Oscars TV ratings slump

[LOS ANGELES] TV ratings for the Oscars' US telecast fell 16 per cent from last year, according to figures published Monday, amid lukewarm reviews for the show and its first-time host.

Sunday night's show averaged 36.6 million viewers, down from 43.7 million in 2014, according to Nielsen ratings cited by industry journal Variety, which noted that the total viewer count was the lowest in six years.

Some blamed the relative lack of mass-appeal movies among those nominated, while for others the predictability of the awards races this didn't help - almost all of the categories went to form, with few surprises.

Also, granted, Neil Patrick Harris had a tough act to follow: last year's host Ellen DeGeneres powered the show to a 10-year ratings high.

But some critics were scathing about Harris' stewardship of this year's three-and-a-half hour Academy Awards show, including his stripping to his briefs in a skit about best picture winner Birdman.

Most liked his opening song-and-dance number, and his first joke about honouring "Hollywood's best and whitest" - a reference to the lack of non-white nominees at the show.

But after that "flat setups began crashing into flubbed punchlines with the alacrity of a drunk sailor inviting the entire pub to have a go if they think they're hard enough," commented a BBC reviewer.

The New York Times called his performance "bland," adding: "Oscar nights almost always drag on too long, but this one was a slog almost from the very beginning."

The Washington Post wrote: "Even stripped to his skivvies in a 'Birdman' parody ... (Harris) couldn't deliver quite all the thrills needed to get through the three-hour, 38-minute Oscar folderol without a yawn." The Hollywood Reporter had at least some good things to say.

"Harris mastered the challenge of commanding the room, chumming up to folks in the front rows throughout the show, while speaking directly to movie-lovers at home," it said.

But the LA Times commented: "Even the preternaturally prepped and prolific Neil Patrick Harris seemed .. .reduced at times to a small figure on a big stage making 'good job' remarks to performers..." "At one point he stripped to his underwear, a la Michael Keaton in 'Birdman,' and it was just as embarrassing as you might assume it would be."


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