Right there plop among the pulp and porno palaces of 42nd Street in New York -- the veritable epicenter of American sleaziness -- an old painted sign beams down with giddily unwitting irony. It says, "Get more out of life -- go to a movie!"

During the just-completed and crucial November "sweeps," when ratings help determine TV ad costs, it would have been just as ironic if the TV industry got together for commercials that chimed, "Get more out of life -- watch television."

TV trotted out the tawdries for the November sweeps. It turned out to be the November Peeps. There may never have been a time in TV's history in which networks and stations were more flagrant or excessive about trying to lure viewers with cheap thrills and coy smut.

One would think the networks had cooked themselves into a goose again, that protests and outcries from the Bible Belt would have called for new government crackdowns on "permissiveness" in programs. Oddly, there was no clamor. Perhaps people have either given up on government crackdowns or just given up on television.

The conventional wisdom that says "there is no sex on television" may be true in a narrow and literal sense, but the suggestiveness is rampant and rather desperate. Much of it is contained in the promotion for shows, both on TV and in print, and no network has blazed a tackier trail of prurient appeals than the leader in TV teasies, ABC. Amoung the 80 million people watching "Jaws," perhaps 20 million were children. They and the rest of the audience were treated to these two program promos aired during the film:

For "Hart to Hart" an announcer shrieked, "Jennifer poses as a hard-core lady of the night to help bait a killer!" Shot of knife. Shot of hooker on the street.

For "Charlie's Angels" an announcer slurped, "Charlie's angels hit the streets -- HOT!" An angel done up as a prostitute purred, "We're very good at what we do." And the announcer returned to pant, "-- and learn some tricks no angel has ever dared!"

Is it fair to judge television programs by the way they are promoted? Absolutely. What the promotions during the November sweeps tell us is exactly what kinds of programs broadcast executives think will attract the largest audiences during what is for them an economically critical time. They choose to appeal to the worst in viewers, time and time again.

In ads placed in TV Guide, America's biggest-selling magazine, ABC tried to make even its family-aimed comedies sound faintly filthy, or at least low-minded. "Happy Days" was ballyhooed with the proposition, "Joanie a centerfold model? Not if Fonz can help it!" An adjoining ad for "Angie" promises that "Brad's houseguest likes 'fun and games.' Angie wants out!"

Next, on "Three's Company": "Chrissy's 'bathtub bash' leads to complications." On "Taxi": "Elaine struts her stuff at a men-only party!" And on "Hart to Hart": "Mysterious temptress takes the Harts for a ride."

The previous week, the Tuesday night lineup was sold along the same lines. "Happy Days" would feature "a red-hot burlesque show," "Angie would find "Angie's boyfriend back. . with ony one thing on his mind," "Three's Company" would "follow the fun when luscious actress auditions at Jack's mountain love nest" and "Alex battles Louie. . . and Elaine's the prize!" on "Taxi."

"Hart to Hart" was up to its adenoids in temptresses again: "Jennifer works red-light district to track hooker's killer!" And two weeks later: "Ruthless beauty traps Harts in chamber of death!"

But when it comes to hints of kinky sex. the cake is probably taken by this hot plotline for ABC's "Fantasy Island": "Tatoo defies Roarke to pursue forbidden love!" Something tall, dark and buxom, no doubt.

Obviously the ads were promising more that the shows were in a position to deliver -- and just as well. An ad for a "Taxi" episode teased viewers with "Is Latka leaving he garage. . . for love?" Those who watched the show learned it was not love for some gorgeous sack of potato chips but love of country, his native land, that was turning Latka's head.

Perhaps it's not the sexual monomania of these ads that makes them offensive, but their tirelessness. A viewer would be justified in feeling that the networks considered him susceptible to appeals only to his libido, and that no end of these would satisfy him.

Local stations proved just as bad as the networks. No -- worse, because they try to turn even the news into a massage parlor for the mind. Baltimore's poor excures for local stations were all too typical in trying to boost circulation with so-called special reports on the usual sex or violence (or both) themes.

"Action News" (hey, that sounds sexy already), carried by Channel 11, Baltimore's NBC affiliate, offered "The Sex Offender" in five parts, while the competition, ABC-affiliate Channel 13's "Eyewitness News," dealt with theat earth-shaking subject, "When Red-Hot Lovers Cool Off," asking viewers, "Has your love life lost its sparkle?"

The same station also ran a five-part special on "Crimes Against Children," pitched with a full page TV Guide ad showing a young boy accompanied by the caption, "He's too young to see pornographic films. But not too young to be in one." Also, said the ad, as a shamelessly lurid lure, "Parental Discretion Strongly Advised." What kid would want to miss that?

Donald McGannon, president of Westinghouse Broadcasting, which owns Channel 13, made a lot of self righteous hay a few seasons ago about his refusal to let the station carry ABC's supposedly sexy series "Soap," which the station subsequently decided was fit for the viewers of Baltimore after all.

Also deemed fit was a series of sexy topics that by some coincidence had all been scheduled for sweep month on Channel 13's "People Are Talking" and "PM Magazine" shows. Like: "I posed naked for a woman's magazine"; "A revealing look at sexy fashions"; "The hottest teenybopper sex symbol"; and "Hollywood's hottest night spot." All in one week.

Johnny Carson did the public a great service by making them sweeps-conscious throughout the month with jokes in his monologue about the purple attractions on the evening news. The joke backfired on Tuesday night when Carson told the studio audience that networks schedule extraordinary shows for the sweep month and someone called out, "Is that why you're here?" He had to admit it was.

Carson ended sweep month with a wild sketch lampooning it till-vision news. Assisted by shapely women in bikinis, he barked out such mock headlines as "Four topless women surgeons perform a vasectomy on the Loch Ness monster!" and "Prince Charles caught in motel room with an inflatable commoner!"

Still, the real thing may be beyond parody. ABC's "Vega $" ended October with another tasteful and thoughtful dramatic presentation -- "Bikini models stalked by frenzied killer; Vegas' most beautiful women in grip of terror!" -- and celebrated November in its usual esoteric style: "Porn kings savagely murdered! Is a killer 'cleaning up, Las Vegas?" and, "Psycho assaults showbiz superstar. . . and plans to attack her again!"

You have to wonder what effect this kind of single-minded barrage has on viewers, especially young ones. How do mommies and daddies explain such plotlines as this one for "Charlie's Angels": "Angels hit campus to find out who's making love slaves of beautiful coeds!" Love slaves and hookers were about the only forms of romantic involvement dealt with in any of these programs.

As one of our favorite psychos -- a hooker-stomper -- was saying as the sweeps ended, on ABC's tepid but lustfully promoted movie "Love for Rent": "You people turn the world into a cesspool! Your're animals! You belong in a zoo!"

He must have been talking to television executives.