Dick Clark has been recovering from a stroke and, as he noted at the beginning of ''New Year's Rockin' Eve,'' he is still re-learning how to speak. It was difficult to listen to someone so famous for being smooth and professional as he struggled with some words. I even wondered if he might have prerecorded some of his segments to make it easier, but Clark said he was broadcasting live -- and you would think prerecording would have prevented his botching of the countdown to 2006.
For all that, you could still detect the old Clark's enthusiasm as he spoke. And his presence was a reminder to people that a stroke may slow you down, but it doesn't necessarily stop you. Nor does it remove your joy and your humor. Kirk Douglas has been carrying that message to the public for some time, and now Clark has underscored it -- and used a big annual party as the occasion to do so.
I was far more bothered by what seemed like very short segments, and a lot of breaks (for commercials and local cut-ins), in the first half-hour of the telecast. While I know that a lot of TV sets were going to get turned off right after midnight, ABC aggressively milked the time leading up to the new year. Of course, when it comes to making money, why would a simple change in the calendar have any impact on network thinking?