Front-running NBC won the 12th week of the not-so-new season, with average audiences of 15.6 million TV homes each night and a 28 percent share of the sets-in-use. CBS was second with 14.8 million homes and a 27 share, while ABC trailed with 12.4 million homes and a 22 share . . .

NBC once again took Wednesday night, formerly owned by ABC, as well as Thursday and Saturday. CBS took Friday and Sunday; ABC, Monday and Tuesday . . .

NBC's "Amazing Stories" popped up to 22nd place, ABC's Barbara Walters special was 23rd and NBC's "Love Is Never Silent" tied for 29th . . .

The premiere of "Mary" on CBS finished 31st, while its new Wednesday night companion, "Foley Square," failed to hang on to Mary's audiences and finished in a tie for 48th . . .

NBC's "Christmas in Washington" tied for 33rd, and Part II of CBS' "Alice in Wonderland" was 35th . . .

ABC's Perry Como Christmas special tied for 43rd, its "Colbys" was 47th and CBS' Johnny Cash Christmas special finished 53rd . . .

Bringing up the rear, as it were, were the Final Five Plus One, which included, in order, CBS' "George Burns Comedy Week," which tied for 66th with NBC's "Punky Brewster," followed by four ABC shows: "Fall Guy," "Ripley's Believe It or Not" and "Our Family Honor," which tied "Shadow Chasers" for 71st and last place for the week ending Dec. 15 . . .

Also in the News

Channel 5 has been notified that from sign-on to sign-off (7 a.m. to 1 a.m.) during the November ratings sweeps, it finished No. 1 among all independent stations in the Top 50 markets . . .

Which reminds us, "M*A*S*H" fans, Channel 5 has seen the light and, starting Monday, Jan. 6, will return the 4077th to its old 7:30 p.m. weeknight time slot . . .

This fall, WTTG moved "M*A*S*H" to 7 p.m. where, during November, it averaged an 11.1 Nielsen rating and a 20 share, good enough to beat out "CBS Evening News" for No. 1 in that time period, but off those 15 ratings it used to get . . .

"Taxi," which did a 10.6/20 at 7:30 in November, will be pulled from the schedule . . .

Also on the 6th, WTTG will replace "Gimme a Break" at 5 p.m. with "One Day at a Time," with "Gimme" going to 6 p.m., replacing "Three's Company," which moves into the 7 p.m. slot, with "Alice" staying put at 5:30 p.m. . . .

A little more on the Connie Chung-back-to-CBS News story . . .

CBS News President Van Gordon Sauter yesterday knocked down a New York report that had Chung replacing Maria Shriver on "CBS Morning News" should Chung return to CBS in August, when her contract with NBC is up . . .

"We're making our run on 'Morning News' with Maria and Forrest [Sawyer]. Period," Sauter said. "There's no thought of a change, and the report was totally wrong" . . .

As for Chung moving from NBC, Sauter would not directly confirm interest in the early-morning news anchor . . .

"We all have a lot of respect for Connie," said Sauter, who used to work with Chung out in Los Angeles, "and we wish her well. But we're not talking to her now -- she's under contract. But ABC would like to have her, too. She'd be great on '20/20,' and I'm sure NBC wants to keep her" . . .

"Hotel" cast members plan to hold a memorial in Los Angeles sometime in January for the late Anne Baxter, who died last Thursday . . .

Channel 26 has named Adrian Malone executive producer of "Smithsonian World." He replaces Martin Carr, one of the creators of the PBS series, who left for a new job in New York last month . . .

Malone, a 12-year veteran of the BBC, has been executive producer of "Cosmos" and "The Ascent of Man" . . .

He will begin work in early January on next year's five "World" telecasts . . . The upcoming January and March editions of "World" had been completed by Carr when he left . . .

And Channel 5 has hired Ron Sarro as an assignment editor and field producer. Sarro had been a reporter for Channel 9 for about five years when he left the station earlier this year during a labor dispute . . . At the time he was let go, he had just been nominated for five local Emmys . . .

Jack Smith has replaced John Martin on ABC's "This Week With David Brinkley" to do the background stories for the ABC show, which is produced here . . . National correspondent Martin joins "ABC World News Tonight." Smith had been on general assignment at the bureau here . . .

NBC announced yesterday that it has ordered production of "Stingray," a one-hour action adventure series starring Nick Mancuso "as a man of mystery who drives a sleek Corvette Stingray hence the title and uses his unusual talents and contacts to fight crime and help people in distress" . . .

The "Stingray" pilot finished second in the national ratings when it aired in mid-July on the network. The Stephen J. Cannell production is expected to join "Dalton" on Sunday nights when NBC drops the Sunday movie in the spring . . .

"Dalton" is about a young but scarred veteran of Vietnam who travels around the country helping people he comes in contact with . . .