Now Here's the News
The national Nielsens are in on the Thursday night debut of CBS' new fall series, "Hometown," and they prove to be a pleasant, if modest, surprise for the network . . .
The series, which will be up against NBC's strong "A-Team" in the 8 p.m. Tuesday slot once the season gets under way in late September, came close to winning its time period in the Thursday outing . . .
A brand new "20/20" on ABC had a 13.9 national Nielsen rating and a 24 percent share of the audience, but "Hometown" was right behind with a 13.8/24. A "Hill Street Blues" rerun on NBC (aren't they all?) posted a 13.0/23 . . .
"Hometown," the continuing saga of seven old pals who met again in the '80s to remind each other how wonderful they all were in the '60s, had averaged only a 12.7 rating and a 22 share in Nielsen's 10 big cities, including an even more modest 12.1/21 here in Washington . . .
"We did very nicely," CBS research director Mike Eisenberg said Saturday. He had predicted, on the basis of the overnight ratings, that good numbers in southern markets like Houston and Dallas suggested it would do well in the rural markets (Airwaves had thought the series wouldn't play with real Hometown America, which shows you what he knows) . . .
Meanwhile, a telephone poll on the syndicated "Entertainment Tonight" Thursday night showed 7,974 of the folks who pay 50 cents for the privilege of voting said they liked the new CBS series, while 2,001 said they didn't . . .
Newsweek reports today that Bill Cosby threatened to walk off the set of his NBC series, "The Cosby Show," when NBC censors blacked out a sign protesting apartheid he had placed in a scene on this season's premiere episode . . .
Censors, saying the network cannot endorse a controversial position on which there are two sides, objected to the "Abolish apartheid" sign on the bedroom door of Cosby's TV son Theo . . .
Said Cosby: "There may be two sides to apartheid in Archie Bunker's house but it's impossible that the Huxtables (his TV family) would be on any side but one. That sign will stay on that door and I've told NBC that if they still want it down, or if they try to edit it out, there will be no show" . . .
It's still there . . . Also in the News
"CBS Evening News With Dan Rather" will be "CBS Evening News Without Dan Rather" again tonight as the anchor, on strict orders from his doctor, continues to rest what's left of his voice . . .
Rather was stricken with some kind of a viral infection early last week, with lots of flu and cold symptoms. Medication permitted him to stay on the air until Wednesday, when his voice gave out totally . . .
Forrest Sawyer and Mike Wallace stood in for him the rest of the week but Bob Schieffer, the network's number one backup anchor, has returned from a brief vacation and will take over the broadcast tonight for as long as Dan is absent . . .
While the indications are firmer every day for the near-certain sale of the Evening News Association's four TV stations, including Channel 9 here, morale at WDVM remains reasonably high . . .
Ed Pfeiffer, vice president and general manager, is taking a week's vacation but he plans to stay "very close to a phone" . . .
Sources at the station indicate that some of the shorter-term employes are "understandably nervous" . . .
But the veterans, who went through a change of management in 1978 when Post-Newsweek Stations and the ENA traded their stations in Detroit and Washington to avoid cross-ownership problems in those markets, are so far pretty calm about the prospects . . .
Incidentally, WDVM management and Maureen Bunyan -- who has been working without a contract for some time now -- are reportedly due to get serious any day now . . .
The appearance for a couple of hours of actor Sam Neill Thursday night on Channel 26 as the station aired the last episode of his "Reilly: Ace of Spies" netted $16,075 . . .
That raised the total of WETA's current 14-day fund-raising drive to $145,387 after eight nights . . . The station said Friday that after a slow start the drive is now running 3 percent above last year's total at a similar stage . . .
The "Reilly: Ace of Spies" total made it the second-best money-maker so far, behind the National Geographic retrospective last Wednesday, which raised about $18,000 . . .
And, lest we forget, while Sam Neill was in town he told Captain Airwaves he thought the best-made American TV series were "Hill Street Blues" and "St. Elsewhere" . . .
With a nudge from its standards and practices department, CBS Entertainment has dropped plans for a seven-hour docudrama that was to have been based on the 1982 novel "Saigon," written by former Reuter correspondent Anthony Grey . . .
CBS has been chary of the docudrama form since a controversy arose over the veracity of its "Atlanta Child Murders" mini-series last winter . . .
Apparently the sprawling novel, depicting 50 years of life in Saigon, ending with the American rout in 1975, proved a little daunting, since it dealt with recent history that is still being argued over . . .
"Saigon" tells the story of four imaginary families, including a powerful American political tribe, from 1925 on, introducing into their lives a variety of real historical figures like Ho Chi Minh. It was this novelistic toying with facts that apparently put off CBS . . .
Alan Landsburg Productions also tried to sell the idea to NBC but it was turned down there, too . . . Lots More Dots
Channel 32 has received a $292,465 grant from the Department of Commerce's public telecommunications facilities program . . .
Also at WHMM, Kojo Nnamdi takes over as host of "Evening Exchange" starting tonight . . .
A study by the National Commission on Working Women concludes that TV moms, dads and children are much wealthier and far more problem-free than their real-life counterparts . . .
As a result, the study said, "the reality gap" between TV characters and TV viewers may be as wide today as it was in the 1950s . . . when life was serene on such favorites as "Father Knows Best" . . .
The study, called "Prime Time Kids: An Analysis of Children and Families on Television," was based on 15 situation comedies and eight dramas with children as characters. They were monitored for five weeks in June and July to see if they "reflected the concerns of the country's 20 million working mothers" . . .
"Those reflections were virtually nonexistent," the study concluded. Among specific findings:
*Almost half of all TV families are upper-middle-class . . .
*All of TV's single mothers are middle-class or wealthier. In reality, the study says, 69 percent of all homes headed by women are in poverty. There are no poor families on TV . . .
*No black children on TV, except those in "The Cosby Show," live with their natural parents and 80 percent of all black children are upper-middle-class or above. In reality, black children live in a variety of family settings and one of two lives in poverty . . .
*Child day-care centers do not exist on TV . . .
Alexis Herman, commission chairman, said "American viewers deserve more from this medium than repetitious portrayals of affluent families where mothers work as spies, corporate presidents and oil tycoons" . . .
The Washington-based National Commission on Working Women represents women in professional occupations . . . And Finally
New York journalist Maureen Orth and NBC News vice president Timothy J. Russert are the proud parents of Luke Orth Russert, who weighed in at 9 pounds 13 ounces when he arrived Thursday evening at Lennox Hill Hospital . . .