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A blue Joan Rivers returns to 'The Tonight Show'

Joan Rivers visits "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy

(Credit: Getty Images / Theo Wargo)

Joan Rivers returned to "The Tonight Show" last night after a 28-year absence marked by recriminations, ill feelings, and insidery show biz back-biting.

And of course she was late to the set.

In fact, Rivers had a very brief cameo on Jimmy Fallon's very first show last month, but let's call last night the first real return.

But no matter. History of sorts was made and even if the return of the former late night queen was a bit blue, a little bit muddled -- and utterly devoid of truth -- so be it. Joan returned to the set that made her famous.

The best part: A nice gracious nod to Johnny -- no last name needed, right? -- which I suppose means no hard feelings anymore.

The interview pointed up the weakest aspect of the new host who otherwise -- as my few readers well know -- I have praised to the Studio 6B rafters. He is in fact doing a bang-up job, except his interviews tend to be exercises in non-information, as last night revealed in abundance.

Why did you not get invited back, he asked her?

He knows why, of course. Everybody knows why. But I also suspected the question was basically just a set-up for one of her oldest jokes.

The reason (if you actually don't know, by the way) is the second to last clip here. While Rivers was chief stand-in at  Carson's "Tonight" -- one of TV's greatest gigs because Johnny did take quite a few days off in the latter years as you'll recall -- she took a job at Fox to host a late night show and direct competitor to Carson. She never told Johnny; he saw her move as a betrayal (and it was certainly that) and he never spoke to her again. Rivers has made all sorts of excuses over the years -- oh, Edgar made her do it! (Edgar Rosenberg, her husband and agent, now deceased.) She couldn't tell Johnny because that would scuttle the deal. And so on.

But the fact remains. Joan betrayed Johnny.

Jay Leno, out of respect to Carson, kept her off his show. Jimmy, who's had her on "Late Night," certainly felt no compunction to do the same. In fact, he's right -- there is no reason. It's all ancient history. (Her "Late Show" essentially launched Fox back in October of '86, and the network fired her the following May.)

Another odd sidebar: David Letterman, who revered Johnny, buried the hatchet with her about four years ago.   

Clips. The second one is from her "Tonight" days, and is fascinating because Johnny holds up the photo from Joan's first date on "Tonight," 21 years earlier. Jimmy did the same last night. 

Meanwhile, I've put up the Letterman interview, too. Dave lays it all out very well. Infinitely better than last night's somewhat sad return.

She was often funny during her long association at "Tonight," and could've -- just possibly, maybe, who knows! -- even been the next "Tonight" host. But alas.

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?


ABC to stream the Oscars live online

An interesting first, and potentially helpful first for those away from a TV set Sunday - ABC will stream the Oscars ceremony and preshow this Sunday on "Watch ABC." And yes, one does need to be a subscriber to one of the participating cable providers (which include Optimum, Verizon FiOS, and AT&T U-Verse.)  The news release:

The Oscars preshow and full awards telecast will stream...

Read more »

Super Bowl XLVIII best ad of them all: Seinfeld's

"SEINFELD": It aired one time as "The Seinfeld

(Credit: NBC)

We have a winner and the winner is Jerry. Jerry Seinfeld stole the ad bowl of Super Bowl XLVIII, and that, my friends, is a wrap.

Why did I love this ad, which almost didn't seem like an ad -- which may have answered my own question? Clip below.  In part because I'm a fan of "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" -- which this promoted -- and because "Seinfeld" remains TV's greatest comedy 75 years in, so a nice little minishow in the big show, which happened to have been set in New York (or New Jersey, but you get the point) made it even better.

  The top of my piece for the best Super Bowl ads in Monday's Newsday:

1.) "Seinfeld Reunion/Crackle:" That old tease, Jerry Seinfeld, told listeners of WFAN last week that his "Seinfeld" reunion wasn't a Super Bowl commercial, then amended that by saying it was "not not" one either. The dead giveaway there. But as it appeared last night, at Tom's Restaurant, with Jerry and George, and Newman supplying the kicker, this was the Super Bowl ad we all live for -- a fun, well-executed surprise that made us (me) miss "Seinfeld" all over again. Plus, his "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" is worth the plug.

  And here's more. Seinfled has sent out this quote, which I suppose is his way of wiggling out of saying he wasn't doing a Super Bowl ad:

 “Fox approached Larry and me about doing some kind of ‘Seinfeld’ reunion for the halftime broadcast because of the New York connection. So we thought throwing Jerry, George and Newman into a 'Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee’ was a fun way to do it. Larry and I wrote the script in one sitting, just like old times, and working with him, Jason and Wayne was a total blast as it always was.”

(Newsday app readers please go to




Jay Leno's 'Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee' is now live

Jay Leno arrives at the 2013 Vanity Fair

(Credit: Getty Images/Pascal Le Segretain)

Crackle's "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" is one of the best things on TV...umm, the Internet -- but you know what I mean -- and today, I think we can actually say it is also "must-see:" Jay Leno's turn in the passenger seat has arrived, and I've seen...funny, as hell. Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno are old friends, and between them own probably every single rare car and/or motorcycle  between Malibu and Tuscaloosa. These dudes know their comedy and their wheels (and their wheels are primo...)

 Take a look, and you are welcome... 

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