After a debut season that saw lives threatened by wayward rodeo bulls, manure factory fires, severe grill burns, and overly spicy tacos, 9-1-1: Lone Star has been renewed for another go-round of authentically Texan emergencies at Fox. The series about a fire squad in Austin—filmed mostly in Los Angeles—seemed to have exhausted all its Texas stereotypes in just its first two episodes, which is exactly how long it took for one of its stars, Rob Lowe, to don a Stetson and line dance. By the time its freshman season wrapped in March, the crew had already dealt with an exploding bull-semen plant and one of Austin’s famously pesky tornadoes. They’d also become a surprise hit: Deadline reports that Lone Star is one of the most popular new series of the year among viewers 18-49, which means producers will have to come up with even more things they sort of know about the state, then extrapolate them into new disasters for its California stand-ins—like getting trapped under a boot avalanche, maybe, or asphyxiating on barbecue sauce.
Netflix’s Cheer Team Goes to the Videoconferencing Mats
The Navarro College cheerleading squad made famous by Netflix’s Cheer may have seen its season scrapped amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But with typically indomitable spirit, the team has already found another way to persevere. This week, Coach Monica Aldama and assistant coach Andy Cosferent reunited with members of their team via Zoom for their first livestreamed “Cheer Chat,” in which they caught up on what they’ve all been doing under quarantine, played some trivia, and participated in a live Q&A with commenters. They were also joined by Dear Evan Hansen star Ben Platt, who participated in learning a new (and particularly brutal) routine. Anyone who wants to take a shot at learning the choreography themselves could win a $250 gift certificate to Rebel Athletic by posting video online of their own attempts.
SXSW TV Pilots Now Streaming for Free
Following the lead of South by Southwest’s Film and Shorts categories, six TV pilots that were scheduled to debut at this year’s canceled festival have found a new home online. Vimeo is hosting the SXSW Episodic Pilot Competition for at least the next month, offering viewers free access to entries submitted by filmmakers from all over the world. The documentaries Bananas and Homecoming: The Journey of Cardboard are in the mix, as are comedies like Bored, The Dream, Cooper’s Bar, and This Isn’t Me.
Cinemark Plans for the Uncertain Future for Moviegoing
It’s not only film festivals or film productions that are struggling as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Movie theaters are also sitting empty, many of them rapidly losing money and unsure of when—or how—they’ll begin to bounce back. Among them is the Plano-based chain Cinemark, which this week announced it would sell $250 million worth of debt securities to stay afloat. It also revealed tentative plans to reopen by July 1—albeit under dramatically changed circumstances. Speaking to analysts, CEO Mark Zoradi said theaters would likely have to adopt new measures such as staggered seating, limited hours, and selling only 50 percent of tickets to screenings. He also spoke of planning exhibitions of previously released “library” films, to fill the gaps between new releases that’s been caused by Hollywood’s current shutdown. Of course, all of these strategies are still hypothetical and depend greatly on when and how restrictions are lifted. Still, it’s an early glimpse of what going to the movies may look like in the wake of pandemic—and the steps that chains like Cinemark will have to take to avoid completely going under, like a prospect its competitor AMC is now facing.
Myst to Become a TV Series
The housebound medium of television remains a relatively safe bet for post-pandemic entertainment, as do video games—particularly those that allow escape into alternate universes, or tap into soothing nostalgia. So naturally, a TV project based on the mega-popular nineties PC game Myst hits all those targets. Created by Dallas-born brothers Rand and Robyn Miller, Myst began captivating players in 1993 with its zen point-and-click adventures on a mysterious island, where you were left to wander around, solving cryptic puzzles that unlocked the story of a secret civilization capable of linking to other worlds through magical books. Playing Myst was a uniquely meditative (some would say boring) experience, with no time limits, scores, enemies to fight, or anything else resembling a traditional narrative “drive.” That would make a TV adaptation seem like a bit of a challenge for X-Men: First Class writer Ashley Miller, who’s been brought in to wrangle its sprawling mythology into some kind of plot. Still, just wandering around a world that isn’t our living room could be considered entertainment enough right now.
Win a Walk-on Role in Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon
Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon is among the many projects with an uncertain timeline, but Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro seem pretty confident it will pick up someday. This week, the stars jointly released an Instagram video as part of the celebrity All-In Challenge charity drive, offering a chance to win a walk-on role in the film in exchange for food bank donations. It’s an act of generosity that offers the reassurance that, eventually, our lives will resume, and also the fact that no one looks good on a video conference call—not even Leonardo DiCaprio.
As we previously reported, Killers of the Flower Moon is based on David Grann’s nonfiction book about the murders of Osage tribes in 1920s Oklahoma, over the oil discovered in their territories. Those murders were largely orchestrated by Greenville-born cattleman William Hale and investigated by ex-Texas Ranger Tom White (which would seem to be the likeliest roles for De Niro and DiCaprio, respectively). It’s hard to say what sort of “walk-on role” you’d land in a story like that, but the chance to be in a Scorsese movie—or just around other people again—is enticing.
THIS WEEK IN MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY
De Niro and DiCaprio ended their appeal by challenging Texas actors Jamie Foxx and Matthew McConaughey to do the same—although in McConaughey’s case, they needn’t have bothered. As we saw again this week with his new video address to University of Texas students, McConaughey has become the whiskey-sippin’ Winston Churchill of the coronavirus crisis, reliably offering words of reason, reassurance, and much-needed entertainment. So of course he has his All-In Challenge all teed up: for as low as $10 in donations, you can enter to win a “Texas Football Experience” with McConaughey, joining the actor, his family, and his friends for a Texas Longhorns game in McConaughey’s private suite. McConaughey made the offer in a video that began with a reprise of his chest-thumping, Wolf of Wall Street money chant, and ended with him challenging both Wolf costar Jonah Hill and Jimmy Kimmel to participate.
In the meantime, McConaughey’s good deeds continued as he and his wife, Camila, delivered thousands of masks to first responders in Austin and New Orleans. The week also saw the debut of McConaughey’s latest character: Bobby Bandito, a fearless bounty hunter who does all his rootin’ and tootin’ from behind those now-mandatory face coverings. Bobby/McConaughey also demonstrated how to make your own “badass bandito bandanna, so we can beat the corona-V,” using little more than a coffee filter, some rubber bands, and some old-fashioned Texan gumption. “You gotta be a bandit to beat a bandit,” McConaughey later explained to Stephen Colbert on Late Night, where he walked the host through making his own.
As McConaughey and Colbert chatted over a virtual round of drinks, the actor shared his thoughts on why super unleaded gas really is better, the right time to pour yourself a cocktail (“Is it ever too early to pour yourself a cocktail? Well, the right time to do it is before it’s too late”), as well as some tips on achieving “Zoom excellence.” They also discussed how McConaughey’s “Just Keep Livin’” credo is the ideal motto for our current situation, a state of mind that, as McConaughey says, “in these times, right now, it’s actually very literal.” Finally, McConaughey proposed the establishment of a national hotline alternative—a “cool line for these hot times,” one that stressed-out people can call to hear “a soothing voice that can say, ‘Hey, be cool. This will be over.’” Naturally, we can think of one voice especially well-suited for this.