"Tony, She Won"
The return of Angela Lansbury -- patron saint of CBS -- drove 7.5 million viewers to the network's Sunday broadcast of the 63rd annual Tony Awards. That's the trophy show's biggest audience in three years and second biggest in the last five.
The three-hour orgy of excess -- the trophy show opened with a montage of the season's musicals, including Elton John at the piano, Liza Minnelli singing, Dolly Parton with performers from "9 to 5," and the cast of Hair performing "Let the Sun Shine In" -- was hosted by Neil Patrick Harris -- star of CBS's youngest skewing series, "How I Met Your Mother."
CBS's Tonycast turned out to be Practically Perfect Counterprogramming to ABC's broadcast of the NBA Finals featuring the Los Angeles Lakers and the Orlando Magic. That's as opposed to the other broadcast networks, which went with the Roll Over Play Dead strategy Sunday night. For NBC that meant a rerun of its miniseries "The Last Templar," which hadn't done well in the ratings the first time around either -- thus can it be said "NBC has done it again!" CW, meanwhile, reran chick-flick "Kiss the "Bride" and an episode of CBS's decomposing drama "Jericho." Fox finished the night in second place among younger viewers with animation nation repeats.
"Billy Eliot," about a miner's son who dreams of becoming a ballet dancer, dominated the trophy dispensing, with 10 trophies. But Lansbury's win, her fifth Tony, for playing the several-sandwiches-short-of-a-picnic medium Madame Arcati in Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit," garnered one of the night's more moving ovations. Lansbury also presented the lifetime achievement award to composer Jerry Herman, who wrote "Mame" -- the musical that won Lansbury her first Tony. Lansbury was once the most popular player on CBS's primetime; her "Murder, She Wrote" clocked 264 episodes over 12 seasons and ruled Sunday nights. Lansbury played Jessica Fletcher, an author-sleuth living in the seemingly quaint but -- based on the mortality rate -- highly dangerous Cabot Cove.
CBS has been bucking a trend with its trophy shows recently. The Tony Awards is the third in a row that did better ratings than a year ago. The list also includes the Grammy Awards and the Academy of Country Music Awards.
And, in case you missed Sunday's Tonycast, here's Neil Patrick Harris's end-of-show musical recap:
Lisa de Moraes
June 8, 2009; 3:32 PM ET
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