TV Notes: Oscar Hits a New Low

Icelandic singer Björk may have shocked fashion sensibilities by wearing a swan outfit on the red carpet. But it may have been Oscar himself who laid the biggest egg at the Academy Awards.

Ratings for Sunday's festivities were the lowest ever since Nielsen Media research began tracking the broadcasts in 1953.

The show scored a 26.2 rating. The previous low was 27.3 in 1986, the year Out of Africa was named Best Picture.

Let's not get totally gloomy. An audience of more than 42 million people still watched the event. But compare that to the January premiere of Survivor 2, which was viewed by some 45 million.

In 1998, an estimated 55.2 million tuned in to the Oscars to see Titanic take most of the major awards.

ABC spokesman Larry Hyam added that 72 million people saw at least part of the event.

Perhaps the gangsters of The Sopranos put a hit on this year's show. HBO aired a new episode during the Oscar telecast.

Fire Play

How do you top David Blaine's locking himself in a block of ice for three days? David Copperfield will try next week by subjecting himself to a tornado of fire.

CBS will broadcast the April 3 event from New York City. Copperfield will climb into a 20-foot-high contraption that reaches 2,000 degrees.

It's a man-made indoor tornado with wind that whips around in a vortex. "I stay in the center of this thing and it gets set on fire and I've got to survive being in the center of 2,000 degrees of heat, which is astonishing," Copperfield says.

Copperfield recently was subjected to the third degree from gossip columnists who accused him of using his relationship with supermodel Claudia Schiffer as a ruse to stifle rumors about his sexuality, and that he paid her to do it. "It was pretty crazy," he said. "I mean it didn't make sense. "She wouldn't give up six years of her life for money, so it made no sense. People believed it. It was so funny."

But those rumors might have come to an end after his recent guest appearance on Saturday Night Live, when gossip columnists reported that he and his new girlfriend, Belgian model Ambre Frisque, got quite frisky backstage.

Cusack's Chicago Hope

For Joan Cusack, starring in her first TV show is exactly like coming home.

The two-time Academy Award nominee, for Working Girl and In & Out, plays a Chicago high school teacher who tries to cope with life, her female friends and a boyfriend in What About Joan?, premiering tonight on ABC-TV at 9:30 ET after Dharma & Greg.

Cusack pressed for the show to be shot in her Chicago hometown to give it a real neighborhood flavor.

"I'm bringing a little bit of Hollywood to the Midwest," Cusack said. I'm on the first live audience show in Chicago. I'm sort of breaking ground here."

Kyle Chandler of Early Edition fame co-stars as Cusack's boyfriend. "You can expect a funny show that deals with relationships and what goes on in people's lives and funny situations we find ourselves in," Cusack said.

ABCNEWS.com's Buck Wolf and Nancy Chandross and ABCNEWS Radio contributed to this report.

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