About 39.3 million people watched Sunday’s mesmerizing “84th Annual Academy Awards” in which Octavia Spencer got a standing ovation for becoming one of just a half-dozen black actresses to have won an Oscar in its 84-year history — and host Billy Crystal appeared in blackface.
TV-industry navel-lint pickers had predicted this year’s Oscar ceremony would be one of the least watched ever, what with old-timer Billy Crystal returning for his ninth hosting at bat, and no “Titanic”-like box-office hit among the nine Best Picture contenders.
Of course those pundits hadn’t banked on Jennifer Lopez’s left nipple playing hide and seek on stage with her Zuhair Murad gown in the early moments of the show, landing its own twitter account (2868 followers and counting).
Nor could they have foreseen that Angelina Jolie’s uber-ambitious right leg would pull an Eve Harrington and steal the show, and enter the meme-o-sphere. Before the show was over Angie’s leg had scored at least one twitter handle and a tumblr account, and by morning the world was mulling what it would be like of Jolie’s leg met a sad dog in a rainstorm, got peppersprayed by police, or if the State of Liberty did The Angelina – as demonstrated by NBC News journalists Ann Curry and Al Roker.
(Also meme-ing Sunday night were the Oscarcast’s continual audio problems, though @OscarAudioGuy had vanished by Monday morning, presumably over copyright issues with the use of “Oscar.”)
Sunday’s wildly web-friendly trophy show clocked about 1.4 million more viewers than the 37.9 brave TV viewers who’d slogged through last year’s Oscar ceremony broadcast in hopes they’d see Anne Hathaway haul off and smack her too-hip-for-the-room co-host James “Phoning It In” Franco. Sadly, it did not happen, leaving last year’s trophy show one of the franchise’s lower rated – though not as bad as that second time Jon Stewart hosted, and the show only attracted 32 million viewers.
Despite the best efforts of Lopez’s mam and Jolie’s gam, however, this year’s show still wound up with fewer viewers than the 39.9 million who watched this year’s Grammy Awards show, at which the music industry dispensed with most of its awards dispensing (and, therefore boring acceptance speech-giving) so it could lay its heart at the feet of its fallen heroine Whitney Houston, who had died dramatically the previous afternoon in a Beverly Hills hotel bathtub, while some bands played their latest hits, LL Cool J prayed, and Nicki Minaj got exorcised.
The Grammycast’s ratings lead over Sunday’s Oscar ceremony was much bigger among the 18-49-year-old viewers who are the Holy Grail of the advertising community. Even so, ABC suits seemed pleased to discover that, with Crystal at the helm and a black-and-white mostly-silent flick expected to mop up, Sunday’s Academy Awards retained 100 percent of its year-ago ratings in that age bracket, and even attracted more 18-49 year old chicks — the target of that Disney fairytale wedding dress ad and those Ellen DeGeneres JC Penny commercials.
About half way through the 3.5 hour broadcast, after Kermit and Miss Piggy introduced a Cirque du Soleil performance, Crystal had joked, “We’ve got puppets, acrobats — we’re a pony away from being a Bar Mitzvah…“We’re going to slam the 78 to 84 [age] group.”
Crystal had been a last-minute return to host the statue-spewing. He stepped in to replace Eddie Murphy, after Murphy stepped down when Brett Ratner was “resigned” as this year’s Oscar show producer, in the wake of a string of slur-and-potty-mouth moments at a screening and on Howard Stern’s radio show. The black-and-white mostly-silent film “The Artist” was named the year’s best movie – one of five Oscars for the flick.
After Sunday’s trophy show, ABC’s seventh annual “Jimmy Kimmel Live: After the Academy Awards” clocked 5.1 million viewers — its biggest audience ever — with Crystal, Oscar winners, Coldplay, and Oprah Winfrey stopping by.
More Oscars coverage from The Washington Post