Mandi Bierly
February 24, 2009 AT 06:48 AM EST

The 81st Annual Academy Awards drew 36.3 million viewers to ABC Sunday night — that’s an increase of 4.3 million people from last year’s telecast, which remains the lowest-rated ever. The Alphabet’s official red carpet pre-show saw a matching 13 percent increase in year-to-year audience, averaging 24.3 million viewers. While Barbara Walters’ annual pre-show special (11.6 million viewers) was on par with its 2008 performance, Jimmy Kimmel’s after-show special with guest Mel Gibson (4.3 million) increased its crowd by 16 percent.

In other ratings news, Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse dipped last Friday to 4.3 million viewers, an 11 percent decline from its series premiere. The show’s lead-in on Fox, The Sarah Connor Chronicles (3.9 million), was actually up 4 percent week-to-week. NBC’s Friday Night Lights (3.9 million) rose 13 percent. 

More TV news:

Oscar ratings up from last year’s record low

Ken Tucker reviews the Oscars telecast

EW’s Oscars Central

Abby West on Dollhouse: Things are looking up

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