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By United Press International   |   Dec. 17, 2012 at 4:00 AM

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'SNL:' "Saturday Night Live" began its first show after Friday's Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre in Connecticut with a children's choir singing "Silent Night."

A 20-year-old gunman fatally shot his mother at home, then killed 20 children and six adults at the Newtown school before turning the gun on himself Friday morning.

"SNL" quietly paid its respects to the victims and survivors of the tragedy by having youngsters from the New York City Children's Chorus perform as Saturday night's episode opened, instead of using one of its traditional comedy monologues by the night's guest host.

Guest host Martin Short appeared as planned later in the episode, which also featured a comic sketch about Kate Middleton's obstetrician, as well as surprise guest appearances by former "SNL" cast members Kristen Wiig, Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey, and actors Alec Baldwin and Samuel L. Jackson.

Paul McCartney was the evening's musical guest.


OSCARS RACE: Two hundred eighty-two feature films are eligible for Hollywood's 2012 Academy Awards, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced.

To be eligible for 85th Academy Awards consideration, feature films must open in a commercial motion picture theater in Los Angeles County by midnight, Dec. 31, and begin a minimum run of seven consecutive days.

Under academy rules, a feature-length motion picture must have a running time of more than 40 minutes and must have been exhibited theatrically on 35mm or 70mm film, or in a qualifying digital format.

The 85th Academy Awards nominations will be announced Jan. 10 and the Oscars will be handed out to winners Feb. 24.


JESSICA SIMPSON and NICOLE RICHIE: NBC says it has set a March 8 debut date for Season 2 of its U.S. reality competition series "Fashion Star."

Thirteen designers from around the country, including a team of two competing together, will vie for the multi-million dollar opportunity of creating a clothing line for Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue and Express this season.

Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie and John Varvatos are to return to the show as mentors, while Louise Roe will serve as host.

"We are incredibly impressed with the contestants in this season's 'Fashion Star' as well as the vision and creativity they have expressed with their collections," Paul Telegdy, president of alternative and late night programming for NBC Entertainment, said in a statement. "These designers are already on their way to great success in their careers and we look forward to introducing the audience to each of them and their designs. In addition, the retailers have really stepped up their game this time around and the audience will be amazed at the bids being made on a weekly basis."


JENNA VON OY: Actress-singer Jenna von Oy penned an essay for People.com expressing her grief after Friday's elementary school massacre in her Connecticut hometown.

A 20-year-old gunman shot his mother at their Newtown home Friday morning, then traveled to the Sandy Hook K-4 school where he shot and killed 20 first-graders and six adults, before turning a gun on himself.

Von Oy, 35, is best known for her work on TV's "The Parkers" and "Blossom." She grew up in Newtown -- where her family still lives -- and celebrated her wedding and daughter's christening there.

The star offered her condolences to her heartbroken community in the essay published online Saturday.

"Every school shooting I've ever heard about has been exceedingly heartbreaking and has stirred feelings of both rage and sorrow in me. Each one is tragic and awful, and there have been far too many of them in recent years," von Oy wrote in the People.com essay. "But Friday's massacre in Newtown has affected me in a profoundly personal way, as I have a unique perspective on the town ... I am blessed to have grown up there. ...

"We are mourning the loss of some of our own this week, and it is a sobering reminder that violence does not discriminate. It can hit close to home," she wrote. "I am fiercely proud to say I was born and raised in Newtown. It is where I was brought home from the hospital, attended my first day of kindergarten, learned to ride my bike and climbed my first tree. As I watched President Obama's press conference, I sobbed as he mentioned that the children who died had their whole lives ahead of them: graduations, weddings, having children of their own. I have celebrated every one of those milestones in Newtown. ... It is nearly impossible to unscramble my thoughts and put them to paper at a time like this, but I wanted to express my love and support for the town that has given me so many wonderful memories."

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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