Lee Rich, co-founder 17 years ago of what is now known as Lorimar-Telepictures, has resigned to become chairman and chief executive officer of United Artists Corp. . . .

Rich, whose most recent title was president and CEO of Lorimar-Telepictures Entertainment, is the man who put "mini-series" in the network lexicon with his "The Blue Knight," introduced the primetime soap opera with "Dallas" and contributed good family fare like "The Waltons" during his tenure . . .

Merv Adelson, chairman and chief executive officer of Lorimar-Telepictures, made the announcement yesterday. Rich was also a member of the office of the president of the parent firm . . .

Rich was also executive producer of "Flamingo Road," "Knots Landing" and "Eight Is Enough" . . . Among his TV movies were "Helter Skelter" and "Skag" . . .

Along the Ratings Rialto: The debut of the short-run series "Leo & Liz in Beverly Hills" on CBS Friday night got a 12.6 national Nielsen rating and a 23 percent audience share . . .

A one-hour comedy pilot on NBC called "Handsome Harry's" didn't do so handsomely, averaging only a 7.2/13 . . .

Saturday night, in Nielsen's 12 major markets, the "American Film Institute Salute to Billy Wilder" on NBC from 9:30 to 11 p.m. did a l0.9 rating and a 20 share. That included a 9.7/18 on Channel 4 here . . .

Meanwhile, that celebration of "Wide World of Sports' " 25th anniversary special on ABC from 8 to 10 p.m. Saturday tasted the agony of low ratings in those 12 markets with a mere 11.4/20, including an 8.4/16 on Channel 7 locally . . .

On a night of comparatively low ratings, "Magnum, P.I." was introduced in a new time slot and did a 12.5/22 in the big markets . . .

Locally, on Sunday evening, Channel 9's special "Paris: A Tale of Two Capitals," which preempted "Murder, She Wrote" at 8 p.m., won the time slot nevertheless with a 13.4/23 . . .

The Caps-Rangers game during that hour on Channel 20 had a 3.9/7 . . .

Later Sunday night, "Resting Place" on CBS earned a 20.8 rating and a 33 share in the 12 Nielsen cities. On Channel 9, the TV movie had a 19.6/31 . . .

Incidentally, Nine, which has planned two more such Bruce Johnson visits to foreign capitals, has not decided on its next choices . . .

You might recall Johnson and a WDVM crew were in Paris recently filming Sunday's special when a terrorist bomb struck nearby, and they were able to supply film to WDVM and CBS News that night . . . (If anybody asked Captain Airwaves, he'd probably suggest the capitals of Colorado and maybe Oregon for future visits) . . .

Speaking

Of trips to Europe, "Entertainment Tonight," which had planned to be in Great Britain and on the Riviera next month, has dropped that idea . . .

Hosts Mary Hart and Robb Weller will instead journey to New York to cover the theater, etc. Barbara Howar will report from the Cannes Film Festival and Selina Scott will tender tidbits from the London scene, while Leeza Gibbons will anchor out of Los Angeles . . .

"Good Morning America," which had earlier scrapped its plans to go to Europe next month, and plans instead to spend the allotted time tipping America on good vacation spots on this continent, yesterday announced its itinerary . . .

Starting next Monday, hosts David Hartman and Joan Lunden, plus weatherman Dave Murray, will make whirlwind one-day visits to Key West, Fla.; Williamsburg, Va.; Camden, Maine; and Mount Rushmore, S.D.; and will wind up in Santa Fe, N.M., on Friday, May 9 . . .

Other correspondents will be looking at such vacation possibilities as spring skiing in Colorado, "discovering the Caribbean," driving trips to the Ozarks and Blue Ridge and from San Francisco up U.S. 1 to Seattle . . . all the while discussing air travel rates and other necessities of the season . . . Jimmy Buffett, Bruce Jenner and Ron Reagan, among others, will contribute . . .

As part of NBC's 60th anniversary celebration, some 200 invited guests, including congressional leaders and other Washington notables, will sit down to dinner tonight in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol as NBC Chairman Grant Tinker presents more than 20,000 TV programs to Daniel J. Boorstin, the librarian of Congress . . .

Also attending will be Sid Caesar, Milton Berle, Andy Williams, Lorne Greene, Jayne Meadows and Steve Allen, as well as NBC executives . . .

The bulk of the collection is on kinescope (motion pictures made from the TV picture), which the Library of Congress' Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division will transfer to videotape before making them available for research and scholarship . . .

The collection includes "Howdy Doody," "The Colgate Comedy Hour," "The Steve Allen Show," the original "Hallmark Hall of Fame" series and the "Philco Playhouse," as well as news programs starting with the presidency of Harry S Truman . . . .

And from our Not If Devious Dress Designer Barbara Ryan Has Anything To Say About It file: The long-awaited marriage of publisher Brian McColl to his "free-spirited love Shannon O'Hara (a k a Erin Casey)" hopefully will take place on CBS' "As The World Turns" starting this Friday . . .

ABC and the National Captioning Institute have signed another agreement that will enable the network to close-caption the bulk of its primetime programming again next year, the sixth year in a row the service has been offered . . .

Meanwhile

Home Box Office officials took measures to thwart satellite pirates -- like the "Captain Midnight" who interrupted an early Sunday broadcast of "The Falcon and the Snowman" -- and said the raiders are a threat to all satellite users, including the federal government . . .

David Pritchard, HBO vice president of corporate affairs in New York, said the airwaves raid prompted the company to implement measures to stop piracy, but he declined to discuss the methods . . .

Pritchard said the company was cooperating with federal authorities in trying to find Captain Midnight (no relation), but he declined to say whether investigators had any leads -- or whether it was even possible to find the pirate . . .

Meanwhile, the subject of such interference is on the agenda for the already scheduled hearing on satellite TV programming to be held May 21 by the House subcommittee on telecommunications, consumer protection and finance . . .

In a release announcing the hearing -- the second on the scrambling of satellite TV programming -- Rep. Tim Wirth (D-Colo.), committee chairman, had already denounced the practice of signal jamming . . .

"This jamming is, in effect, vandalism of the airwaves," Wirth said, "and if it becomes more common, it would prevent dish owners and cable subscribers from receiving uninterrupted satellite TV programming" . . .

*Thought for Today: "Tonight Show" substitute host Joan Rivers says Michael Landon is "the rudest person I've ever met in my life" . . .