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Tampa ranks behind Miami and Orlando in Most Fun Cities in America list

Tampa's large number of festivals was among the factors that earned it a high ranking.


Tampa's large number of festivals was among the factors that earned it a high ranking.

Is Tampa really among the "most fun cities in America?"

That depends on how much stock you put into WalletHub, the personal finance website that's become best known for ranking American cities in all sorts of fun categories. According to them, Tampa and St. Petersburg have charted among the best places for foodies, the best baseball cities, the sweatiest cities and the most sinful cities in America.

Their new list, the Most Fun Cities in America, ranks Tampa No. 15, making it the third Florida city in the Top 20, behind strong showings from Orlando (No. 2), and Miami (No. 4). St. Petersburg ranked No. 48.

From Wallethub: 

"WalletHub's data crunchers compared the 150 largest U.S. cities based on 58 key metrics. They range from fitness centers per capita to movie costs to average open hours of breweries.

"In order to determine the most fun cities in the U.S., WalletHub's analysts compared the 150 most populated cities across three key dimensions: 1) Entertainment & Recreation, 2) Nightlife & Parties and 3) Costs." …

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Directors of Haunted Mansion doc talk bringing piece of Disney history to Orlando

Publicity still from the Foolish Mortals documentary.

Courtesy of Ryan Grulich and James H. Carter II.

Publicity still from the Foolish Mortals documentary.

Filmmakers Ryan Grulich and James H. Carter II aren't just casual fans of The Haunted Mansion ride. They're obsessed.

The two are so into the not-so-scary ride at Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Orlando, they teamed up to create a documentary showcasing The Haunted Mansion's fan culture. And they're bringing Foolish Mortals to Spooky Day in the Parks in Orlando this weekend.

Dark Disney: Spooky Empire brings Spooky Day in the Parks to Orlando

"We are the audience for our film," Carter II, 40, said during a recent phone interview. "We are not outsiders to this topic; we live this."

Both have more than 20 years experience in the entertainment industry, including film production, video editing and managing live events.

Carter II also hosts Creepy Kingdom, a podcast that explores the more villainous side of Disney and the theme parks.

"There are much worse things to be addicted to," Grulich, 34, said. "It's all about that Disney magic and how it affects people."

Courtesy of Ryan Grulich and John H. Carter II

James H. Carter II and Ryan Grulich with a photo of Walt Disney. …

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Review: 'Channel Zero: No-End House' pumps up the prestige horror

Amy Forsyth in Channel Zero: No-End House.


Amy Forsyth in Channel Zero: No-End House.

In its second season, Channel Zero cements itself as one of the scariest shows on television.

The Syfy anthology series from creator Nick Antosca brings to life Creepypastas, internet horror stories that read as creepy urban legends. The first season - Candle Cove - delved into mysterious disappearances and gruesome murders connected to a disturbing children's show from the 1980s.

The second - No-End House - puts a fresh, deeply surreal twist on the haunted house trope.

This season dives head first into grief and existential trauma with Margot (Amy Forsyth) a college-aged woman who's still mourning the death of her father (John Carroll Lynch) under unsettling circumstances. Margot's best friend Jules (Aisha Dee) returns home for the summer and reunites with Margot before a mood-changing night out on the town.

Unfortunately, the two - and about a dozen others - are lead to the No-End House, an urban legend haunt whose notoriety makes it a perfect dare for the early-20s crowd. Once inside, visitors are directed through mysterious rooms - each more disturbingly personal than the last. …

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Words With Friends now allows 'bae,' 'yas,' 'hangry' and 50,000 other new words

Words With Friends is adding 50,000 new playable words today.

Words With Friends

Words With Friends is adding 50,000 new playable words today.

It's hard to believe that the Scrabble-esque, mobile, multi-player game phenomenon known as Words With Friends has been around since 2009, but even more surprising might be the volume of new words (or something like words) that have entered the lexicon in that time.

The last eight years of social media, texting and pop culture have brought us acronyms like "FOMO" and "TFW," along with "bae," "hangry," "kween," "werk" "fitspo," "smize" and "turnt." "Bestie" and "BFF" have certainly been around longer, but failed to garner enough respect to be playable in Words With Friends — until now.

Starting today, all of the aforementioned words will be allowed, along with 50,000 other new ones being added to the game's new Social Dictionary. No longer will "yas" trigger an error message. 

Is this move inspired by a Jimmy Fallon effect? The Tonight Show host recently used social media to lobby the game's makers to include "Ew," a nod to the catchphrase from his popular sketch, and that worked.  …

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What to watch this week: Fall TV premieres galore with 'Channel Zero,' 'Gotham,' 'The Little Couple' in St. Petersburg

Amy Forsyth in Channel Zero - No-End House.


Amy Forsyth in Channel Zero - No-End House.

Now that the Emmy Awards are over, the fall TV season can kick it into high gear. There are premieres every day this week, including returning seasons of The Little Couple, Dancing with the Stars, Gotham and The Good Place. 

It's time to load up your watchlists, TV nerds.

FALL TV PREVIEW: Let us be your guides to all the new shows


SEASON PREMIERE: Dancing With the Stars, 8 p.m., ABC: The 25th season begins with 13 celebrity contestants, including Drew Scott, Terrell Owens, Debbie Gibson, Barbara Cororan, Derek Fisher and Nick and Vanessa Lachey.

SEASON PREMIERE: Behind Closed Doors: The American Family, 11 p.m., TLC: The new series follows the daily lives of three families: Tam catches Paul texting an ex and Deena realizes Andy's affair has put a strain on her relationship with her daughters.


SEASON FINALE: America's Got Talent, 8 p.m., NBC: The top 10 acts compete one last night for a chance to win one million dollars.

SEASON PREMIERE: The Little Couple, 8 p.m., TLC: The new season sees Dr. Jen Arnold and her family make the big move to Florida so Jen can work at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg. …

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In Case You Missed It: Sean Spicer at the Emmys; WWE Hall of Famer dies; Kevin Hart apologizes

Sean Spicer made a cameo at the Emmy Awards on Sunday.

Associated Press

Sean Spicer made a cameo at the Emmy Awards on Sunday.

Weekends are great for unwinding, and maybe even unplugging for a little while. Here's what trended that you might have missed if you weren't on social media the last couple days.

WWE Hall of Famer Bobby Heenan passes away at 73.

Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, regarded by many as one of the greatest managers and commentators in professional wrestling, died on Sunday, the WWE released in a statement. He was 73. 

While the cause of death hasn't been confirmed, the WWE Hall of Famer had been battling throat cancer since the early 2000s. With a career spanning more then four decades, Heenan formed what would become known as the Heenan Family, made up of the group of stars he managed. Among them were Andre the Giant, Rick Rude, Paul Orndorff, Arn Anderson and Ric Flair, all in the WWE Hall of Fame.

His announcing career was as successful as his managing career with constant verbal jousts alongside fellow WWE Hall of Famers Gorilla Monsoon and "Mean" Gene Okerlund. "The Bobby Heenan Show" had a brief run on USA Network as well. The wrestling community flooded Twitter Sunday night to pay tribute to Heenan.





Sean Spicer made a surprise cameo at the Emmy Awards.


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What to watch this weekend: 'American Vandal' on Netflix, 69th Emmy Awards

Stephen Colbert hosts the 69th Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 17.


Stephen Colbert hosts the 69th Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 17.

Who drew them? American Vandal

Netflix's true crime lineup gets a healthy dose of satire with American Vandal. The parody series from co-creators Tony Yacenda (Pillow Talking) and Dan Perrault (Honest Trailers) explores the aftermath of a high school prank that left 27 faculty cars vandalized with phallic images. The eight-episode season is hilariously recorded by a sophomore documentarian as they investigate who exactly drew cartoonish wieners on the cars. The investigated zones in on a known-vandal senior, played by Jimmy Tatro, but soon finds holes in his and others' stories. True-crime junkies and those who hate the genre will find hilarity in this new series. Now streaming on Netflix.

Awarding TV's best: 69th Emmy Awards …

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Selena Gomez undergoes kidney transplant due to lupus

Selena Gomez, 25, and Francia Raisa, 29.


Selena Gomez, 25, and Francia Raisa, 29.

Selena Gomez, the most followed celebrity on Instagram, shared some surprising news to her 117 million followers on Thursday.

The actor-singer received a kidney transplant due to lupus, posting a photo of herself and donor, TV actor and friend Francia Raisa, in hospital gowns holding hands. Gomez revealed her diagnosis back in 2015 and took a short hiatus to deal with panic attacks and depression.

Gomez, 25, shared that she was staying out of the spotlight this summer to focus on her recovery.

"It was what I needed to do for my overall health. I honestly look forward to sharing with you, soon my journey through these past several months as I have always wanted to do with you," she wrote in the caption. …

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What Florida's massive, post-Irma power outage looked like from space

On the left is Florida on May 11, 2017 at around 3 a.m. The right is Sept. 11, 2017 at the same time.


On the left is Florida on May 11, 2017 at around 3 a.m. The right is Sept. 11, 2017 at the same time.

Stunning images from NOAA and NASA satellites show what Florida's lights looked like from space before and after Hurricane Irma left millions in the state without power. The darkness is perhaps most stark in the Florida Keys, normally a bright line off the state's tip, which appears completely dark on in the after-Irma image.

Here's the full image from the Suomi NPP satellite's VIIRS instrument, courtesy of NOAA. On the left is Florida on May 11, 2017 at around 3 a.m. The right is Sept. 11, 2017 at the same time.

RELATED: When will power come back on in Florida homes?


NASA created this image using data reported by the Orlando Sentinel to illustrate power outages across the state in a different way.

Diffs in VIIRS IR (blue) & DNB (yellow) from pre- & post-#Irma capture power outages reported by Orlando Sentinel (


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Halloween Horror Nights show director talks bringing fresh scares, cult horror to Universal Orlando

At last year's Halloween Horror Nights, horror fans screamed in terror when  confronted by Twisty the clown in the American Horror Story house.

Universal Orlando

At last year's Halloween Horror Nights, horror fans screamed in terror when confronted by Twisty the clown in the American Horror Story house.

Charles Gray is the man behind the screams at Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights.

He's been one of the show directors for the annual event for about five years and this year he oversaw the storytelling and development of the nine haunted houses coming to the theme park starting Friday night.

So when you come face-to-face with Bloody Face in the American Horror Story house or flee in terror from an axe-wielding Jack in The Shining maze, thank Gray for the nightmares.

Gray recently called the Times to chat about what goes into bringing the best scares to the 27th year of Halloween Horror Nights.

As a show director for Halloween Horror Nights, what do you have your hands in?

Well, we have four show directors, and I'm in charge of the houses, what we call mazes. It's a very large task; very in depth. But I get to see it from inception to birth. I know the ins and outs of every house. I learn something new every year. There are always new challenges and new things to try. We always aim to build off the event's history.

How does Universal decide what intellectual properties (IPs) to showcase at Halloween Horror Nights? I'm sure it's a pretty complicated process. …

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'Hot cops' from Florida go viral with Hurricane Irma selfie, now they're making a calendar

The Gainesville Police Department posted the selfie on its Facebook page.

Gainesville Police Department

The Gainesville Police Department posted the selfie on its Facebook page.

The night before Hurricane Irma was expected to affect their city, three Gainesville police officers snapped a quick selfie at the start of their shift. The photo made it to the Gainesville Police Department's Facebook page, and from there, the world.

"Officers Nordman, Hamill and Rengering...part of the night crew getting ready to do some work. #Irma," read the caption on the photo.

Hundreds of thousands of people have since shared it, and the comments are filled with compliments on the officers "hunky" looks.

"Never in my life have I ever wanted to drive 1200 miles just to run a stop sign," wrote one woman. 

"I can't believe how many women are objectifying these poor, fine, young, strong, handsome, brave, sexy, delicious, virile, ovulation-inducing, mouth-watering, beefy..... I can't remember where I was going with this...," wrote another commenter.

And those are some of the tamer comments we can share here.

"So I was gonna say something inappropriate, then I checked the comments, it's been covered," someone else added, underscoring that point. …

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Video: Kristen Bell performs for evacuees after getting stuck in Orlando during Irma

Actress Kristen Bell performed songs from "Frozen" for evacuees taking shelter from Hurricane Irma in Orlando.

Courtesy of Orange County Government

Actress Kristen Bell performed songs from "Frozen" for evacuees taking shelter from Hurricane Irma in Orlando.

Actress Kristen Bell got stuck in Orlando during Hurricane Irma and decided to lift spirits of evacuees taking shelter from the storm.

While on a film set in the city, Bell found herself in the middle of the hurricane and had to take shelter until it passed.

The "Frozen" star performed for a group hunkered down at Meadow Woods Middle School over the weekend.

Videos posted on social media by the school and Orange County shows the actress singing hit songs from the movie like "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" and "For the First Time in Forever."



Bell also bought joy to senior evacuees at her hotel.



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J.J. Abrams is going to write and direct 'Star Wars: Episode IX'

J.J. Abrams is returning to œStar Wars and will replace Colin Trevorrow as writer and director of Episode IX.

Associated Press

J.J. Abrams is returning to œStar Wars and will replace Colin Trevorrow as writer and director of Episode IX.

A week after announcing original Episode IX director Colin Trevorrow had been fired, Disney announced today that J.J. Abrams is being brought in to write and direct the Star Wars installment.

Abrams co-wrote and directed Episode VII: The Force Awakens, which relaunched the series in 2015.

"With The Force Awakens, J.J. delivered everything we could have possibly hoped for, and I am so excited that he is coming back to close out this trilogy," Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said in a statement.

Thus far, the relaunched franchise has announced new directors for every movie, both in the main story arc and standalone films such as Rogue One.

The directorial change over Episode IX is the second such kerfuffle for Star Wars, as just over two months ago Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were fired as the directors of the standalone Han Solo film. They were replaced by Ron Howard.

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Leah Remini's Scientology series wins Emmy Award

Associated Press

On another planet, in another universe, one where the weather outside doesn't dominate our every waking thought, the Creative Arts Emmy Awards were held Saturday night. And one winner should be of particular interest in Tampa Bay: Leah Remini.

The actress and former Scientologist won an Emmy for Best Informational Program for her A&E docu-series Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath. The controversial nonfiction series features Remini attempting to expose wrongdoing within the church, the spiritual headquarters of which is located in Clearwater.

"As an actress, you always want to get an Emmy nomination or win an Emmy," she told reporters backstage, according to GoldDerby, "but as you get a little older, and you realize what's really important and you are exposed to stories like this, it becomes more about doing the right thing, and so ... this doesn't belong to me. It really does belong to our contributors, and so it's more fulfilling." …

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What to watch this weekend: 'Outlander,' 'The Deuce,' 'The Orville'

Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan in Outlander.


Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan in Outlander.

The rise of porn culture: The Deuce

The early 1970s were a critical turning point in the adult industry, where sex evolved into a billion-dollar business. Ground zero for this movement was New York City's Times Square, nicknamed "The Deuce." The series The Deuce stars Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Franco, above, and follows the rise of porn culture from the early 1970s through the mid '80s. Gyllenhaal plays an independent sex worker who refuses to work under any of the numerous pimps who control much of Eighth and Ninth avenues. Her independence and ambition lead her to the burgeoning porn industry. Franco plays a successful bar owner who finds himself entrenched in the local sex trade by way of a well-connected mob boss. Franco also plays his character Vincent's twin brother, Frankie. The new HBO series is less about gratuitous sleaze than it is about power and money in an industry transitioning from its grimy underground beginnings to being a permanent aspect of modern culture. 9 p.m. Sunday, HBO.

Review: The Deuce brilliantly captures '70s sex and sleaze

She has to go back: Outlander …

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