Lady Gaga and Cher help lift MTV’s Video Music Awards telecast to best ratings in 8 years

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Critics may have frowned at the program and host Chelsea Handler, but Sunday’s VMA Awards telecast on MTV still drew the show’s best ratings in eight years.

An average of 11.4 million viewers tuned in to the two-hour telecast, a 27% increase over last year, according to the Nielsen Co. It was the ceremony’s most-watched telecast since 2002 -- the year that Michael Jackson mistakenly accepted the non-existent Artist of the Millennium award -- when 11.9 million viewers showed up.


This year, with the ceremony returning to Los Angeles after taking place in New York last year, online buzz centered on outrageous fashion statements by Lady Gaga (wearing an all-meat dress) and Cher, along with more than a few critical brickbats for first-time host Handler. Reviewers complained that her opening fell flat -- including a skit where Lindsay Lohan lectured her on sobriety -- and contained humor that, according to the Washington Post, fell ‘a few degrees below crass.’

-- Scott Collins (follow me on Twitter @scottcollinsLAT)