Oscar's career boost: a comeback special Telecast pops 13% over 2008's record low

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Bucking modest industry expectations, ABC's presentation of the 81st Annual Academy Awards was TV's most-watched entertainment telecast in two years.

The Oscars on Sunday averaged 36.3 million viewers and a 12.1 adults 18-49 rating, up 13% from last season's all-time low.

With awards telecasts in recent years typically getting hit with a morning-after double barrel of critical scorn and decreased ratings, the latest ceremony proved a pleasant exception on both counts.

An overhaul by first-time producers Laurence Mark and Bill Condon largely pleased pundits, providing elegant staging and a quicker pace that helped offset a lack of suspense over the coronation of "Slumdog Millionaire" as best picture.

ABC's red-carpet coverage benefited from the increased interest, pulling 24.3 million viewers and a 7.2 rating, also up 13% from last year. "The Barbara Walters Special" drew an average audience of 11.6 million viewers and delivered a 3.2 rating, and Jimmy Kimmel's post-awards special was up 16% (4.3 million).

Elsewhere Sunday: First a holiday weekend, then the Oscars — CBS' "The Amazing Race" can't catch a break. The second episode of the veteran reality series (7.8 million viewers, 2.6 rating/ 6 share in adults 18-49) matched its modest premiere rating from last week. (partialdiff)
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