As we’ve documented exhaustively within this very column, every week brings a little bit of Matthew McConaughey, if you know where to look. Still, it’s been a while since Austin’s cultural guru was a weekly presence on our TV screens—not since True Detective first brought the McConaissance to its fever-dream peak in 2014.
But time really is a flat circle, it seems: Deadline reports that McConaughey is teaming up again with True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto for the new FX series Redeemer, based on Patrick Coleman’s modern noir, The Churchgoer. The show will find McConaughey in another dark night of the soul, playing a former youth pastor who’s since abandoned his faith and his family to become a degenerate security guard, and whose search for a missing woman in Texas leads him inside a troubling criminal conspiracy that may hold clues to his own fall from grace. It sounds, in other words, like another perfect framework on which to hang various Matthew McConaughey monologues, in which he stares into the distance and muses wearily on the cruelty of life. Even better, unlike True Detective, there’s no indication that this is just a limited series, and it also comes with a first-look deal between McConaughey and FX’s production studios. All of which suggests that this could mark a turn toward television in earnest for the star, who got his first big break dying on Unsolved Mysteries way back when, but has mostly avoided the medium ever since.
Alamo Drafthouse Offshoot Neon Makes Sundance History
Even as TV continues to steal so much of its talent, films are still admirably hanging in there. In fact, this week’s Sundance Film Festival saw the debut of more than one hundred of them that will someday vie for your attention along with watching Matthew McConaughey brood on your TV. First they need a distributor—and this year, the one everyone seems to be paying attention to is Neon, cofounded by the Alamo Drafthouse’s Tim League in 2017. Neon has positioned itself as a major Sundance player over the last couple of years with some pricey, headline-grabbing acquisitions. This week, it set a new festival record by shelling out $17,500,000.69 for the Andy Samberg comedy Palm Springs—clocking in at exactly 69 cents more than the previous record-holder. (Noice.) As it did with last year’s Little Monsters, Neon split the bill with Hulu on the Sundance audience favorite, betting heavily on the assumption that crowds outside Colorado will similarly respond to the Lonely Island’s metaphysical, Groundhog Day-esque rom-com—especially once you can watch it on television.
Robert Rodriguez’s New Film and TV Show Head Directly to Streaming
Robert Rodriguez’s newest film will just skip that theatrical middleman entirely: the free streaming service Tubi has acquired both his semiautobiographical horror film Red 11 and his docuseries The Robert Rodriguez Film School, with Red 11 expected to debut there sometime this summer. The low-budget thriller is based on Rodriguez’s own experiences as a college-aged lab rat, where he famously scrounged up the $7,000 he needed to film El Mariachi by subjecting himself to various medical experiments. The docuseries is billed as a companion piece commemorating El Mariachi’s twenty-fifth anniversary, with Rodriguez delving into the other guerrilla, Rebel Without a Crew techniques he used to make his films. Rodriguez says he hopes both will inspire the next generation of filmmakers to go out and make their own movies, which they can then try to sell to some other streaming network.
Cheer Enters the Mainstream With SNL Spoof
We may knock on streaming, but it’s obviously been a boon for Netflix’s Cheer: as we reported last week, the series documenting the trials and travails of Corsicana’s Navarro College cheer squad has become a national obsession, which was officially commemorated as a mainstream phenomenon last weekend with the inevitable parody on Saturday Night Live. Like most SNL spoofs, the sketch mostly homed in on a single, easily identifiable angle—those cheerleaders sure get hurt a lot!—then repeated it ad nauseam, with host Adam Driver trying on a Southern drawl to play assistant to Heidi Gardner’s coach Monica Aldama, and even musical guest Halsey getting in on the act. Granted, the sketch didn’t capture much of what people actually enjoy about the show; the most spot-on joke probably came from Beck Bennett’s announcer. (“You’re watching Cheer, the new Netflix docuseries that has everyone asking: ‘Did you watch Cheer?’”) Still, being mocked by SNL only confirms that you’ve made it.
Elsewhere, you can add Mila Kunis to the growing list of Cheer admirers, as the actress spent a solid two minutes gushing about the show to Kevin Smith for IMDb. (It seems husband Ashton Kutcher is also a fan.) And then there’s Houston gymnastics champ Simone Biles, who this week announced that she would be trying out for the team after 2020—a proposition that Coach Aldama has already eagerly accepted, with Jerry Harris even giving her one of his patented “mat talks.” Apparently Biles doesn’t even have to try out, which seems a bit unfair.
Welcome to the team!!! ❤️❤️❤️ https://t.co/xoX30LSfq9— Monica Aldama (@monicaaldama) January 25, 2020
And finally, much like inspiring an SNL skit, you know you’ve officially crossed over into the realm of meme once the brands start riffing on you, and this week saw Whataburger send out its own Cheer-inspired tweet—to Aldama’s delight. The bad news is that brand tweets and SNL sketches also usually mark the tipping point between excitement and exhaustion, so hopefully Navarro’s team is enjoying this moment.
THIS WEEK IN MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY
In case signing a deal to completely revolutionize television (again!) somehow isn’t enough for you, this week also saw Matthew McConaughey starring in the prestige drama that is our waking life, which only truly shines whenever he pops up. Unfortunately, his appearances were somewhat limited: taking a much-needed rest from relentlessly promoting The Gentlemen, McConaughey laid relatively low, even letting his social media presence take something of a breather. He wished his wife, Camila Alves, a happy birthday, offered a heartfelt tribute to the late Kobe Bryant, and posted some photos from last week’s The Gentlemen screening at the University of Texas. Otherwise, it was some unusual radio silence from the man who’s spent the past several months filling our feeds with cryptic speeches and artsy candids culled from a life well-lived—ephemera that we appreciate more in its absence. And perhaps that’s the point.
In the interim, we were left mostly with secondhand McConaughey like this article from Men’s Health, delving into his net worth, something the magazine estimates to be an enviable $95 million—more than enough to just keep livin’, without the need for serious budgetin’, for many years to come. We also learned that he just expanded that portfolio with a sizable investment in The Athletic, the sports media site that recently broke the story of the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, pitching in on a $50 million contribution from his venture fund.
Nevertheless, we did get one last bone tossed to us by the man himself: a leftover from the Gentlemen junket in which McConaughey teaches costars Hugh Grant and Charlie Hunnam some Texan slang like “dadgum,” “fixin’ to,” and “bless your heart.” Of course, the main attraction is watching McConaughey try to navigate all the “collywobble”-inducing British and Geordie lexicon, a reminder of just how fortunate we’ve all been to experience his brief English adventure over these past few months, even if it was probably more fun off-screen than on.