Whew! . . .
The A.C. Nielsen Co. cooperated with History yesterday, releasing figures that put "CBS Evening News With Dan Rather" in first place in the nightly network news race for the 200th consecutive week . . .
Two weeks ago, "NBC Nightly News" snuck up within one-tenth of a Nielsen point of the network news champs and there was some talk, especially at NBC News, that the milestone might not be reached . . .
But not to worry! For the week ending Feb. 28, "CBS Evening News With Dan Rather" had a 13.4 Nielsen rating and 23 percent of the national audience, compared with a 12.6/22 for "Nightly News" and an 11.6/20 for "ABC World News Tonight With Peter Jennings" . . .
The milestone, to say nothing of Dan's upcoming fifth anniversary as anchor on the show (which falls on Sunday), prompted a trip to Club 21 in Manhattan for lunch yesterday . . .
Dan, the senior members of the news staff and CBS News President Van Gordon Sauter were on hand for what Dan later characterized as "an impromptu, quiet family gathering" . . .
CBS Broadcast Group President Gene F. Jankowski even dropped by to congratulate one and all . . .
Later in the afternoon, a couple of bottles of Korbel were popped open on the news set to toast the occasion, and Sauter reminded the "Evening News" crew that it's not the ratings that really count, it's the quality of the broadcast that counts and that helps the ratings . . .
The string began the week ending May 7, 1982 . . . with time out for two weeks in August 1984, when Nielsen got so confused trying to figure out ratings for ABC News during the Summer Olympics (it was popping up in odd time slots, especially out west) everybody agreed to not count them . . .
Channel 7's programming department late yesterday said the station has no plans to carry it . . . but ABC's "Nightline" tonight will have a second broadcast, starting at 2:30 a.m. Thursday, featuring live pictures of Halley's Comet, as beamed back to Earth by the Soviet satellite Vega . . .
The regular 11:30 broadcast will feature American and Soviet scientists discussing the upcoming pictures, which won't be available until later in the morning . . .
Channel 13, the ABC affiliate in Baltimore, said late yesterday that no decision on carrying the second "Nightline" had been made . . .
(We'd keep an eye out for late announcements from both stations, regardless) . . .
Also in the NewsThe new 8-to-9 p.m. Monday night entries on NBC did pretty well in their regular debuts Monday . . .
"You Again" at 8 got a 19.8 national Nielsen rating and a 30 percent audience share, while "Valerie" climbed to a 21.1/31 . . .
Combined they averaged a 20.5/31, a vast improvement on the 15.9/23 that "TV Bloopers and Practical Jokes" averaged in that same time slot for the network . . .
Later in the evening "Diary of a Perfect Murder," a pilot for a series starring Andy Griffith as a shrewd, down-home lawyer, did a 20.9/33 for NBC, easily beating "The Children of Times Square" on ABC, which did a 12.5/20 . . .
CBS, which is getting a lot of mileage from its new Sunday movie format, came t-h-a-a-a-t close to finishing number one for the week . . .
But NBC, getting a lot of mileage from its regular series favorites, finished first with a 17.4 Nielsen average and a 28 percent audience share. CBS had a 17.3/27 and ABC a below-par 13.5/21 . . .
As expected, NBC's "You Again," occupying "Family Ties' " usual Thursday slot right after "Cosby," got "Family Ties"-like ratings in a "sneak preview." NBC's "Valerie," sneak-previewed in "227's" slot right after "The Golden Girls" on Saturday night, even outperformed "227." (Both came back to earth Monday night, as noted in item, above) . . .
Skipping down the list of likely candidates for a niche in the Primetime Pantheon's Statuary Hall, we notice that NBC's "Hill Street Blues," which keeps shooting its stars, finished 21st for the week ending March 2, while "The Colbys" continued to climb for ABC and finished 24th for the week . . .
Part III of "Crossings" on ABC tied for 25th, while Part II was 34th. A Saturday edition of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" on NBC tied for 27th, while the Sunday edition of "Family Ties" was 32nd . . .
ABC's "Blacke's Magic" was 37th and "Remington Steele," in its new Saturday slot, was 38th . . .
ABC's "The Disney Sunday Movie" was 42nd, a repeat of "Kojak: The Belarus File" was 43rd and ABC News' analysis of President Reagan's Wednesday speech -- which managed to make the White House mad -- was 51st (the lengthy analysis seemed to have taken the edge off the "Dynasty" audience that night, too, dropping that show into the second Ten) . . .
The CBS Saturday movie, "Betrayed by Innocence," was 52nd, while ABC's Sunday movie, "Acceptable Risks," was 58th . . .
The Final and for All Intents and Purposes Probably Fatal Five last week was again an all-ABC affair, led by "Fortune Dane" in 59th place, followed, in order, by "Benson," "He's the Mayor," "Ripley's Believe It or Not!" and "The Fall Guy," who forgot his parachute again to finish in 63rd and last place . . .