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Rock Riles Critics, Oscar Ratings Slip

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Chris Rock got mixed notices for his Oscar hosting chores, while the show itself lost 2 million viewers compared to last year’s ratings – 41.5 million vs. 2004’s 43.5 million. It was still strong, but not what ABC was hoping for.

According to preliminary data from Nielsen Media Research, Sunday’s relatively brief (compared to previous ceremonies) three-hour, 15-minute Oscar broadcast was down 5 percent from last year, when box-office powerhouse The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was the major winner.

Last year’s average viewer tally of 43.5 million was the largest Oscar viewership in four years, Reuters reports.

New York Times critic Caryn James blames the fact that this year’s Oscars lacked surprises. Not only did everyone already know that Jamie Foxx and Hilary Swank would win, but viewers already saw Foxx remembering his late grandmother and Swank thanking her Million Dollar Baby director Clint Eastwood on such previous awards shows as the Golden Globes, the Broadcast Critics and the Screen Actors Guild ceremonies.

As for Rock, whom The Times admired, the paper says the Academy audience offered only a tepid reaction to his satiric jabs, and “his few attempts to put his mark on the event fell flat, most conspicuously with a filmed routine in which he interviewed black moviegoers who loved the dopey Wayans brothers comedy White Chicks but hadn’t seen Best Picture nominees like The Aviator and Finding Neverland.

Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales was less charitable, calling Rock’s performance “strangely lame and mean-spirited” and predicting he won’t be asked back to host the Academy Awards.