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Oscars 2013: Telecast length padded, but not historically so

February 24, 2013

With rehearsals for this year's Oscars show clocking in at nearly four hours, some wondered if the telecast could give 2002's record four-hour,  23-minute marathon a run for its money.

Thanks to some judicious, last-minute trimming, the Seth MacFarlane-hosted Academy Awards ended up finishing at the three-hour, 35-minute  mark, well under the top five longest shows from the past two decades.

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For those with misty, water-colored memories, let us recap the dishonor roll:

1. 2002: Four hours, 23 minutes (host, Whoopi Goldberg; best picture winner: "A Beautiful Mind")

2. 2000: Four hours, 5 minutes (host, Billy Crystal; winner, "American Beauty")

3. 1999: Four hours, 2 minutes (host, Whoopi Goldberg; winner, "Shakespeare in Love")

4. 2007: Three hours, 51 minutes (host, Ellen DeGeneres; winner, "The Departed")

5. 1998: Three hours, 47 minutes (host, Billy Crystal; winner, "Titanic")

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So, even though this year's show may have felt longer (after acknowledging 9-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis in the audience, MacFarlane joked that 86-year-old "Amour" star Emmanuelle Riva was 9 when the program started), it didn't come close to Whoopi/Billy proportions. It was not, in the words of one of the songs from the "Les Miserables" medley, "One Day More," except if you watched on the East Coast when the clock struck midnight as MacFarlane and Kristin Chenoweth sang the consolatory "Here's to the Losers."

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And, really, given the Oscars' restrictive format, its 215-minute running time can't be helped. "It's two hours of sparkling entertainment spread over a four-hour show," host Johnny Carson quipped in 1979. Of course, on Carson's watch the entertainment was, at its best, sparkling and, at worst, bearable, making it several notches better than this year's show.

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Glenn Whipp

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