The Oscars telecast Sunday night earned better ratings than any since 2000.
Then again, you could get plenty of witnesses to a car wreck if you publicized it in advance.
Not that the show was a disaster by any means. But viewers likely tuned in with a morbid curiosity to see if outrageous and often profane host Chris Rock would do something wildly inappropriate.
He didn't. He did his normal inappropriate material - managing to step on more toes than a nearsighted podiatrist.
He ridiculed some actors by name and, in a man-on-the- street segment taped in advance, highlighted the embarrassing fact that many blacks had not seen most of the movies up for best picture.
In truth, the award competition was boring enough this year that the Oscars needed something to ramp up interest in the show. But Rock - a Saturday Night Live alum better suited to HBO specials than prime-time family network viewing - may have been a poor choice. His poking of fun at Hollywood inspired one actor, Sean Penn, to issue an on-stage rebuttal. And his barbs came with neither the impishness nor the charm of frequent Oscar host Billy Crystal.
It's also interesting that Rock was the only figure Sunday night who got political - so often Hollywood's downfall. His gratuitous bashing of the president might have made good nightclub material, but at the Oscars it struck a sour note that seemed even more out of tune set against the actors' unusual restraint.
We also note that, while the ascension of blacks to prominent roles and awards in diversity-preaching Hollywood is still something of a novelty, such is not the case in the Bush administration.
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