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TV STUFF: Oscar Ratings Bad, Not 'Titanic'

Mar 19, 2001 | 11:50am EST

Yes, the Oscars were inescapable Sunday night. How could they not be? They only ran for, like, 10 (well, four-plus) hours. Early estimates this morning say 78 million incredibly patient and tolerant individuals watched all, or part, of ABC's marathon Academy Awards broadcast. In the nation's biggest markets, the show -- which marked the return of host Billy Crystal and the crowning of "American Beauty" as Best Picture -- pulled a 31.7 rating. If that number holds up when the final stats are released, it'll mean the telecast was down 1 percent from 1999. And while that's not bad, that would still represent a 22 percent fall off from 1998's ceremony, otherwise known as the "Titanic" coronation.

Critical reaction to the telecast, meanwhile, was mixed -- as critical reaction is wont to be.

In the Washington Post, Tom Shales said that the telecast arguably could have been worse, "but then Elvis could arguably be alive and Double-Stuff Oreos could arguably be a health food." Daily Variety was more appreciative of the efforts of the folks who brought you Robin Williams on vocals. "Sure the show ran an hour over schedule, but in fact," the trade paper maintained, "after a month when the Oscars seemed hexed, the show technically ran remarkably smoothly, with few you-can't-believe-they-did-that moments."

OSCAR FALLOUT: In Los Angeles, a television helicopter covering the Oscars for the local Fox affiliate crashed about 10 p.m. (PST) Sunday, critically injuring the 28-year-old pilot and breaking the leg of the onboard photographer.

AXED: "Cosby," the mildly rated, inconsequential CBS sitcom not to be confused with NBC's once-upon-a-time mega-rated, landmark "The Cosby Show," is going to the big TV graveyard in the sky. CBS said Friday that Bill Cosby's latest sitcom incarnation was ending its run after four seasons. Before you say that nasty word "canceled," know that the network and Cosby termed the, well, cancellation a "mutual decision." "I'm going out with the graduating class of 2000," Cosby said in a statement. "I wish we could have done better for CBS." An extra-special finale has already been taped.

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