A Night With All the Excitement of an Envelope Opening

Times Television Critic

You know you're in trouble when the evening's highlight is a McDonald's commercial.

They should have hired a streaker. They should have hired Jimmy Swaggart. They should have brought back Sacheen Littlefeather. They should have set off cherry bombs. Anything .

Monday night's Academy Awards telecast on ABC was the Michael Dukakis and George Bush of TV awards programs: parched, drab and leaden. You kept hoping they'd draft Mario Cuomo.

It wasn't that it was a bad show, only that it curiously lacked oomph and energy in observing the 60th anniversary of the Academy Awards.

There were some inspired moments.

Best segment: Foreign-dubbed American movie clips as an introduction to the foreign-language film Oscar. Old clips are the highlight of every Oscar program.

Best presenter: Billy Crystal, demonstrating how to imitate movie stars by using big cutout pictures.

Worst presenters: "Dirty Dancing" stars Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, who seemed to be having a private dialogue. On second thought, in view of some of the evening's other dialogues, maybe it was a good thing that it was private.

Most merciful acceptance speech: Jeremy Thomas, producer of best-picture winner "The Last Emperor," who said, "I'd like to thank about 30,000 people"--but didn't.

The biggest hair, meanwhile, belonged to Rob Lowe. The longest story went to Thalberg Award-winner Billy Wilder, whose anecdote about his career lasted almost as long as his career.

Most confusing aspect of the telecast: Identifying movies and performers after the clips. Most belabored: The nominated song segment led by Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli. Most grating: Host Chevy Chase's personal jokes with himself.

Flashiest moment: The surprise appearance by RoboCop, as Pee-wee Herman hung from the ceiling.

Biggest gaffe: Opening the show by introducing Robert Wise, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, and immediately going to a commercial. He had to be re-introduced when the program returned.

Most superfluous greeting: "Hi, I'm Eddie Murphy" (from Eddie Murphy).

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