ABC in New York couldn't confirm Friday . . . but syndicated columnist Marilyn Beck reports that Columbia Pictures TV and series star Robert (R.J.) Wagner have taken it upon themselves to cancel "Lime Street" . . .
Six months ago, ABC Entertainment had high hopes for "Lime Street," which starred the usually bankable Wagner as an international insurance investigator who lived with two daughters and his father out in hunt-country Virginia . . .
ABC was sure it would help on Saturday night at 9, where "The Luuvvv Boat" had sprung a serious leak last spring . . .
The network also signed Samantha Smith (the schoolgirl from Maine who had gained international fame as a good-will ambassador in 1983 after corresponding with the Soviet leadership) to play one of Wagner's daughters . . .
In August, Smith died in a plane crash while returning from location shooting in Great Britain. That tragedy, which would have necessitated an eventual story line change, plus a series of poor scripts clouded the series even before it got on the air the week preceding the regular-season start in late September . . .
More importantly for the show's prospects, NBC introduced "The Golden Girls" and "227" in the same 9 p.m. time slot. In its preseason premiere, "Lime Street" debuted in a solid 29th-place finish. But audiences quickly switched to NBC and the show dropped first to 47th and then to 63rd the next two outings . . .
On Oct. 12, up against a weak American League playoff game on NBC, "Lime Street" climbed to 33rd . . .
That gave the show a 13.0 Nielsen rating and a 22 percent audience share for its four outings but only a 12.4/21 against NBC's shows. . . Four days later, ABC put the series on "hiatus," insisting at the time that the show would be back in January and claiming the time off would "give us the opportunity to redirect the production to focus on Wagner and his talents" . . .
Apparently, ABC couldn't find a "protected" time slot on its schedule for the series' return. That upset Columbia and R.J., who didn't think much of the new scripts, anyway, so they yanked it . . .
Among the stars scheduled to participate in the NBC special Jan. 20 marking the national holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr.: Elizabeth Taylor, Charlton Heston, Eddie Murphy, Bob Dylan, Quincy Jones, Barbara Walters, Dick Gregory and Joan Baez . . .
Also on hand will be Ashford and Simpson; the Pointer Sisters; Peter, Paul and Mary; the Alvin Ailey Dancers; Debbie Allen; Wynton Marsalis; Bill Cosby; Neil Diamond; Harry Belafonte; Patti La Belle and Cicely Tyson . . .
The two-hour program, hosted by Stevie Wonder, will originate from the Kennedy Center here, the Civic Center in Atlanta and Radio City Music Hall in New York . . .
Also in the News
The White House announcement Friday that President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev would exchange three- to five-minute New Year's messages to each other's nation on Wednesday caught NBC and CBS in a slight bind . . .
Both will be carrying the Rose Bowl parade at 1 p.m., when the messages are due to air both here and in the Soviet Union (9 p.m., Moscow time) . . .
ABC, which airs "All My Children" at that hour, announced immediately Friday it would carry the Gorbachev message between 1 and 1:15 p.m. . . . with Peter Jennings anchoring the wraparound and perhaps interviewing Soviet officials in the bargain . . .
Late Friday, NBC said it will air the message "sometime between 1 and 1:30 p.m." with specifics to be released early this week. The network begins its Fiesta Bowl broadcast at 1:30 . . .
CBS, which starts Cotton Bowl coverage at 1:30, said it would delay its decision until today . . .
John Buren, who had a cup of coffee with Channel 4 here a few years back, has been named weeknight sportscaster for Channel 13 in Baltimore . . .
Buren, a Washington area native, went on to work for WSB in Atlanta after leaving WRC. Most recently he has been with KGO, the ABC-owned station in San Francisco . . .
Buren will replace Lou Tilley, who has taken a TV job in Philadelphia, at the end of January . . .
"CBS Evening News" anchor Dan Rather postponed the start of a two-week vacation Friday when the story of the Vienna and Rome terrorist attacks broke that morning. He handled news breaks during the day and anchored the news show Friday night . . .
Bob Schieffer will sit in for Dan all this week and Charles Kuralt will handle "Evening News" Jan. 6-8. Rather returns on Thursday, Jan. 9 . . .
Wait, There's More
The final "Monday Night Football" game on ABC Dec. 23, between the L.A. Raiders and the L.A. Rams, averaged a 19.8 Nielsen rating and a 32 percent audience share in the national rankings . . .
As a result, the 16 Monday night games averaged a 19.7 rating overall, representing a 17 percent increase (from 16.9) over 1984 . . .
Five other ABC NFL primetime "specials" -- two on Thursdays and Sundays, one on Friday -- averaged only a 14.8 rating, but even that's up 11 percent over the 13.3 for five specials last year . . .
For all 21 NFL games on ABC this season, the ratings were up 15 percent from 1984 . . .
CBS' coverage of regular-season NFL games was reportedly up about 11 percent, NBC was up 5 . . .
Ana Alicia, who plays Melissa Agretti Gioberti on CBS' "Falcon Crest," may be curling poor old Father Chris' Roman collar right now, but she says that Billy Moses (who plays hubby Cole) is still the best kisser on the series . . .
"The Cosby Show," the runaway No. 1 show on TV this season, apparently doesn't plan to lose any momentum. The NBC series will feature Danny Kaye (as a dentist) and Stevie Wonder in upcoming episodes . . .
CBS plans to air an episode of "Crazy Like a Fox" in its troubled 9 to 10 p.m. Wednesday time slot Jan. 15 . . .
Among the 11 winners in the seventh -- and final -- James E. Scripps Awards program for distinguished journalism among the Evening News Association's newspaper and broadcast stations: Channel 9 here, for "Breast Cancer: A Portrait of Hope," by Ellen Kingsley, Jane Van Ryan, Jeanne Smith and Judith Fiterman . . .
Honorees at the Jan. 9 awards banquet in Austin, Tex., will each receive $1,000. In addition, the 11 winners compete for four Category awards of $1,500 each and the James E. Scripps grand prize of $2,500, which will be announced at the banquet . . .
The Gannett Co. purchased the newspapers, TV and radio stations of ENA for $717 million earlier this year. The merger is expected to be completed Feb. 15, 1986 . . .