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SHOOTING STARS: Penn Jillette does his homework with MTV, DIY

  Penn Jillette — the tall, talkative half of resident Rio headliners Penn & Teller — has long been a reality-TV fixture. Not only do the bad boys of magic host their own myth-debunking show, “Bullsh*t!” (now Showtime’s longest-running series), but Penn has appeared on everything from “Dancing With the Stars” to “Top Chef.”
  And today, he’s back in the spotlight when MTV’s “Cribs” comes a-calling, to explore the 6,000-square-foot desert compound he calls “The Slammer.”
  One thing’s certain: The place looks better than ever, thanks to the DIY Network’s “Desperate Landscapes” crew, who spent two days last week transforming Jillette’s front yard from “a trashed version of the surface of the moon,” to quote Penn, into a mid-desert oasis.
  “All of a sudden, my house is getting famous,” he jokes.
  Jillette’s eclectic home — which is well-named, considering its resemblance to a concrete penitentiary — has been featured on “every single home show,” according to P&T manager Glenn Alai — except MTV’s “Cribs.”
  And “the only thing they ever say is, ‘I saw your house on ‘Cribs,’ ” Alai notes. Now that “Cribs” is finally paying a visit, they won’t be mistaken anymore.
  The “Desperate Landscapes” crew, meanwhile,  spent two days (rather than their normal one) remaking Jillette’s scorched-earth front lawn, notes host Jason Cameron.
  “It’s probably one of the more desperate landscapes we’ve seen,” Cameron says. But, because of “The Slammer’s” offbeat nature, “we knew we could just go with some crazy design.”
  That design includes a water feature, a maze for Jillette’s two kids and a “big old cactus skeleton,” the magician notes. In addition, a San Francisco sculptor is “doing a huge play set for the kids.”
  Artificial turf also figures in the design because Jillette and wife Emily “wanted to be able to sit and enjoy watching the kids play out in front,” Cameron explains. “The before-and-after is going to be amazing.”
  Before tackling Jillette’s front yard, “Desperate Landscapes” tackled the front yard at another, more modest Las Vegas abode; among the improvements was a water feature reflecting the home’s “modern feel.”
  For Cameron and crew, who shoot a lot of shows in the Cincinnati area, the winter-season Vegas visit “is so different than what we’re used to,” he notes. (Especially when rare recent rains knocked out a camera — and a planned third Vegas-based episode.)
  As for Jillette’s frequent reality-TV appearances, “It’s part of my job,” he says. “Reality TV is what’s on now.” Besides, Jillette adds, “I mostly go on and monkey around.”
  Science magic: PBS’ “NOVA ScienceNow” also had magic on the brain last week when the show shot an upcoming segment devoted to (you guessed it) “Magic and the Brain.”
  In addition to Penn & Teller at the Rio, “ScienceNow” also visited with comedy magician Mac King at Harrah’s and Apollo Robbins on the street.
  Host Neil deGrasse Tyson — who, in his spare time is a renowned astrophysicist and director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium — made the trek to Vegas for the upcoming segment, which will air “either this summer or next fall,” according to Terri Randall, whose production company filmed the segments.
  And why Las Vegas? “Because the magicians are here,” Randall notes.
  Bollywood calling: A few days has turned into a few weeks for the Indian romantic comedy “Anjaana Anjaani,” which continues production around town, with Bollywood heartthrobs Rambir Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra as strangers who meet and fall in love. (The Hindi title features the masculine and feminine forms of unknown, or stranger.) Zayed Khan rounds out the starring cast for director Siddharth Anand (who also directed the Australian-set hit “Salaam Namaste.”)
  Reality bites: Three ongoing reality series continue production this week: Discovery’s “Pawn Stars” (which initially expected this to be its final week of shooting, but has extended through early March), Spike’s “The Ultimate Fighter” and the new truTV series “All Worked Up,” which focuses on local tow-truck drivers.
 

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