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Oscar ratings soar, despite wobbly broadcast

All the morning-after griping about Seth MacFarlane's debut as Academy Awards host didn't mean as much by Monday afternoon.

Posting the strongest overnight Nielsen ratings for an Oscars broadcast in three years went a long way toward quieting the criticism. When 40.3 million viewers on average tune in, it doesn't matter how many think you're crude-humored, self-centered or downright dull.

Viewership increased 11 percent in the key 18-to-49 demographic over 2012's show with Billy Crystal hosting for the ninth time, according to the Associated Press.

Certainly not all of Sunday's viewers watched the Oscars for MacFarlane, creator of TV's Family Guy and the Mark Wahlberg comedy Ted.

The audience was likely boosted because six of the nine best picture nominees topped the $100 million box office mark signaling a hit. Youthful nominees like eventual Oscar winners Jennifer Lawrence and Anne Hathaway and the promise of hearing Adele sing helped tap into that 18-to-49 demographics the academy sought to bolster for years.

Since this is Hollywood, a sequel is in order, so the academy may attempt to rehire MacFarlane as 2014's Oscars host, despite his claim that one time is enough.

J. Law and Jack hit it off

Best actress Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence is officially the movies' latest "It girl" but still has a few things to learn. Like never call the bluff of a veteran Hollywood horndog who's hitting on you backstage at the Oscars.

Lawrence, 22, was taping an interview with Good Morning America anchor George Stephanopoulos when triple Oscar winner Jack Nicholson didn't just happen to walk by. Seconds earlier, Nicholson, 75, could be seen behind J-Law, removing his sunglasses and wiping his brow before leaning into the camera frame as if he didn't know who was there or what was happening. He knew.

Lawrence turned, saw Nicholson and gave a star-struck gasp. That was like opening a can of tuna to a tomcat. Nicholson briefly greeted Stephanopoulos then offered his hand and suggestive eyebrows to Lawrence, who's not exactly a shrinking violet herself.

"You look like an old girlfriend of mine," Nicholson drawled, stepping away and smiling at an old memory or perhaps the promise of a new one.

"Oh, really?" Lawrence said over her shoulder. "Do I look like a new girlfriend?"

"I thought about it," an emboldened Nicholson replied, leaving Lawrence in giggle mode, burying her face in her hands.

"Is he still there?" she asked Stephanopoulos, who couldn't reply before Nicholson sneaked behind her and added: "I'll be waiting."

"Oh, my god," Lawrence said. "I need a rearview mirror."

Indie awards are 'Magic'

While the Academy Awards hogged the spotlight in L.A., over the weekend the scrappy Film Independent Spirit Awards handed out prizes on Santa Monica Beach. This is the awards show deserving four hours of live prime-time viewing, but it settles for tape-delayed broadcast on the IFC channel. Think Golden Globes intoxication with indie film exhilaration and you get the idea.

Silver Linings Playbook won four Spirits for best feature, David O. Russell's writing and directing, and Lawrence's performance. Yet the best news for Tampa Bay's film culture was the selection of Magic Mike's Matthew McConaughey as best supporting actor.

Director Steven Soderbergh principally filmed Magic Mike around Tampa Bay in 2011, and it became the highest grossing local production ever at nearly $114 million. McConaughey played Dallas Rising, lecherous owner of a male stripper revue led by Channing Tatum. Dallas' big scene involved showing his employees how the job should be done, inspiring McConaughey's melodic acceptance speech.

"I had to take my pants off to win a trophy," he sang, "I had to drop my drawers to win an award."

Channing parties on 'Kimmel'

Speaking of Tatum, the former Tampa resident and current People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive had a good weekend, showing off ballroom dancing skills at the Oscars and saving the world from sex-crazed zombies after the show.

Tatum was one of the stars late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel roped into his traditional post-Oscars movie trailer spoof, a sequel to last year's Movie: The Movie that got nearly 40 million views online.

Movie: The Movie 2V (say it fast) is a faux mash-up of Avengers derring-do and Twilight supernatural sex appeal with detours into parodying Oscar-bait cliches. Tatum is the giant secret weapon unleashed upon an army of carnal creatures, something like King Kong on Ecstasy.

Steve Persall can be reached at persall@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8365. Follow him on Twitter @StevePersall.

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Oscar ratings soar, despite wobbly broadcast 02/25/13 [Last modified: Monday, February 25, 2013 9:06pm]

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