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John Brown  /  AP file
"Meerkat Manor" follows the fights and fun, lives and loves of a clan of meerkats in South Africa's Kalahari Desert. The animals are being studied by a group of researchers from England's Cambridge University. Fans of the show are upset that one meerkat, Shakespeare, is unaccounted for.
updated 11/1/2006 8:19:04 PM ET 2006-11-02T01:19:04

Wondering about how a certain reality show pulled something off? Have a question about a certain contestant?

Whether it's "Survivor," "American Idol," "The Apprentice," "Real World" or another show, send in your questions. Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, MSNBC.com's Television Editor, and Andy Dehnart, creator of the Reality Blurred Weblog,will try to answer them.

Before you send in your question, check our archives — you may be able to get your answer right away.

Q:What happened to Shakespeare on "Meerkat Manor"?    —Leonard

A: Alas, poor Shakespeare, we knew him, Leonard. The scrappy meerkat on Animal Planet's engrossing animal saga has faced tough times in the past: A puff adder bite had him fighting for his life in the first season, but he overcame that, fast becoming a fan favorite, in part for his heated defense of the clan's pups. Yet he hasn't been seen since season two began. Fans were upset about the mystery, especially since promotions for the new season hinted that Shakespeare's fate would be explained — and it was not.

Tom Flower (hey...no wonder "Flower" is the alpha female meerkat's name) of the Kalahari Meerkat Project has addressed Shakey's fate in an online letter that's been posted in the channel's forums. "We just do not know what his ultimate fate was," Flower says. "Meerkats are often killed defending pups, Shakespeare was a babysitter the day before and Lazuli [a competing meerkat family] were in the area. However it is equally possible that he was killed by a predator, dispersed to another group, or was killed by another group whilst trying to join them, we just weren’t there on that particular day."

Further down in the same online thread, another letter is posted, from Alex Thornton of the University of Cambridge, a researcher who works at the meerkat site. He offers a tiny flicker of hope, saying "It is possible that [Shakespeare] has become dominant in an unhabituated group outside our reserve (an individual of his size has been seen in one of the neighbouring groups), but we can’t say for certain if it is Shakespeare."

I checked with Animal Planet at press time to see if there was any new news. Sadly, in this case, no news is bad news. Spokeswoman Alison Risso told me "Shakespeare has not been spotted since he fought Big Si while protecting the pups.  Neither our cameras nor on-site researchers have found any sign of him.  We have to presume he died, since it’s extraordinarily unlikely for a meerkat to survive on his own for very long."

Rest in peace, furry little guy.    —G.F.C.

Q: Do the photos in “America’s Next Top Model” require Photoshopping? Or the ones we see are the real thing minus the touchups?    —Anne

A: The answer: it varies. The photos from each photo shoot end up on the show’s Web site after the episode airs, where viewers can review which of the photos appear exactly as taken by the photographers, and which have been (obviously) touched up.

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Many of the photos have clearly been edited, with graphics or other special effects added. Last week’s shoot, for example, involved digitally combing two separate photos each girl took, so they could represent both halves of a famous couple. And the wobbly bridge catwalk photo shoot resulted in photos that were blurry and had ghost-like images of the model. Those edits weren’t meant to be concealed.

But while Tyra publicly stated her desire to not have any of her photos touched up in real life, that hasn’t always been the policy on “Top Model.” At least once in the past, Tyra acknowledged during judging that they edited a contestants’ photo to reduce the size of her thighs, so we can presume other touch-ups happen occasionally — although since it adds to the drama, Tyra and the other judges are more likely than not to discuss such edits.    —A.D.

Q: My question is about Laura, from “Project Runway.” She first said this was her 6th child. When Tim Gunn visited she said this is her 5th boy in row. No mention of the 6th child or a daughter. Is there a daughter? Are there 6?    —Wilma

A: Yes. Laura Bennett, 42, has an adult daughter, Cleo, 18, from her first marriage. Cleo attends college in Houston.

Current husband Peter Shelton is the father of her sons Peik, age 10, Truman, 7, Pierson, 4, and Larson, 3. And of course, she's expecting boy #5 at the end of November. Bennett's crew even is mentioned in a recent Newsweek article about some large families bucking the trend towards just one or two children.

As seemed apparent from views of her enormous New York City apartment, money isn't much of an issue for the large family. Shelton is co-founder of the architectural firm Shelton, Mindel and Associates, and Bennett works for them part-time.    —G.F.C.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper is MSNBC.com's Television Editor. Andy Dehnart is a writer and teacher who publishes reality blurred, a daily summary of reality TV news.

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