Tuning in to TV: McFarlane gives students a chance to be on Oscars

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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.”

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.

Even with the spread of DVRs, live TV rules. Nielsen found last year that DVRs accounted for 8 percent of TV watching.

Underwood to play Maria in live ‘Sound of Music’

Carrie Underwood will star in NBC’s live broadcast of “The Sound of Music” late next year.

A news release said the former “American Idol” champion and Grammy-winning country star will play Maria von Trapp in a performance based on the musical. It will air around the holidays in 2013.

The role is Miss Underwood’s most significant work as an actress yet. She played a small part in the 2011 film “Soul Surfer” and has served as co-host of the Country Music Association Awards for five years.

In von Trapp, she’s tackling a beloved character whose popularity has endured for decades. The Rodgers & Hammerstein musical debuted on Broadway in 1959 and the 1965 film starring Julie Andrews won the best picture Academy Award.

Former ‘Walking Dead’ actor juggling projects, family

His character was killed off AMC’s “The Walking Dead” TV series last season, but actor Jon Bernthal said he still enjoys settling on the couch on Sundays to watch the latest installment of the zombie series.

Watching the show, where he played Deputy Shane Walsh, offers a moment of down time for Mr. Bernthal, who these days is juggling TNT’s television series “L.A. Noir” and filming of “The Wolf of Wall Street,” a Martin Scorsese film about Wall Street corruption also starring Jonah Hill, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matthew McConaughey.

Mr. Bernthal told The Associated Press he’s thrilled to be working with Mr. Scorsese.

“He’s always been one of my favorite filmmakers, the guy I’ve always dreamed of working with,” he said. “It’s a really cool cast and based on a true story, so it’s been a really exciting project.”

Mr. Bernthal also has a finished film, “Snitch,” due in theaters in February. The movie, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, is about a father who goes undercover for the DEA when his son is imprisoned after being set up in a drug deal.

But Mr. Bernthal said the real news in February will be the arrival of the newest member of his family. He and his wife, Erin Angle, are expecting their second child. While Mr. Bernthal said he’d like to find out the sex of the baby-on-the-way, his wife wants to be surprised.

“She calls the shots in that department, so we won’t be finding out until February,” he said with a laugh. The couple has a son, Henry, who is 15 months old.

Mr. Bernthal headed to New Orleans recently to greet fans of “The Walking Dead” at the Wizard World Comic Con conference. His character was killed last season, returned as a zombie and was killed again.

“I’m very much still watching it,” he said. “I’m still a fan.”

Compiled from Web and wire reports

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