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'Dancing With the Stars' Season 18 cast includes Olympians Meryl Davis, Charlie White

Figure Skating - Ice Dancing - Gold: Meryl

(Credit: Getty Images / Ryan Pierse)

And just like that, we have a pair of frontrunners in the forthcoming season of "Dancing With the Stars," starting March 17: Olympic skating champs Meryl Davis and Charlie White have joined the cast. Of course, the only real question here is not whether they will be at the top of the leader board by season's end -- but which one will (likely) prevail? (They will be partnered with Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Sharna Burgess, respectively.) 

And this news: Billy Dee Williams (Emma Slater) will be on the show, and so will the 55-year-old Drew Carey (Cheryl Burke). Also: Sean Avery (Karina Smirnoff), formerly of the Rangers.

And more news still: Amy Purdy (Derek Hough), a snowboarding "paralympian" who according to ABC lost her legs to meningitis when she was 19, will be here, too. Expect her to be around for the long haul, especially with  Hough along for this ride. 

Here's the rest:

James Maslow (Peta Murgatroyd): The 23-year-old star of Nickelodeon's "Big Time Rush" has been chosen in an obvious attempt to "youth up" this very old show -- one of the oldest, in terms of audience, on the air, which has made "DWTS" a "sales problem" for ABC. Maslow to the rescue!

Cody Simpson (Witney Carson): Speaking of which ... another teen heartthrob joins; will do well because ABC will make certain he will. No early exit for Simpson, 17, who should bring in some boppers, who will make the audience (theoretically) a little bit younger.

NeNe Leakes (Tony Dovolani): This Housewife has been reported as a potential cast member almost before she was a "Real Housewives of Atlanta" star. (Not really, but ....)

Diana Nyad (Henry Byalikov): The swimming champ ... Smart hire here. Nyad, 64, is one of those people -- an indomitable force, who should have a backstory (not to mention backstroke) that will keep the show/judges rattling on for weeks. 

Danica McKellar (Valentin Chmerkovskiy): Winnie from "The Wonder Years." She's 39.

Candace Cameron Bure (Mark Ballas): D.J. Tanner, "Full House." Another long-rumored addition. She's 37.

Bottom line: Interesting cast, with no obvious weak links, unless Carey would qualify (he does). With this cast, "DWTS" is not merely covering all of its demographic bases, but noticeably shifting them to a younger base. Will it work? (Do you know a teen who has ever watched "DWTS"? Then I think you have your answer.) This cast at least stands the chance of proving the exception. Avery, 33, a famed enforcer, will struggle to get the audience vote -- that's just how this audience swings, while Williams -- at the age of 76 -- has that going against him, too. Nyad's an athlete; should help. Leakes, 43, has notoriety and reality fame; should also help. But obviously all eyes will be on Davis, 27, and White, 26. Just to point out what's so obvious, they're the ones to beat.   

Oscars telecast posts big ratings bump

(Credit: AP)

The vox populi has spoken and what is said is loud and clear — we loved the 86th annual Oscars telecast, or at least we watched the 86th annual Oscars telecast . . . It was seen by an average 43 million viewers, up three million from last year and a 10-year record. Here are the relevant stats...via ABC:

ABC’s “The Oscars” marked its most-watched telecast in since 2004. In addition, the Ellen DeGeneres-hosted show was up in adults 18-34 to a 7-year high (+1% — 11.4 rating vs. 11.3 rating), in teens 12-17 to a 3-year high (+8% — 6.8 rating vs. 6.3 rating) and in kids 2-11 to an 8-year high (+9% — 3.5 rating vs. 3.2 rating) — since 2007, 2011 and 2006, respectively.

 

Oscars 2014 telecast review: Have the Academy Awards lost their youthful spark?

Host Ellen DeGeneres onstage during the Oscars at

(Credit: Getty Images / Kevin Winter)

Other than a surprising instance of what many critics deemed the should-win best picture candidate topping the will-win candidate ("Gravity"), the 86th Academy Awards did not really have all that many other surprising instances, did they?

This all proceeded with the sure-footed -- if not exactly light-footed -- grace of a massive institution that knows what it is and knows that it is not about to explore new and uncertain terrain either. The Academy tried that last year, which is why Ellen DeGeneres -- whose most dangerous move Sunday night was prying cash out of Harvey Weinstein for the pizza -- was back as presenter.

After 86 years, the Oscars has lost its youthful spark because youthful sparks only seem to get it in trouble; it's Woody Grant, stumbling his way toward Lincoln, Neb., a little bit dazed and a little bit confused in the modern world of annual TV awards presentations, where even the Tonys have more life force. The Grammys have now emerged as the de facto standard of what an awards show should be -- but Sunday night's Oscars felt at moments more like the daytime Emmys by contrast.


PHOTOS: Winners | Red carpet | Actors who've never won  | Oscar films' LI links | Hosts through the years | Youngest nominees ever
MORE: Oscars live | Winners & nominees since 1928Full coverage


There were certainly high-water marks -- exciting moments that you remember or savor in the moment or the next day, when something real or unbridled or joyful broke through the crust and must of a lumbering TV spectacle: Steve McQueen's sort-of-verbal back flip thanking everyone and anyone while knowing that he had just made history as the first black director who's film won for best picture, or Jared Leto's terrific moment in the spotlight, or Lupita Nyong'o's tearful tribute to Patsey.

Ellen was good, too -- but safe and good, in that order, which is now the order of importance for any host post-Seth MacFarlane, who didn't merely reverse the order but demolish it and add a few other elements to the mix last year.

The Oscars is about honoring a very nervous body of industry players who really aren't there to be part of a large TV entertainment put out by a TV network looking for younger viewers, or preferably those elusive younger male ones. They are there to get awards.

Ellen tried to humanize it with an Oscar selfie, then a pizza shtick that went on and on -- Rainn Wilson actually timed it, saying in a tweet that it went on for 11 minutes and 54 seconds; he wasn't exaggerating, and the thing really did start to feel like a frat house transaction (who's got five bucks for the tip?) after awhile. The pizza was ice cold by the time it was over and so was the joke.

Her opener was all-establishment. Check out -- for contrast -- her 79th opener, in that maroon velour (I guess it was velour) suit: "My job is to put you at ease and make you forget this is a make or break night for you..." Of course that got a laugh. That one ran a brisk five minutes; last night's ran nine, for those keeping count.

Ellen looked sharp in a black tux, and she seemed comfortable herself. No meanness, nothing arch. To Barkhad Abdi: "Who's the wine captain now!..." Or nothing too arch: "One of the most amazing Liza Minnelli impersonators I have ever seen, good job sir!" Or this, to JLaw: "If you win tonight, I think we should bring you the Oscar..."

The night wanted some drama but couldn't quite locate it, and clearly wanted to avoid it, too. Not a word whispered about the recent death of Philip Seymour Hoffman -- just a terribly sad bookend to the In Memoriam segment.

"Gravity" kept winning all the early awards, then all the technical awards, then the director award -- Alfonso Cuarón -- and if you paid much attention to the experts, that kind of roll would inevitably lead to one thing -- the best picture. Even McQueen's loss to a nevertheless richly deserving Cuarón seemed a letdown, for he would have become the Academy's first winning black director. Cate Blanchett's win, then Matthew McConaughey's win, seemed to indicate that Those Who Know really in fact knew.

... And then "12 Years a Slave" brought their all-knowingness to a crashing halt. Too bad viewers had to wait all the way until 11:59 for the night's one genuine surprise. Seemed like an awfully long wait.

What did you think of the 86th Academy Awards? Tell us in the poll and comments below.

Johnny Carson, Jimmy Kimmel, Kevin Spacey...who knows?

Kevin Spacey speaks during the Oscars at the

(Credit: AP / John Shearer)

Rare is the Oscars TV moment that forces you out of a state of non-wakefulness to laugh at something surprising or unusual - but not so rare is the post-Oscars TV moment, or in last night's case, Jimmy Kimmel's post-Oscars chat with Kevin Spacey.  Spacey is always good on talk shows, and invariably the host asks him to reprise his Johnny Carson, which is very nearly perfect. Check out this portion of the interview (two minutes in) then go here to see a young Jimmy Kimmel perform on "The Tonight Show." Where, oh where have the years gone?

 

Toronto mayor Rob Ford turns up at Kimmel's post-Oscar bash

Mayor Rob Ford sits during a Toronto City

(Credit: Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Getty Images)

Toronto mayor Rob Ford, around whom an entire late night TV comedy industry has revolved the last six months, found his way to Jimmy Kimmel's post-Oscars bash lat night. He will be a guest - also, as if once is not enough - on tonight's "Jimmy Kimmel Live." 

 Here's a clip, plus Kevin Spacey, who tried to enliven a  not particularly lively Oscars last night whenever he was on-camera, as Kimmel's guest...

 

Lena Dunham talks about her own personal airport bust

Lena Dunham speaks onstage during a "Girls" panel

(Credit: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Amusing encounter between Lena Dunham and Seth Meyers last night on "Late Night With Seth Meyers."  She had an incident at the airport...(doesn't everyone?)."This is like 'SVU' times a thousand...I cried and then I called my mom [and she] said, 'Oh my God, do you think anyone tweeted about it?'" She also talks here about her "Saturday Night Live" obsession; she hosts the show March 8.

 

'Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon': So far, so very good

Jerry Seinfeld visited "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy

(Credit: Getty Images / Theo Wargo)

Exactly two weeks in, how's the most important, pivotal and historic programming move of the year - of many years - going so far, referring here of course to "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon"? On the most basic level of them all -- numbers -- almost amazingly well. Thanks to DVR, or time-shifted viewing -- which has essentially become the coin of the realm in late night, making late night TV essentially "watching-the-next-day-during-your-coffee-break" TV -- the show boosted total viewership by 2,000,000 viewers for the first week. That makes for a total of 10.4 million, or the most for one week since Johnny Carson's last week in May of 1992 (just under 20 million -- so, no contest, of course).  And here's the clincher: The average age of that audience is just under 53 years of age, or a drop of around six to seven years in age from Jay's show. Keep in mind -- NBC engineered this whole business as a mean of reversing "Tonight's" graying audience.

  But from a critical perspective, how is this show doing? There's nothing here that suggests I should change my initial impression -- a positive one -- except that maybe I might offer an even more positive spin at this point: This has been an excellent two weeks for Fallon on the air. Sure, the "interviews" often seem more like rolling kaffeeklatsches absent substance, but with plenty of laughs and non sequiturs (the rambling on about the "Rocky" franchise with Paul Rudd, for example). But get past those -- and they do tend to be amusing -- and you have yourself a revitalized, enjoyable, and surprisingly smart new "Tonight."  Fallon's monologues -- of all things! -- have been one of the strong points: Effortless, funny, roll-with-the-punches and smart. Fans knew all along he could nail this show, but the new monologues-on-steroids strategy was certainly something to be concerned about. (Fallon is a fine performer, but he's not a joke machine.) But he's nailed that too.

  Meanwhile, the embedded comedy -- for want of a better term -- has been a standout as well. Here is one example: Last night's "Wastepaper Basketball with LeBron James." Not quite comedy, but a catchy interlude nevertheless. 

 

OWN's 'Lindsay' storylines -- just the (hard, cold) facts

Lindsay Lohan at Sundance, Jan. 20, 2014. Her

(Credit: Getty Images)

OWN's "Lindsay" is coming -- and sooner than you think: March 9, Sunday, 10 p.m. But it is beginning to look as though OWN plans on keeping the media in a fenced off area, so to speak, on this one: No "preview" screeners, no clips and maybe even no interviews (with Amy Rice, the director here; Linds doesn't "do" interviews.... except with Oprah who paid hard cash for this interview/docuseries package.)...

Read more »

Lohan booked on 'Tonight' next week

Lindsay Lohan at Sundance.

(Credit: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

And speaking of one LIndsay Lohan - about to embark on an interesting new TV venture (see below) - she'll appear on "The Tonight Show Starring  Jimmy Fallon"next week - Thursday night, to be exact. And further speaking of interesting matters, snowboarder Shaun White's band, "Bad Things," appears the same night. Also next week - Tina Fey and Randy Newman (Monday); Chelsa Handler and Lea MIchele (Tuesday); Annette Benning, Norm Reedus (Wed.); and Stephen Colbert, Broken Bells (Friday.)   ; 

'Portlandia' returns Thursday

Fred Armisen, left, and Carrie Brownstein from "Portlandia."

(Credit: IFC / Augusta Quirk)

"Portlandia," IFC's very funny/odd/eccentric/loopy/Portlandcentric comedy starring Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen, is back. The fourth season arrives Thursday night at 10, but there's no reason to wait for everything until then because... we have a longish clip from the new season, titled "The Celery Incident." It stars Steve Buscemi as a celery man with a problem.

The video is too explicit for our site, but, be warned, and watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRQ-HnSIY2s

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