- - Sunday, December 2, 2012

Oscars host Seth MacFarlane is inviting college students to join him onstage at the Academy Awards.

The “Family Guy” creator made a surprise appearance at UCLA to announce a contest sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and mtvU that will allow winning college students to appear on the Feb. 24 Oscars telecast.

The contest invites students to submit videos on the academy’s Facebook page describing how they’ll contribute to the future of film. At least six winners will serve as trophy carriers on the Oscars show, replacing the leggy models who usually perform the duties.

Mr. MacFarlane spent 40 minutes leading the undergraduate film and television class at UCLA’s Westwood campus on Wednesday as part of mtvU’s “Stand In” series, which brings celebrities to colleges as guest lecturers.

“In re-imagining what we want our Oscar show to be, we wanted everyone appearing on that stage to feel a deep commitment to film and its legacy and, most importantly, its future,” said show producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron in a statement. “That was the impetus in creating this special honor.”

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The contest is also aimed at drawing the younger viewers favored by advertisers to the Oscars’ aging TV audience. Like UCLA student Abby Smith, who immediately pulled out her smartphone to share the moment on Facebook when Mr. MacFarlane appeared before her class.

Seth MacFarlane is speaking to my film lecture for the next hour,” Ms. Smith posted. “I’m having a panic attack.”

The 39-year-old entertainer urged the aspiring filmmakers and show-runners in the class to make a “commercially viable student film” before leaving school, adding that “Family Guy” was based on his own student film.

And Mr. MacFarlane said “Family Guy” could once again become a film. He said he’s already come up with a concept for a feature-length movie and promised “it will happen at some point.”

Mr. MacFarlane cheekily described the Academy Awards as “a crazy little variety show” and said “all I can do is do what I think is funny and most entertaining.”

“The Oscars is a tricky venue,” he said. “The [hosts] who have not done well, I would classify them as a noble failure, an honorable failure, because at least they were trying something new. … If I can do it without torpedoing my career and getting drummed out of the business. … All I can do is my very best.”

DVRs in more than half of all U.S. pay-TV homes

A new survey finds that digital video recorders are now in more than half of all U.S. homes that subscribe to cable or satellite TV services.

Leichtman Research Group’s survey of 1,300 households found that 52 percent of the ones that have pay-TV service also have a DVR. That translates to about 45 percent of all households and is up from 13.5 percent of all households surveyed five years ago by another firm, Nielsen.

The first DVRs came out in 1999, from TiVo Inc. and ReplayTV. Later, they were built into cable set-top boxes. The latest trend is “whole-home” DVRs that can distribute recorded shows to several TV sets.

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