SHOOTING STARS: Schirripa returns to Las Vegas for NBC’s ‘Face the Ace’

  After “The Sopranos” transformed former Riviera entertainment director Steve Schirripa (who played Bobby “Bacala” Baccalieri) into a TV fixture, he hasn’t had much time to spend in his former hometown.
  That changed over the weekend, however, when Schirripa returned to host a second round of NBC’s poker-themed game show, “Face the Ace.”
  Following a first round of tapings at a local soundstage in July, “Face the Ace” moved to the South Point for the Saturday and Sunday sessions.
  “The set is really big, so we’re limited to where we can do it,” Schirripa notes during a pretaping phone call. But “shooting in a real casino gives it a different flavor.”
  Other slight changes include a larger audience and more interaction from the show’s resident poker pros.
  “We’ve got some of the kinks out,” Schirripa says.
  But the essence of the show — in which qualifiers play heads-up against champion poker “aces” — remains the same.
  “It’s a hybrid,” Schirripa says of the show, which he describes as “poker — and entertainment.” After all, you can’t pitch against Derek Jeter and you can’t play one-on-one with LeBron James, he reasons. Yet “Face the Ace” gives “regular Joes,” male and female, the chance to “make life-changing money” by competing against “the best poker players in the world.”
  That “regular Joe” connection suits Schirripa well, he acknowledges.
  Even though he’s a busy working actor (including a current gig on ABC Family’s “The Secret Life of the American Teenager”), Schirripa finds the “Face the Ace” hosting gig “fits me pretty good,” he says. “I enjoy this because I can be myself.”
  Schirripa will be back in Las Vegas later this year — in late November or early December — to tape another round of “Face the Ace” episodes.
  The show, which debuted in prime time Aug. 1, moves to Saturday afternoons Sept. 1 and continues its seven-episode run with once-a-month broadcasts through Jan. 2.
  “Raw” punch: Champion pugilist Floyd Mayweather Jr. returns to the boxing ring next month.
  But he returns to the wrestling ring at 6 tonight at Thomas & Mack Center to host USA Network’s “WWE Monday Night Raw.” (The show airs live in Las Vegas on USA’s high-definition channel; non-HDTV watchers can see the tape-delayed telecast at 9 p.m.)
  WWE (and Mayweather) fans may recall the boxing champ’s previous WWE venture: 2008’s “Wrestlemania XXIV” in Orlando, Fla., when he ended up knocking out 7-foot, 441-pound wrestler Big Show.
  “Sweet” complete: The independent feature “Sweet Little Lies” is scheduled to wrap principal photography Thursday after two weeks in Las Vegas. (Las Vegas, Nev., that is — the production previously visited Las Vegas, N.M., as part of its Kansas-to-Nevada itinerary.)
  This week’s locations range from a trailer park to downtown’s Fremont East entertainment district, reports producer Justin Begnaud.
  The eclectic location list (which also includes the Bonanza Lodge and Desert Moon motels) demonstrates the movie’s goal of depicting “all aspects of the city, highlighting less of the Strip and more of the residential and lesser-seen parts of Vegas,” director William Saunders explains.
  “Sweet Little Lies” focuses on a Kansas runaway searching for her estranged father and is destined for the 2009-2010 festival circuit, Saunders notes.
  In the movie, “We tried to incorporate contrasting ideas of America’s natural landscape and its man-made ones,” he comments, citing location visits to Utah’s Monument Valley, “which is obviously nature’s most unique and spectacular skyline,” and Las Vegas, home of a “unique and spectacular” man-made skyline.
  “Pop” stop: Germany’s “American Idol”-style TV talent competition, “Popstars,” gets right back to where it started from for this week’s finale: the Fremont Street Experience.
  Based at the Stratosphere, “Popstars” has taken its competing musical duos to locations from Hofbraeuhaus to Hoover Dam before the production’s scheduled departure date Friday, according to publicist Isabel Schaffert.
  International calls: In addition to “Popstars,” other international productions turning up on this week’s production calendar include the 2009 “Miss Chinese Cosmos Pageant of the Americas,” featuring contestants from throughout from North and South America, which taped Saturday at The Venetian and is scheduled to air this weekend on Phoenix Satellite Television; and Britain’s “Piers Morgan on … Las Vegas,” which is expected back at Caesars Palace this week.
  “Model” behavior: A Las Vegas casting call for The CW’s “America’s Next Top Model” has been scheduled from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 5 — at an as-yet undetermined location. Check out www.cwtv.com for more casting information — or tune in to next week’s Shooting Stars for an update.
 

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