NEW YORK (AP) You would have been more amused Sunday night if you'd revved up your TiVo and played back an evening's worth of "Daily Show with Jon Stewart'' reruns while you tracked Oscar winners on the Web.
Stewart, usually a very funny guy, displayed a lack of beginner's luck as first-time host of "The 78th Annual Academy Awards,'' which ABC aired live from Hollywood's Kodak Theatre.
His usually impeccable blend of puckishness and self-effacement fell flat in the service of Oscar. But he wasn't alone. The rest of the broadcast was largely bland and by-the-numbers.
Couldn't presenter Russell Crowe have departed from his script and clobbered someone (even Stewart) with a telephone, just to jazz things up?
Thank goodness for the occasional attempt at cleverness, as when the presenters for Best Makeup arrived on stage in foolishly awful makeup: Will Ferrell scarlet-faced and Steve Carell corpse-pale.
And in a funny bit, Tom Hanks demonstrated the Academy's new strategy for speeding up acceptance speeches. Onstage musicians not only surrounded him but physically assaulted him to keep it brief.
Wait, this wasn't too far from the truth. From the instant each Oscar recipient began speaking, the orchestra's mewling Lite-FM assault began stepping on the winner's remarks, as if to play them offstage before they'd even opened their mouths. It was distracting and obnoxious, and undercut what are, potentially, the night's grandest moments.
Also irksome: a prevailing message through the broadcast preaching that movies should be seen on the big screen of a movie house, presumably at full ticket price. (Remember, DVDs: bad.)
The broadcast began on a shaky note with a filmed intro that found past Oscar host Billy Crystal being introduced as this year's host, then declining, followed by Chris Rock, Steve Martin, Whoopi Goldberg, David Letterman, Mel Gibson, even Mr. Moviephone none of whom wanted the gig.