Another Oscar telecast, another technical glitch on Channel 7 during the Academy Awards show. At least, unlike last year, no one used an expletive -- except perhaps viewers at home.
Near the end of Oscar host Hugh Jackman's lengthy opening musical number, the picture on WKBW-TV kept on going in and out on my cable system.
It wasn't terribly troubling, because the sexiest man alive's energetic attempt to be Billy Crystal and sing about the nominated films for several minutes had gotten a little long by then, despite a nice surprise duet with actress Anne Hathaway.
The picture went off again for about a minute a half-hour later. Someone at Channel 7 said it was a problem with the satellite transmission from ABC and it wasn't the station's fault. I'm told that people watching on rabbit ears had no problem. By 9:15 p.m., Channel 7 said the problem was fixed.
The technical issue gave the show something that was missing most of the "Slumdog" night: unpredictability. In keeping with the times, the show was low-key and low-tech. It was hard not to root for Jackman after he discussed so many personal details in Barbara Walters' annual special.
"He will attempt to breathe new life into the Oscars," Walters said in introducing the piece. "If anybody can do it, Hugh can."
I guess nobody can. The Australian was game, and he didn't embarrass himself. He's likable, has that adorable accent and has Broadway musical experience. But the low-tech opening number seemed like something that belonged more in the Tony Awards than the Oscars. It also probably wasn't a good idea to try to top Crystal, who cleverly used footage from the movies he parodied.
There was so much music in the show, you almost wondered if it was the Tonys or the Grammy Awards. A later big song-and-dance number that featured Beyonce gave the show some needed energy, even if it also was better suited for the Tonys. After that, Jackman wasn't overworked, and the show was even lifeless when Jerry Lewis got a special award. When presenter Will Smith cracked "I think Hugh is napping," I was thinking he wasn't alone.
The show spent a lot of time describing the importance of screenplays, art direction, makeup and cinematography making movies. It wasn't a terribly original or interesting idea. The packages that dealt with animation and romance in 2008 movies were full of brief clips from films that weren't identified.
The comedy package featuring "Pineapple Express" actors James Franco and Seth Rogan in character had its funny -- and offensive -- moments. And at least they identified the films in the package of 2008 documentaries. More highs and lows:
Best speech: All the speech practice that Kate Winslet ("The Reader") got in winning other awards paid off this time. But you have to give it to Sean Penn ("Milk") for accepting the best-actor award by saying: "I know how hard I make it to appreciate me often."
Best innovation: I liked the sappy idea of having actors summarize the roles played by the nominated actors rather than show brief scenes that usually don't do them justice.
Best bit: A bearded Ben Stiller's parody of Joaquin Phoenix on David Letterman's show went on a little too long and took away from the cinematography award, but was funnier than many of Stiller's movies.
Best presenters: Tiny Fey and Steve Martin were priceless talking about the art of writing before giving out screenplay awards.