I’d been trying for months to meet Bob and Kelli Phillips, the hosts and owners of Texas Country Reporter, a TV program beloved by Texans for nearly half a century. But they’re busy folks, traveling the state’s blue highways in search of fascinating characters, from barbecue pitmasters to makers of hand-tooled saddles. We finally got together last May to discuss the golden anniversary they have coming up in October 2022. At one point, I asked, “So what’s next for y’all? Are you going to stay with the show for another fifty years?”
Bob smiled and explained that they had received offers from potential buyers with lots of money but little commitment to quality storytelling. “We’re looking for somebody to take good care of our baby,” he said, “and we think Texas Monthly would be a great home for it.”
I enthusiastically agreed, as did TM’s president, Scott Brown, our owner, and our board. We’ve now bought the company that produces Texas Country Reporter. And we’re pleased that Bob and Kelli will stay on as the program’s hosts for the next two years.
Their operation, based in Dallas, produces weekly episodes that are broadcast on two dozen TV stations across Texas and are seen by 235,000 households. The program also airs on the RFD-TV cable channel, where it attracts another 1.1 million viewers across the country each week. Many segments are posted on YouTube, where they garner about a million views a month. The company has been honored with more than thirty regional Emmy awards.
TM will work with Bob and Kelli and their seven talented staffers to maintain the show’s high standards and popularity. That’s job one, which includes leaning on Bob and Kelli to help us identify a new host or hosts. Job two is expanding the program’s reach, beginning with posting episodes on TexasMonthly.com after they’ve aired. Job three is for the TM and Texas Country Reporter staffs to collaborate on new kinds of video stories, perhaps including pieces on the Texans featured in our print and web stories.
We’re also pleased to announce another partnership in video storytelling: a first-look deal with HBO and HBO Max. These award-winning brands will have the right to assess stories and podcasts that Texas Monthly has published and decide which ones they’d like to develop into series. If they’re not interested in a particular story, we’ll be free to offer it to other entertainment companies.
HBO Max is already in production on the limited series Love and Death, which is based on a pair of articles by Jim Atkinson and John Bloom that appeared in our magazine, and on the book Evidence of Love: A True Story of Passion and Death in the Suburbs, published by Texas Monthly Press. Both works explore the true story of Candace “Candy” Montgomery, who killed her friend Betty Gore with an axe. The series stars Elizabeth Olsen and Texan Jesse Plemons. Oscar winner Nicole Kidman is an executive producer. Also in development at HBO Max is an adaptation of our 2019 story “Angels in East Texas.”
TM is represented in Hollywood by the Creative Artists Agency. Among our agents is Ann Blanchard, a Texpat who loves the wild stories our state generates. Since our relationship with CAA began, in 2019, we’ve sold more than two dozen articles and podcasts into various stages of movie and TV development, with partners such as George Clooney, Laura Dern, Tom Hanks, Taylor Sheridan (another proud Texan), and Renée Zellweger (ditto).
Those projects include one inspired by our podcast Boomtown, about the West Texas oil fields, and one based on our true-crime podcast, Tom Brown’s Body. We’ve received keen interest in a recent feature story, “The Notorious Mrs. Mossler,” by executive editor Skip Hollandsworth, about a wealthy Houston socialite who might have pulled off the perfect murder. We’ve also fielded inquiries about our podcast America’s Girls, which launched December 7. The eight-episode series is hosted by Dallas writer Sarah Hepola and tells the inside story of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders. I hope you’ll check it out, along with the work of our new colleagues at Texas Country Reporter.
This article originally appeared in the February 2022 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Our New Partners in Video Storytelling.” Subscribe today.