Finally, Oscar Broadcast Awarded Some Viewers

Last night's supergay Oscars broadcast was up 6% in the ratings from last year, and was the highest-rated "entertainment telecast" in two years. Was it the gay stuff that drew people in? Sorta.

Mostly it was the canny-meets-annoying way that ABC kept teasing new changes and surprises to the flagging awards ceremony. What would they beeee, people wondered! Robots? Actual corpses trotted out for the 'In Memoriam' reel?? Turned out it was just a bunch of actors and actresses doing a four-part production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle for the acting awards and everything else getting lumped together hastily. They basically added even more silly pomp to the popular categories, and gave even shorter shrift to the ones no one cares about. Brilliant! But no matter how the changes and surprises (Eva Marie Saint is still alive!) turned out, the follow-through didn't really matter. It was the anticipation that brought the evening its successes.

Anticipation commingled with, yes, some curiosity about the gayness of Milk (including the Sean/Mickey love/hate fest) and Hugh Jackman, but also with the inevitable Heath Ledger death gawpers and those eager to see their beloved Titanic princess finally get her golden Heart of the Ocean. There was something more urgent and swoony about this year's Oscars, and the positive reception for the new, gayish stuff bodes well for the next go around. Hopefully the films will match, or surpass, this year's. And hopefully a movie star will die again!

Though, actually, the evening may owe the biggest debt of thanks the hideous recession. Terrified of the sound of the distant, gnawing, money-eating Langoliers outside, in recent months people have decided to stay at home and cower in front of the television more than ever before. So basically the Academy and ABC should say thank you to some very unusual suspects: The Gays, The Brits, Dead People, and The Banks.

Only in Hollywood!