A juicy dress-code memo was no match for a dead pop star — but was interesting enough to gin up the Grammy Awards’ second-biggest audience in two decades: more than 28 million viewers.
That Grammy crowd is second only to the 40 million who turned out a year ago to watch the music industry lay its heart at the feet of its fallen heroine, Whitney Houston, who died dramatically the previous afternoon.
Last year’s audience was the second-largest ever for the recording academy’s trophy show, and the broadcast’s biggest haul in nearly three decades (since Michael Jackson and “Thriller” cleaned up at the 1984 Grammys).
Last year’s Grammycast edged that year’s Billy Crystal-hosted Academy Awards in the ratings (the Oscars traditionally being the most-watched trophy show of them all).
That will not happen this year, based on Sunday’s numbers. Still, those ratings are quite something — about 9 million more people watched the Grammys than this year’s Golden Globe Awards, which were hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.
The Grammys show also whomped the Fey/Poehler Globes among younger viewers, who are the currency of TV entertainment programming ad sales.
That is not to suggest that Poehler and Fey were slouches, ratings-wise — their Globes performance was up double digits compared with the previous year’s Globes, hosted by Ricky Gervais.
In the walk-up to this year’s Grammys ceremony, CBS sent attendees a wardrobe advisory that got leaked to the press. That caused an eczema of news reports to break out, warning of potential “bare fleshy under curves of the buttocks” and “bare sides or under curvature of the breasts” at the trophy-dispensing.
In the TV biz, that is known as “throwing raw meat to piranha.”
Unfortunately, what the 28.4 million viewers who tuned in saw was maybe the most conservatively costumed Grammy crowd in recent history. But some in the media, who’d already mapped out their here-are-the-memo-violators plans, fought gamely to keep the story alive with blown-up photos — from Sunday’s show — of the chests of Katy Perry, Alicia Keys and Rihanna.
Really, the closest viewers got to anything of sartorial interest was the screen-saver bright gown Carrie Underwood wore during her performance of “Blown Away” and “Two Black Cadillacs.” Afterward, backstage, she said she was mulling whether to take the dress home to watch movies on it.
Early in the night, Jennifer Lopez attempted to re-create a recent magical moment, in which Angelina Jolie’s leg reached out from an opening in her gown and stole the show at the 2012 Oscar ceremony.
J-Lo — who is best known, Grammy-wise, for the buzz-worthy body-taped Versace gown she worn to the 2000 ceremony — came out on stage in an Anthony Vaccarello gown that featured a hole through which she put one leg, exposing it mightily. “I read the memo,” she announced happily. “You inspired the memo,” her co-presenter, Miami rapper Pitbull, gushed.
But J-Lo’s leg was no match for Jolie’s gam.
Some statuettes were handed out, too.
Gotham pop-rock troupe fun. bagged statuettes for song of the year and for best new artist, though lead singer Nate Ruess quipped on stage, “You can see our faces, and we are not young.”
Mumford & Sons snagged album of the year for “Babel.”
And Prince whispered, “I love this song” before announcing that Belgian-Australian pop singer Gotye had won record of the year for his breakup anthem, “Somebody That I Used to Know.”
You know who didn’t watch the Grammys on Sunday? About 12 million zombie fans.
Opposite the Grammy Award broadcast, AMC’s “The Walking Dead” nonetheless managed to attract the biggest crowd in its history: 12.4 million viewers.
Sunday’s episode marked the midseason return of the zombie-drama’s third season.
Add in the folks who watched multiple repeats of the episode, starting with one at 11 p.m. — the Grammys were still going on at that point — and you’ve got nearly 17 million viewers.
“The Walking Dead’s” previous best ever was last October with its third-season debut, which clocked just less than 11 million viewers.
AMC also claimed that “The Walking Dead’s” third season is outperforming such hits as CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory,” “Two and a Half Men” and “NCIS” and ABC’s “Modern Family” among the 18- to 49-year-olds.
But Nielsen stats put “The Big Bang Theory,” and “Modern Family” — as well as NBC’s Sunday football, and the Wednesday and Thursday editions of “American Idol” — ahead of “The Walking Dead” in the age bracket.
AMC is including only those of you who watch those shows when they’re broadcast or later the same day — which is very 1990. These days, Nielsen counts viewers who watch up to seven days after the broadcast, having discovered the DVR.
To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/