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Oscar Ratings Highest in More than a Decade

March 28, 1995

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ In an Oscar show with few big surprises and not one O.J. Simpson joke, TV viewers were plentiful: Nielsen ratings showed the biggest audience in more than a decade.

ABC estimated Tuesday that the Oscar broadcast was seen by 81 million U.S. viewers _ the most since 1983. The show was especially popular with young and middle-age men, part of host David Letterman’s core TV audience.

Ratings for adults ages 18-49 were up 12 percent over last year while the ratings for men ages 18-49 were up 26 percent over last year.

The show earned a 32.5 rating and 53 share. One ratings point equals 954,000 television households and share is the percentage of TV sets in use at any one time tuned to a particular broadcast.

It was the largest audience since 1983, when Liza Minnelli, Dudley Moore, Richard Pryor and Walter Matthau were hosts and ``Gandhi″ won best picture. That year, ABC’s telecast got a 38.0 rating and 59 share.

Oscar producer Gilbert Cates said Simpson jokes were intentionally avoided by the three men who wrote the scripts for the Oscar presentations, as well as by Letterman’s writers.

``I hate those O.J. jokes. Many of them are genuinely not funny and the ones that are funny you’ve heard before,″ he said.

Judge Lance Ito had decided earlier Monday that jurors would be allowed to see the broadcast after it was edited to delete references to the trial.

The show, which lasted 3 1/2 hours, had little drama. As expected, ``Forrest Gump″ won for best picture, actor, director, adapted screenplay, editing and visual effects.

Newspapers advertisements trumpeting Oscar wins were published Tuesday, and ticket sales for ``Forrest Gump″ are expected to improve this weekend.

There were mixed opinions over Letterman, however.

The black-tie Oscar audience loved some of Letterman’s gags.

The best-received included: ``One of the pictures nominated tonight for best foreign film, as you know, is `Eat Drink Man Woman.′ Coincidentally, as I understand it, this is also how Arnold Schwarzenegger asked Maria Shriver out on their first date.″

USA Today’s television critic Matt Roush said Letterman ``seemed the perfect choice for host.″

But other critics felt Letterman didn’t connect.

Ray Richmond of the Daily News of Los Angeles said, ``Very simply, Letterman lacked the spark, the magic that his fans had anticipated.″

Howard Rosenberg, TV critic for the Los Angeles Times, said Letterman had a severe standard to meet.

``Everyone was expecting so much from David Letterman that he couldn’t possibly live up to the billing. And he didn’t.″

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