConaughey outside of a webcam, wearing something besides a grubby T-shirt or hoodie, away from that cluttered home office whose contours have now become so comfortingly familiar. In the meantime, that image has been a grainy, pixelated guiding light, shining through the gloom of what he tells the Washington Post is “a forced winter for everybody.” Matthew McConaughey is having a damn good pandemic. At least somebody is.