Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Anderson Cooper Dresses up for the Bonobos

We’ve loved Anderson Cooper ever since he hosted the reality series The Mole. Before he became the face of news for the modern world (alongside Jon Stewart), he was the perfectly smarmy star of the most underrated competition show of all time. But as his work at CNN amped up, the producers of The Mole asked Cooper to make a choice — either commit to them full-time or choose news.

We all know how that worked out, but we’re happy to see the anchor hasn’t lost his sense of humor. In fact he’s willing to go to extremes for a story that we’re sure Barbara Walters and Mike Wallace would never consider.

On a recent assignment for AC360, Anderson visited Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh and her primate pals Kanzi, Panbanisha, Nyota and baby Teco. The good doctor is a scientist at the Great Ape Trust and has been working with the bonobos’ language research program for years. Her goal is to prove that the apes are able to communicate just like humans, in this case by pointing to pictogram images that indicate their needs and emotions.

While conversing with Kanzi, Cooper found himself faced with an unusual request. Check it out as Anderson takes one for the AC360 team.

You Can Audition for Glee

Photo by Patrick Ecclesine/FOX 

Have you ever dreamed of being a cast member on Glee? Well you'd better book your flight to either Dallas or Chicago right away. The producers of the hit Fox series have teamed up with Oxygen for an American Idol meets Grease: You're the One That I Want reality TV series. Starting in December, they are holding casting calls for a new talent competition show that will feature wanna-be Gleeks vying for a recurring role on season three of Glee.

Open auditions are being held in Chicago on December 18 and 19 and in Dallas on January 8 and 9. Glee's casting director Robert Ulrich is looking for quadruple threats. You need to sing, dance, act and have a big personality. Plus you need to be over 18 but look under 18. In other words you have to pass for a high school student.

Musical theater experience is helpful but not essential. They are looking for raw talent like they found in Chris Colfer, who had never done a professional acting gig before being cast as Kurt Hummel.

If you are chosen from the open auditions, you will appear on the new Oxygen series The Glee Project, set to air in June 2011. The winner of the reality show will be awarded a multi-episode guest starring role on Glee.

Hopefuls should pre-register at gleecasting.com. You will be asked to talk about your time in high school, if you liked your high school experiences, what clubs you participated in and why you think you have what it takes to be a Glee cast member.

You will also need to prepare a song from a pre-approved list, which includes a wide array of genres like Jordin Sparks' "No Air,"  Joan Osbourne's "One of Us," Dreamgirls' "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," Poison's "Every Rose Has It's Thorn," and "To Sir, with Love" from the movie of the same name.

So get your best Gleek on and break a leg.

For other Glee stories check out:
Glee Season 2 Premiere Lives Up to the Hype
Katy Perry, Paul McCartney, and Javier Bardem on Glee?

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Still Looking for the Perfect Holiday Gift?

So you’ve made it through Black Friday with only a couple of bruises and minor lacerations. But did you get something special for everyone on your list? Probably not.

We know that we’re always scrambling at the last minute to get the perfect gift for the men in our lives. After all, what do you get the guys that already have us?

Luckily for us the DIY Network series Cool Tools recently aired a holiday special with a lot of dandy home improvement devices. Host and hardware expert Chris Grundy made a slew of great gadget recommendations that we thought we’d pass on to you.

There just might be a gizmo to fill that open space under the tree.

And check out Cool Tools on DIY.

USA Takes a Stand Against Discrimination

In this day and age, when bullying and intolerance is running rampant in our schools and kids feel there is no hope, USA Network is stepping up to try to make a difference. They have launched the Characters Unite campaign, aptly named for the network's slogan "Characters Welcome." The movement is designed to "combat intolerance, prejudice, discrimination and hate, and to promote greater acceptance, understanding and mutual respect."

USA wants fans of their shows to join their campaign. For every pledge made over the next four weeks, USA will donate $1 to their non-profit partners including the Anti-Defamation League, Children's Defense Fund, GLAAD, Human Rights First and the NAACP. Simply log on to their site and sign your name to the following statement.
“As a character of the USA, I pledge to stand against intolerance, prejudice, discrimination and hate, and to promote greater understanding and acceptance. I believe life is richer and we are stronger as a country when we see beyond stereotypes and appreciate each other for the characters we are. After all, characters are what make us, USA.”
The stars of the USA Network's shows, including Matt Bomer, Mary McCormack, Tim Dekay and Sharif Atkins, have also joined forces to create a PSA asking their fans to take the pledge. And after you sign on, spend a little time on the Characters Unite website. You'll find discussion forums, games and a list of 50 things you can do right now to Unite the country.

And as a one day only show of support today, November 29, the network is encouraging people to donate their Facebook or Twitter profiles to the cause and let family, friends and followers know they would like to see a more tolerant and understanding USA. Supporters can also follow the campaign on Facebook and Twitter.

Let's stop tolerating intolerance and stand together for more understanding and a respectful world.

For other USA Network stories check out:
Tim Matheson: Actor, Director, Former Animal House Star
Willie Garson Interview: All About Mozzie and White Collar

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Colin Ferguson Wages a Triassic Attack

Photo by: Syfy 

Colin Ferguson is a busy man these days. Not only does he star on the Syfy series Eureka, he’s been stepping behind the camera, too. Ferguson has directed episodes of his series and this Saturday night he premieres Triassic Attack — the tale of a Tyrannosaurus Rex in the Pacific Northwest.

Eureka fans will be excited to hear the show has a special holiday episode this year. So if you’re wondering if reindeer really do fly and how Santa actually gets all around the world in one night, you’ll want to tune in at 9:00 p.m. PST / 8:00 Central on December 7.

The facts behind why that flying Tyrannosaurus Rex flock chose Portland, Oregon may have to be answered at another time. Really though, who cares, Triassic Attack is a lot of fun. Check it out Saturday at 9:00 p.m. PST / 8:00 Central on Syfy.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about Triassic Attack?

COLIN: Right, basically, it’s what happens if a giant flying Tyrannosaurus Rex flock will attack Oregon? And it’s sort of a one liner for what happens in that.

And there’s a Native American community that comes together and they use their connection to the past to sort of solve and save the day ultimately.

Q: How did you get started on working that project?

COLIN: I was talking to Karen and Tom in New York and they said that they wanted me to come and do a movie for them, which was Lake Placid 3. And I said, “That’d be great and I’d love to do that and then direct one right afterwards.”

And I assumed it would be a bit of a fight. I assumed it was going to be a bit of a war to get that, and they said, “Sure, that’s fine.” So I did one then went right into prepping the next and then shot the next, so I did it all — gosh, I guess it’s, not last summer but the one before.

And did it all in Bulgaria and it was really great. The great thing about Syfy is — the network that is — is they really do keep you working. It’s not an old studio system but if we had an old studio system it would be this.

They let you direct. They want you to act in other stuff. They want you to sort of stay branded in a sense. And it’s really nice and sort of gives you a good sense of security. So on the desk side of things it’s been really great for me.

Q: What was it like filming in Bulgaria?

COLIN: It was great. This was the first time I directed without knowing the crew, because it’s one thing to direct a show that you’re the lead of.

Everybody knows you. You know the show. You know the sets. You know the personalities. You know how it goes. So that’s — in some sense it’s easier and sometimes it’s harder because you have to do two jobs, but going to Bulgaria not knowing anybody was the first sort of, I don’t know, I think feather in my cap if I could say that.

I’m proud of it, for what it is — our popcorn movie on a Saturday night. It was a lot of work. It was fantastic to work in another language in another culture in another country.

And I made the right decision by shooting in summer I can tell you that. From my friends who have gone over and shot in the winter, I think David Hewlett did one called something like Snow Yeti and he, I mean, the story is they all got lost in the snow and the mountain and I’m thinking that was the last thing I’d want to do.

But what’s fun about it is they’re still working in film instead of HD. It’s really fast. It’s really down and dirty. It’s really gorilla filmmaking, which is a great energy to work in.

So the good news is — the bad news is that you don’t have all the toys in the world. The good news is that there’s no one looking over your shoulder. You can do what you want and that’s really great.

Q: Could you explain the creature design and the visual effects process on Triassic Attack?

COLIN: The funny thing about shooting over there is you shoot it on film, but whenever you’re shooting a piece that has a visual effect in it, you use the red camera.

So it’s a bit trying, because, you got to — let’s say you’re on steady cam and you’re coming up to a piece that has a visual effect. You got to take the body off of the steady cam, put the red on it, shoot the piece without the visual effects and then take it off and put the other body back on it.

So you really got to be careful when you’re shooting to not waste your day, you know, transferring bodies around. As far as the design of the creatures we discussed with Juan, the guy who sort of runs it all, and actually the film stock we used was based upon creature design.

We sort of worked backwards like that because it’s a day movie, right. There was not a lot of night stuff so there wasn’t a lot of shadow stuff.

So because it’s day we used the more yellow look for the film so that when you went to the creatures we could use a brown and — not a brown brown but, more of a dirt color instead of like — we didn’t want to have bright, bright day in the middle of summer in Bulgaria, then bright light bones.

We didn’t think we’d get as much fear or fun out of that or fright. So we went with a more yellow look for the thing and then the more brown look for the creatures and we modeled them off of what the real ones would look like. We know what they look like so we just used those.

Q: What do you think is behind the enduring appeal of movies and TV shows about rampaging dinosaurs?

COLIN: I was talking to CNN about this actually. I think what it is, is it’s not serious…. You don’t really get that one that came out this year — was it Piranha? You get one offs every now and then that get released.

The movies are very serious and they have to be. I mean, when you’re going to put that much money into it you’re going to do usually the good version of fill in the blank.

And because you’re doing the good version of it it’s serious. You can make it light but it’s the good version of it. I think what the perk of these is, is they’re mindless.

You can tune in and it’s sort of fun and sort of stupid at times and sort of fun, and you don’t have to take it seriously. We hope you have a good time. We hope you enjoy it but it’s sort of the perk of not having $40 million to shoot one of these movies.

You have to cut corners and I think the fans understand that and they sort of go, “That’s great.” You know, we get more product and we get it. You got to cut corners sometimes.

So I think that’s the feel. I’d love to hear from other people to find out what they think, but I think that’s stupid.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your holiday special Eureka. What’s going to happen in that?

COLIN: Yes, actually just on the previous question I got to say I’d like to start a show. That’s something that I’d like to do. I have a bunch of meetings and ideas and have been sort of talking about that, so I guess that’s new.

That’d be interesting to see something from the ground up. So I guess that’s what’s on the plate for me with that. As far as the Christmas episode goes it’s really, really fun.

People have said who have seen it — I haven’t seen the finished — with all the special effects in it. They say it’s the funniest episode we’ve done. It’s basically getting into the science of Christmas… If there are reindeer that can fly how did it happen? If there’s a sleigh that could fly how would it happen? How do you get around the world? It’s Eureka sort of attacking Christmas in a really fun way and it has a great ending to it.

Q: Was it weird to be surrounded by all that festive stuff and was it difficult to get into the Christmas mood sort of that far ahead of Christmas?

COLIN: No, it was actually — not strangely easy but because it was the last episode before our five — week break, it was very festive. Everyone was very excited, great mood.

We shot it in June of this year so the trouble obviously is trying not to sweat when it’s supposed to be freezing, but that was work — it does work into the story so it wasn’t as hard as that.

But it — no, it was really fun and that’s — it’s great to bring Frewer back, Matt Frewer, for episodes like that because he’s such a breath of fresh air and he’s such a good guy and he’s so funny and he’s so sort of lovely to be around.

But if anybody on the show embodies Christmas it’s pretty much Matt. So I think between those things, coming up to the break and having Matt there made it sort of infinitely vested for us.

Q: Cool. And what can you tell us about Taggart’s role in this particular story?

COLIN: Well he’s — I believe it’s a santologist is what I believe the term was, and he was doing all sorts of research on proving or disproving Santa Clause, but he was out to know everything there is to know about how Christmas would work if it was there.

So that happens all the way through it. And of course the standard sort of Eureka stuff, but it’s — instead of end of the world or fright stuff, it’s way more fun stuff that we did with the special effect, and way more sort of comedic stuff.

It’s sort of the bent — we went with it and I guess we’re also partnering with Warehouse 13 if I remember correctly. The two of us are doing a night together where they have a Christmas episode and then we have a Christmas episode or vice versa. So… it’s sort of nice that we get to do a Christmas episode and for us it was great and we talked about it when we were shooting it, but, who are we kidding? Who’s going to air every Christmas on Syfy for years?

Like for years so it’s sort of neat to be a part of that because we all had those when we were kids, those movies that every Christmas rolled around and you’re all dry but part of you is like, “That’s so great that it airs every single year.”

So hopefully it works and hopefully it’ll be a part of a littler legacy like that. We’re excited about it.

Q: Of all the episodes of Eureka you’ve done, do you have a favorite or maybe not so much a favorite episode but a favorite storyline?

COLIN: There’s a bunch that sort of stand out as sort of watershed moments for us, and it’s usually personal stuff. Like in the first season there was a little episode called “The Games People Play,” because that was written by a friend of mine and so that was amazing.

Alexandra La Roche, who directed “Up in the Air” this year — it’s in the back ten. It won’t air till next summer. That one is the episode that explains the poster and that was her first step as sort of the director. She’s been our script supervisor since the first season.

So she’s been our script supervisor for four years and has been instrumental in holding the show together. And when someone from the inside gets a leg up and gets that chance and then knocks it out of the park like you knew they would, that’s sort of really special for us because you sort of feel like, we’re all grown up. And it sort of reminds you that you’re all a team sort of pushing to do stuff that you’ve never done before.

So that was amazing from this year, that one for us. And I probably would say the Christmas episode because I really like working with Matt Frewer and I don’t get to do that a lot.

And it was Matt Hastings, the director — good, good friend of mine. It was the end of the first season. We shot it as Episode 10… so at the end of the first ten we had no money left because we had done such big stuff on the first nine that we did.

So we had six days to do it. It was a run and gun. It was hilariously chaotic and he just knocked it out of the park. It’s really, really funny. So probably those two from this year stand out for me.

And of course the ones I direct, but of course those stand out to me. I… just the ones that I didn’t direct are those two.

Q: You mentioned Matt Frewer coming back. Can you talk about any other guest stars we’re going to see in the second half of the season?

COLIN: Yes, we have Felicia in for a while. We have Wil Wheaton in for a while. We have Dave Foley in for an episode. We have Wallace Shawn in for two episodes, so God bless the recession, right.

Everybody’s looking for work so we get fantastic celebrities coming to do the show, which is really fun… For me having Wallace Shawn on the show was sort of a highlight… from Princess Bride and everything that he’s done it was sort of amazing for me. And of course Wil and Felicia are family at this point, and then Dave Foley is a guy I’ve known for years and so to get a friend up for the last episode or so was really fun. So it’s a great group and I’m really impressed with our casting. The guest stars have been great.

Q: How did you get started in this industry?

COLIN: I don’t come from a performing family or anything. I come from a pretty conservative family out of Montreal. And so I wanted to as a kid, but sort of an idol dream.

You think, “Oh, that’d be great, and I’m not going to, you know, do that. I’m not going to end up doing that.” And I was in college and I needed money, and so I sort of found myself — because I’d do anything for money.

I was a poor kid so I found myself doing comedy in bars just because I sort of had a facility for it, which is ironic because I was a really shy kid, but greedy.

So, my greed trumped my shyness. And then I sort of just started doing that and then I was in Second City while I was in still university and by the time I got to the end of university, when you sort of have to make a decision about what your life is going to be, I found myself with enough in my backpack, in my little bag of tricks that I could sort of go, “… I’m actually going to take a shot at this,” and that was the decision.

It was right after university after having done sort of four years of improvisational comedy and Second City. I figured, “Okay, I’m going to give it a shot.”

Q: You’ve done acting. You’ve done directing. Anything that you also want to try out?

COLIN: I don’t know… I’d love to keep doing what I’m doing. I’m really enjoying the combination of it. I’m really enjoying being on both sides of the camera and hopefully I can continue to be on both sides of the camera.

I find that with directing you get in earlier, you can protect the story longer, get into more conversations about it and I find that really rewarding.

So I’m actually really excited where things are and I hope it sort of stays as it is for a bit.

Q: You’ve directed episodes of Eureka and obviously this new movie. Could you talk about the difference between directing episodic versus a TV movie?

COLIN: Yes. Yes, sure. What I said some before was that the crew was new. The thing about shooting television is you all have a common language…. We’ve shot 66 episodes so there’s a shorthand and a really quick way of sort of, “Oh, we’re coming into this set again.” We know how to shoot it.

And we know how not to shoot it. You make a lot less mistakes and consequently you can get more bang for your buck when you’re doing television and our expense check.

You can also make mistakes in an episode and fix it a month later. You know, like “Whoops, that didn’t work out,” or, “Oh, we missed this piece.”

There’s a little bit of latitude. On a movie it’s what happens is what you get. You’re not going back for reshoots so you have to be a little more on it.

The prep is better but… again there’s no one looking over your shoulder, whereas in TV there’s a lot of money on the table so you have consequently people who are making sure that mistakes aren’t being made, whereas, you can really bail during one of these movies.

You can really do a bad movie because what are you going to do? You’re going to go back and reshoot it? Not likely, so I find it freeing to do the movie.

I find it sort of more like camp where I would say TV is more like sort of growing up in a small town with a bunch of people, because you just know each other for years and years, whereas the movie of the week is definitely show up, military operation and then you all go your separate ways. So those are some of the differences.

Q: So if you weren’t acting or directing now, what do you think you’d be doing?

COLIN: That’s a good question — I ask myself that every time I go into the off — season. Like I ask myself, “What am I doing first of all, because I’m exhausted?” And then when I start to get rested, it’s obviously going to end at some point and what would I do?

I don’t know. I’d probably go into working charity. I think I’d probably do something that feels real because I spend a good part of my life working in artifice and pretend and, making entertainment.

And that has its place but I think if I was going to go into something else I’d really want human contact, and know that sort of changing lives on a one to one basis so they could see it and feel it. I think that’s selfishly what I would go into.

Q: So do you have any other projects coming up sooner that you know about that you can talk about?

COLIN: Well… I was talking about doing this series that shoots in Vancouver, but it just came too fast and I was too tired just doing a couple, four or five episodes on it.

So I don’t know. I’m actually having a meeting today with my agents to find out what’s in the hopper. I don’t know if I want to do anything for about a month.

I mean, I know they’re going to say we want you to do this. I know that’s coming in about an hour but I sort of want to take a month off, maybe travel a bit, maybe just — maybe do some charity work in the off-season to refill my soul a bit because I got to get back to this whole world thing and figure out what’s going on.

And, I mean, the other answer to that is they want me to direct another movie like Triassic Attack. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to fit it in before I go back to Eureka, so there’s that. And then there’s guest spot stuff, which is obviously always there.

Q: What lessons did you bring forward from the episodes of Eureka you directed to your experience directing Triassic Attack?

COLIN: Probably everything that I know I would say I learned from Eureka. I mean, I had obviously a good knowledge of what I was doing ahead of time but you spend — I think it’s something like I spent 400 or 500 days on set just on Eureka.

And what we’ve managed to do with Robert Petrovich, the line producer, and sort of the team we’ve had is we get a — we get really good bang for our buck on the show.

It’s a big show and it sounds like we make it for a lot of money but we work hard to move fast, to move quickly, to move efficiently and to know where the money should go.

Don’t waste it on this — use it on that. Don’t waste it on this — use it on that and so I brought that definitely. That I learned through Eureka and we’ve got a — we all speak the same language on the show.

So what I bring to it probably is I like a nice place to work and I like a hard place to work, so I like people working hard and I like people who are, you know, good to each other and kind and a nice atmosphere on set, an open atmosphere.

I’m not much for ego on a set so I learned a lot from Eureka and probably doing Second City way back in the day, it was the ensemble work and how to make an ensemble work and how to make a cast work and how to make a show work.

They’re not dissimilar, so I’ve been doing ensemble work since I was 18 and I think that’s where I learned that.

Q: So what would be your ultimate dream role to have in the future?

COLIN: A dream role. Good question. I think I’d like to do something big. I’d like to do something, I mean, I know this budget and I know this world. I know the run and gun world.

I know how to do that. I’d love to do something big where the budget’s sort of enormous and to see what you can do with ridiculous amounts of money.

What really changes and, just sort of a dream that way. I’d love to be involved in something like that. I think that would be really fun. And something with, visual effects and love Inception.

I thought that was great. It made perfect sense to me. I don’t know what everybody else is talking about, so I’d love to do something like that. Something really massive would be great.

Q: Is there someone who you’d like to work with specifically?

COLIN: Oh, yes, any great director. I mean, actors are, obviously there’s people I’d love to work with but any great director I’d love to work with just to see how they process, what their process is, you know, how they prep, how they shoot and yes, to have stories about them.

As stupid as that sounds everybody wants anecdotes, right. “Well, I worked with this guy,” and, so Christopher Nolan, and any of the legends of the craft I’d love to spend some time with. That’d be amazing.

Muggle Quidditch: Not for the Faint of Heart

Photo by timstock_nyc

Any real Harry Potter enthusiast has probably dreamed at one time or another of hopping on a broomstick and playing the wizarding world’s coolest game—Quidditch. But it seemed like it would be possible for earthbound Muggles to ever get to enjoy the thrill.

That’s where Xander Manshel comes in. In 2005 while a student at Middlebury College, he came up with the idea for Muggle Quidditch. Xander and his friend Alex Benepe, now the Commissioner of the International Quidditch Association (IQA), spread the word. And these days the game, immortalized in J.K. Rowling’s books, is played by college and high school teams from Boston University to Marin Academy—minus the magical flying bit of course. Clubs are forming as far afield as Australia, South America and Asia, too.

The rules as explained by the Muggle Quidditch—Mississauga Facebook page seem fairly straightforward. There can be between 10 and 14 players on each team, but there must be a minimum of three Chasers, two Beaters, one Keeper and one Seeker. The Beaters toss around three red rubber balls called Bludgers. The Chasers try to score by throwing the Quaffle (actually just a deflated volleyball) through the three rings of the opposing team, while that team’s Keepers try to block the goals.

This is where it gets interesting. Just like with the fictionalized game, the real objective in Quidditch is for the Seeker to catch the Golden Snitch. After all, it’s worth 50 points. This is where earlier earthly Quidditch attempts failed—using personality-less balls or remote control helicopters to stand in for the liveliest component of a magical match.

Manshel had the brilliant idea of giving a Snitch a mind of its own—literally. In the IQA version of the game, the Seeker chases after a free-spirited, cross country runner dressed in a golden track suit. To score the points, the Seeker must pull a tennis ball filled red sock out of the back of the human Snitch’s shorts.

And of course, all the while, the Muggle players must have broomsticks between their legs. They don’t need to be Nimbus 2000s, mind you, simple Rubbermaids will do.

We recently interviewed Adam Spunberg, a Potter and Quidditch enthusiast who lives in New York. Adam has long been a fan of the wizarding series, “To me, J.K. Rowling is like a modern-day Jane Austen—in the YA fantasy genre, of course. (YA means Young Adult).”

That respect for the author and her work led him to seek out like-minded folks in the Big Apple. He told us, “When I moved to New York, I looked for a Harry Potter club and found a really active one called The Group That Shall Not Be Named. My first event was a Triwizard Tournament, which featured Quidditch, spells and skits. I was so curious to see how it would work.”

Although Spunberg doesn’t play with an IQA club, he told us, “I just play for fun, so I'm not really on a team. However, the official team of our group just competed in the Quidditch World Cup and is called the New York Badassalisks. Pretty badass name.” J.K. probably wishes she’d thought of it for one of her books.

And even though he didn’t play in the World Cup, he’s had his own highs and lows on the pitch, Adam recalled, “My best moment was catching the golden snitch… My worst? Realizing I'm ridiculously out of shape when I got exhausted, even though I had played for like five minutes.”

Yes, Quidditch might have been born from a children’s book but don’t kid yourself, this is a full contact, action packed sport. That’s why some people are trying to get it approved by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Whether co-eds will some day get Quidditch scholarships just like Basketball and Baseball is up for debate.

Spunberg doesn’t see it happening. He predicted, “I don't think Quidditch will ever become an official NCAA sport, but I do think it could gain steam as a club sport, run annually by students.”

The big question is whether or not the game has legs. Adam postulated, “What will be really interesting is to see what happens after the last movie comes out. Will the sport fade as the series slips into the past, or are these books and movies so timeless that it continues to grow? The Harry Potter theme park in Orlando should help.”

If you want to check out the action, visit a Quidditch pitch at a school near you. There are teams currently forming at USC and Santa Monica College. Or take a look at this report from the 2010 Quidditch World Cup.

And we just had to share this Quidditch World Cup trailer created by the IQA, which reinforces the ultimate goal—to catch the golden snitch. Check it out here:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Big Week for The Biggest Loser

Photo by Bret Hartman/NBC 

There's a lot of Biggest Loser news this week. Bob, Jillian and Alison pitched in to help the striking crew and Makeover Week included an added charitable twist. Plus, tonight fans are going to get a chance to check in on past contestants during the Where Are They Now special.

Alison, Jillian and Bob Give Themselves for the Crew

Last week the crew of The Biggest Loser walked off the set and temporarily shut down production. They were demanding a union contract for their work on the reality show, the last big one to still be non-union. In a display of solidarity Alison Sweeney (who has a no strike clause in her contract) along with Bob and Jillian decided to do something to help out the crew rather than stand by helplessly.

They auctioned themselves off on Ebay. Alison put three private lunch dates on the bidding block, which went for $1,125 each. Jillian and Bob each offered up a one-on-one training session. Bob's brought in $3,050 while Jillian's auction closed at $9,300. The proceeds went to the striking crew. Sadly even that large sum split up between 100 workers basically covered the coffee they each drank on the picket line. The good news is, the strike was settled on Monday and now the crew will be eligible for union health insurance benefits.

Makeover Week Goes Pink

The most anticipated episode of The Biggest Loser season was on last night—Makeover Week. This year Ken Paves, hairstylist to the stars–including Lady Ga Ga, Fergie, and the Simpson sisters—joined the contestants to primp them for a People magazine photo shoot. And then after the shoot they walked the runway modeling Ford Warriors in Pink clothing and accessories available at FordCares.com in support of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. In a behind the scenes interview, Jillian talked abut working with Ford Warriors in pink, saying, "We're trying to make sure that a lot of the stuff that goes on this season transcends into a greater, bigger picture. And combating breast cancer is definitely something we're fighting for."

And in the spirit of paying it forward, two contestants made a big sacrifice for a fellow player. Ford donated a 2011 Ford car to the winner of this week's challenge, which saw the contestants climbing 300 feet of stairs up and down, 20 times. Ada and Brendan dominated the challenge, but in the end they waited at the top for Patrick to catch up to them before making the final descent, allowing Patrick (an unemployed father of two who drives a 1992 clunker) to cross the finish line first and win the brand new car.

Fans Get to Find Out Where They Are Now

Just in time to sit down in front of a big plate of turkey and sweet potatoes slathered in gravy, The Biggest Loser gives us an inspiring look at past contestants and the journeys the have taken since completing the show. The Biggest Loser: Where Are They Now special episode airs tonight, Thanksgiving Eve, from 9:00-11:00 p.m./7:00 p.m. Central. From marriage proposals to babies and marathons to Ironman challenges, the "Losers" are sharing their stories of transformation and starting over.

Over 30 former contestants will check in including Sam Poueu (season nine) who has a special surprise in store for cast mate and now girlfriend, Stephanie Anderson. Season seven finalist Tara Costa will join 50 other past contestants for the San Francisco triathlon and 5K and 10K races at Treasure Island.

Many of the contestants are now giving back, like O’Neal Hampton (season nine) who started a fitness camp, and season seven’s Ron and Mike Morelli (along with Mike’s brother Max) who now run a kids’ exercise program. And in perhaps one of the most inspiring stories, Sione Fa (season seven) takes his dad to his homeland in Tonga on a journey to meet with the royal family and motivate the Tongan people to live a healthy lifestyle.

And no Thanksgiving special would be complete without food, even if it is Biggest Loser style. Chef Curtis Stone prepares a healthy holiday meal for a group of past Biggest Loser winners.

For other Biggest Loser stories check out:
Bruno Schiavi & Ashley Johnson on the Biggest Loser Clothing Line
Jillian Michaels Transforms America One Family at a Time

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This Week's Inspirational Pop Culture Moments

Photo by Photographer's Mate Airman Milosz Reterski

A group of celebrities work to end hunger, some furry friends teach healthy living and The Biggest Loser has a huge week. Here are this week's most inspirational pop culture moments.

Celebrities Work to End Hunger

This week we gather with family and friends to give thanks for everything we have. As we celebrate some of the most fortunate stars are helping Feeding America remind us that there are many families struggling in these tough economic times.

The new "Hunger is a Real Story" campaign features big names like Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Taye Diggs. These stars are acting out the stories of those Americans who are going hungry.

Affleck kicked off the campaign with a background PSA stating that "49 million Americans struggle with hunger. That's one our of every six Americans."

Taye Diggs takes on the role of Reggie, a father of four who also lives with his sister's kids but has no way to feed them all. Anna Ortiz acts out the part of Fernanda, whose husband is a teacher affected by state budget cuts and is is unsure where her family's next meal is coming from. And Matt Damon plays Steve who finds himself needing the services of a local food bank. He gets over his fear about what his neighbors might think, when he sees them there as well.

Each story opens our eyes to the suffering in our own neighborhoods. These celebrities are inspiring us to donate to Feeding America or find a local food bank and drop off donations or volunteer to help.

For more of this week's inspirational pop culture moments visit Beliefnet's Idol Chatter.

For past inspirational pop culture moments check out:
This Week's Inspirational Pop Culture Moments — November 19
This Week's Inspirational Pop Culture Moments — November 11

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Randy Newman's Harps and Angels

Photo by Craig Schwartz/Center Theatre Group

Being slightly on the vertically challenged side, we've never forgiven Randy Newman for "Short People." Sure, he has since written gems like "I Love L.A." and "You Got a Friend in Me," but it's all too little too late. "No reason to live," Randy? Really. Kind of harsh if you ask us.

But if you can get past his unkind words to the under 5'4" set, you may want to check out Randy Newman’s Harps and Angels at the Mark Taper Forum. The (perhaps) Broadway-bound show is not just another in a string of musicals that take a catalog of work by a single artist and build a story around it.

This show is simply a musical revue. Its sole purpose is to honor the music of the Toy Story composer. There is a bit of a through line based purely on the content of the songs about living, falling in love and dying in America.

But the best part about the show? It stars Michael McKean (Lenny from Laverne & Shirley and David St. Hubbins from This Is Spinal Tap) in a Nudie-style sparkly cowboy suit singing "Big Hat, No Cattle." Katey Sagal (Peggy Bundy from Married... with Children) provides another highlight with her stunning rendition of "Feels Like Home."

We may just have to finally let the whole "Short People" thing go and get on the Randy Newman train. It would be very big of us.

Harps and Angels is playing through December 19 at The Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles. Call (213) 628-2772 or visit the theater's website for more details.

For other theater stories check out:
Stephanie Zimbalist Takes on Katharine Hepburn
Our Conversation with the Star of A Conversation with Edith Head

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sesame Street Healthy Habits for Life Facebook

Pretty much everything important we’ve picked up in our lives, we learned from one Muppet or another. Big Bird taught us about friendship, Scooter schooled us in loyalty and, of course, Oscar was the reverse example of not to be too darn grouchy. Yes, between Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and a Jim Henson flick or two, we became much better people.

But the masterminds at Sesame Workshop have realized that we live in a changing world. So they obviously figured out that rather than telling people how to get to the Street, they needed to bring the Street to the social network. Earlier this month they launched the Sesame Street Healthy Habits for Life Facebook page.

They kicked the whole thing off with a video teased on the site and posted on their also very tech-forward YouTube channel. In it, Elmo teams up with celebrity Chef Art Smith—he’s Oprah’s go-to guy. The innocent, red puppet introduces the concept—fans can submit questions to Elmo and the Chef online and vote on the answers, too. In a couple of weeks, they’ll both be back to respond to fans' culinary queries with healthful solutions.

No news yet regarding how the Swedish Chef feels about Elmo grabbing his Muppet universe foodie spotlight, but we imagine that he’d say something like, “Freekeeng Ilmu's steeleeng my thoonder. I'm zee mester cheff oon thees shoo demn it.”

For more pop culture stories read: 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Flies into Theaters

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