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It is no secret that last year’s Oscars telecast produced the lowest ratings in the history of the show.


Hugh Jackman is not going to make that much of a difference this year.


A better way to watch the Oscars

Hey, I like Wolverine as much as the next guy, but replacing the traditional stand-up comic host with a song-and-dance man is not going to bring the TV audience back.


Without a mass-appeal movie to root for - nominating “The Dark Knight” or “WALL-E” could have solved a lot of problems - the Oscars telecast on Feb. 22 could be in for some serious trouble.


With “Slumdog Millionaire” as its front-runner, the telecast is in dire need of some assistance.


And I am only too happy to help.


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences didn’t ask for my help, of course, but I feel an obligation to the organization because I write about the movies, and the academy is all about the movies. They can’t help it if they don’t know how to put on a good TV show about the movies.


Although the choice of host may not be perfect, and the best motion picture nominees might not reflect the public’s tastes, I think I can save the show.


Let’s face it; it doesn’t take a genius to watch “American Idol” or “The Real Housewives of Orange County.”


But the Oscars telecast is much more of a challenge.


It is overly long, and requires a significant sacrifice on your part. You are being asked to devote an entire evening to this event, which is time that could be better spent with your family, doing charity work or sitting at a video poker machine in Las Vegas.


The reason people don’t enjoy the Oscars anymore is that they don’t have a strategy on how to watch the show.


Anybody who watches the Oscars telecast without a strategy is just asking for trouble.


As a public service, we are going to help you plan your Oscar night, assuming your Oscar night does not involve putting on formal attire, climbing into the back of a limousine, sitting in the audience at the Kodak Theatre and waiting for your name to be called.


Read this plan. Study this plan. Tape this plan to your refrigerator so you won’t forget it.


1. Food: Think of this night as the Super Bowl of Movies. Oscar night is just like the Super Bowl, only the Super Bowl had Bruce Springsteen, and the Oscars ignored Bruce Springsteen (his song from “The Wrestler” should have been nominated). Anyway, just as you plan a special menu for the Super Bowl, you should plan a special menu for the Oscars. Instead of one big meal, Oscar-night food should be fun finger food that can be eaten throughout the night. If you’re into themes, you might consider Indian food this year, assuming a “Slumdog” sweep. Tandoori sounds a whole lot more appealing than whatever food theme you might have dreamed up for last year’s “No Country for Old Men.”


2. Turn off the volume during the pre-show: You’re only interested in what celebrities are wearing anyway, so why set yourself up to be annoyed? Believe me, you won’t miss anything. The dolts hired to host these pre-shows will say nothing you need to hear. They’ll either be killing time with mindless drivel, or stating the obvious. Do you really need to be told that the person in front of you is wearing a white dress? And “red-carpet interviews” are not going to reveal any medical cures or Middle East solutions.


3. Bathroom breaks: Schedule your first break after the announcement of the best supporting actor category. It’s the first major prize, but follows Hugh’s production number, and awards for costume design, animated feature and makeup. Although you won’t be familiar with the winners in those categories, it can be fun to see the nominees’ work. Go to the bathroom before the start of the show, and hold it in until after someone comes up to the stage to accept Heath Ledger’s award.


4. Spot the seat-fillers: This can be turned into a drinking game. Try to memorize the seating arrangement when the camera pans the celebrity-filled audience at the start of the show. Then, each time the camera is turned toward the audience, and you notice that a nominee has been replaced by a seat-filler, drink a shot of tequila.


5. Multi-task: You can enjoy the Oscars and accomplish other things at the same time. It’s all about timing. You don’t want to miss the big awards near the end of the show, but there is plenty of time for chores and preparation for the workweek when they’re giving out the awards for animated short, live-action short, documentary short subject, documentary feature, sound editing, sound mixing and foreign language film.


And the Oscar goes to ...


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