Gary Hart's appearance on ABC News' "Nightline" Tuesday night did well overall in Nielsen's 15 big-city markets, but surprisingly, the former senator and, until May, candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presidency didn't wow 'em in Washington ...

The overnight average in the 15 markets, which include Washington, gave "Nightline" a 9.8/29, compared with a 6.4/20 for Johnny Carson on NBC and a 4.3/13 for CBS stations. That's the third-highest overnight rating ever for "Nightline" in its seven-year-plus history, behind the Jim and Tammy Bakker show this spring and the U.S. attack on Libya report a year ago in April ...

But locally, "The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson" on Channel 4 averaged a 7.6 rating and a 30 percent audience share from 11:30 until 12:30 a.m. That beat out "Nightline" on Seven, which compiled a 6.5/25 over the same period, while U.S. Open tennis highlights and "Divorce Court" on Nine averaged a 4.8/19 (each rating point represents about 15,800 TV homes locally) ...

Hart's home base in Denver led the overnight ratings with a 15.6/49 for "Nightline," while San Francisco was least interested, registering "only" a 5.5/22. In an average week, "Nightline" does about a 6 rating each night, according to ABC research ...

For the fourth year in a row, PBS has topped the winners in the news and documentary Emmy awards announced late Tuesday night (a full list of winners appears on Page C15) ...

Also in the News

John Huddy, a former executive producer of CBS News' "Nightwatch," has withdrawn a $4 million libel and slander suit against Pamela Browne, a former producer on the program who is now executive producer at WCAU, the CBS-owned station in Philadelphia ...

The suit was scheduled for a federal district court in Boston. Browne was working for a Boston TV station in June when the suit was filed ...

Recently, seven other former "Nightwatch" staffers, who had filed a $14 million suit against CBS, won a large, undisclosed settlement from the network. They had accused the network of violating the D.C. Human Rights Act "through its agents and servants, {who} created and maintained a working environment in its 'Nightwatch' program that was offensive and hostile to women employes." Browne was not a party in that suit, nor was Huddy named as a defendant ...

Huddy had claimed that Browne had charged him with "shocking, revolting and disgusting accusations" in a statement made to the network when the CBS Washington bureau management probed charges of misconduct against Huddy, who left the program under fire in the summer of 1986 ...

Boston attorney Andrew Meyer, who represented Browne, said yesterday that Huddy's suit was "a disgrace" and CBS management at WCAU issued a statement saying "this matter has been amicably resolved and Ms. Browne continues to be a valued employe of CBS." Browne had lost her job with "Nightwatch" a year ago this month when the network cut back the late night show's staff ...

Browne said yesterday, "I feel totally vindicated. It was obviously a ploy by Mr. Huddy to take advantage of the other lawsuit. Why I was picked, I'll never know. It was an ugly incident and I've got to move on" ...

Huddy's Washington attorney could not be reached for comment late yesterday ...

"It's a trial balloon," said Phil Beuth, vice president of early morning programming, ABC Entertainment, yesterday, in the wake of an announcement by Paramount Domestic Television that "Good Morning America" co-anchor Joan Lunden -- currently on maternity leave -- will host a new one-hour syndicated talk show next fall, while still remaining with GMA ...

Earlier this year, Lunden signed a one-year contract with ABC, which would be up next August. Yesterday's announcement by Paramount immediately led to speculation Lunden would leave ABC next summer for the syndicated job -- and that Kathleen Sullivan, her current replacement, might step in at GMA permanently to co-anchor with Charles Gibson ...

Beuth said yesterday, "You can't go into syndication overnight. Paramount is just seeing if it's salable and would probably make a decision in January or February whether to go forward" ...

As to Lunden's future with GMA come August, should she elect to do both shows, "we'll look at that when the time comes," said Beuth ...

Sullivan, who also hosts an ABC News health show and the Saturday network news, still hasn't signed a new contract with the network and is being eyed by several competitors, most notably GTG Entertainment, which thinks she would be a good anchor for its upcoming weeknight syndicated show based on USA Today ...

Moving Right Along

CBS announced yesterday it has signed a new contract with ratings service giant A.C. Nielsen, clearing the way for the network to receive Nielsen's new and controversial "people meter" service, which replaces the old Nielsen diary method for national ratings starting next week ...

CBS had previously expressed doubts about the new service, including the comparative complexity of the meters themselves and viewer samples that appeared to favor younger audiences less inclined to watch CBS entertainment fare ...

Earlier, NBC had agreed to use the Nielsen "people meter" service. ABC has still not decided whether to buy the new meter service and has until Sunday, when Nielsen switches from diaries and simple meters attached to TV sets that merely record which program is being watched ...

CBS previously had signed up with AGB Television Research, the American arm of a London-based company that is also using a new "people meter" system in 2,000 homes around the country ...

"People meters" permit a household -- if it's so inclined -- to register whether mom or dad or any of the children is watching a given program. They are tied into a computer, which automatically registers sophisticated demographic information about that particular household. CBS, among others, has worried that the system is just complex enough to induce carelessness or, worse, boredom and/or false information over long use ...

But in a couple of samples this summer, "CBS Evening News," which has done poorly in the old diary system the past year, did well in the people meters. Nielsen promises to work further on broadening its sample, which will reach 4,000 homes by next year, apparently reassuring CBS sufficiently for the network to buy in, although its researchers still retain a healthy, CBS-like skepticism about the new system ...

So saying, "CBS Evening News With Dan Rather" enjoyed a rare week on top of the Nielsen heap last week, finishing with a 9.6 rating and a 21 percent audience share. It was the first outright win for Rather & Co. in 21 weeks, at least among Nielsen diary keepers, who go out of business next week ...

For the week ending Sept. 4, "NBC Nightly News Without Tom Brokaw" and "ABC World News Tonight Sans Peter Jennings" tied for second at 9.2/20 each ...

A "people meter" sample run this past week gave CBS a larger 10.2/22, compared with a 9.3/20 for NBC and a 9.0/19 for ABC, which probably helped CBS change its mind, finally ...

TV Ratingzzz

And while we are discussing ratings, Nielsen, still using the old diaries/meters system, announced late yesterday that its regular weekly primetime numbers circulated yesterday will have to be recalculated. NBC says the Sunday count was out of whack. So look for the final numbers today ...

In the out-of-whack figures, NBC had finished in first with an 11.9 rating and a 22 percent audience share. ABC was second at 11.0/20 and CBS was third at 10.5/19. But they don't count ...

To give you an idea on just how far out of whack either or both ratings system(s) still are, however, a trial run of 2,000 "people meters" for the same period last week put ABC in first with an 11.2/21, followed by NBC at a 10.9/21 and CBS down to 10.0/19 ...

And before you lapse into a Full Ratings Stare this morning, you might as well know that this is the first week that a Nielsen point now represents 886,000 TV homes instead of 874,000, regardless of which metering system is being used ...

Good grief! ...