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Tyra, ‘Top Model’ back

Supermodel-turned-talk show host Tyra Banks recently made headlines after a few unflattering photos — that showcase her weight gain — were published in the tabloids. But she looks darn good in the promotional pics for season eight of “America’s Next Top Model,” premiering tonight at 8 on the CW.

Tonight’s two-hour episode of the hit reality series features the 32 aspiring models being put through their paces at a supermodel boot camp led by runway expert J. Alexander and make-up artist and photographer Jay Manuel, who also hosts “Canada’s Next Top Model.” The new contenders get to meet Miss Banks, but only 13 will be chosen to move into a Hollywood Hills mansion and get a photo shoot with one of the judges, Nigel Barker. Music producer Jermaine Dupri is also on hand as a special guest this week.

Besides Miss Banks, Mr. Barker and Mr. Alexander, 1960s supermodel Twiggy also returns to the judging table. Contestants lucky enough to make it through roughly two-thirds of the competition will embark on a trip to Sydney, Australia.

The wannabe catwalk queens include a Russian mail-order bride, a stay-at-home mom, and two plus-size models. It should be interesting to see how a more Rubenesque Miss Banks interacts with them.

Oscars, Lady O tops

Oprah Winfrey beat Barbara Walters at her own game during Oscars week.

Miss Winfrey’s first Academy Awards interview special reached 15.4 million viewers last Thursday on ABC. Miss Walters’ special on Oscars night, her 26th, drew an audience of 14.5 million, Associated Press reports, citing data released yesterday from Nielsen Media Research.

The two media titans made a point of saying they were not in competition, and their shows had separate themes. Miss Winfrey set up Oscar winners to interview other Oscar winners — Julia Roberts and George Clooney, for example. Miss Walters did her traditional interview show on Sunday, this year with Helen Mirren, Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson.

Miss Walters’ show ran before the Oscars in Eastern time zones, and after the ceremony out West. Miss Winfrey’s special ran on Thursday, directly following ABC’s hottest show, “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Yet for the network ratings competition last week, the arithmetic was simple: three nights of “American Idol” trumps one night of the Academy Awards.

The Oscars were seen by 40.2 million viewers on Sunday, up from last year’s audience of 38.8 million, Nielsen said.

Even though that led ABC to its best ratings week in more than a year, Fox took the crown because it aired an “American Idol” special Thursday to go with its normal two nights of competition.

Fox averaged 15 million viewers in prime time last week, while ABC averaged 13 million. CBS had 11.2 million, and NBC had 8 million. Following were the CW with 3 million and the I network with 680,000.

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