NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw's breakthrough one-on-one interview with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev apparently went off without a hitch Saturday in Moscow ...

Brokaw and NBC News vice president Tim Russert returned to New York via the Concorde around noon yesterday, while other news executives stopped in London to edit the one-hour program for airing tonight at 8 on the network ...

The euphoria of having just landed an exclusive news beat with a world leader aside, both Brokaw and Russert seemed to have found the general secretary's display of political skills invigorating. Russert yesterday called him "feisty and combative." Brokaw promised that "Americans have never seen a Soviet leader like this one before" ...

The interview was originally scheduled to be taped yesterday at 11 a.m. in Moscow, but once on the scene, NBC asked if it could be moved back to 4 p.m. on Saturday. The general secretary quickly agreed. According to Russert, he had apparently been misinformed by aides that it was to be a live interview, and the Soviet leader had already expressed doubts that a New York audience was going to stay up until 3 a.m. on Monday to watch him ...

The interview -- each man had an interpreter -- was held in the cabinet room of the Council of Ministers in the Kremlin, down the hall from Mr. Gorbachev's state office. The NBC group, besides Brokaw and Russert, included News president Lawrence Grossman, Gordon Manning (the longtime NBC executive who had persevered over 2 1/2 years to obtain the interview), vice president, news coverage Jerry Lamprecht and producer Marc Kusnetz. The general secretary, with his own entourage, was waiting when they arrived and chatted with the newsmen for about 20 minutes ...

He told them he had received 80,000 letters from Americans, about one-third of his total foreign mail. He brought a few samples with him, which he never got a chance to read from. Questioning Brokaw, he found the anchor came from South Dakota and elicited that wheat, corn and cattle were raised there and that it was "flat" ...

"Yes, I see," the native of Georgia said. "That's where I came from" ...

Brokaw, displaying his homework, said, "You were a combine operator" ...

"That was a wonderful time, a wonderful time," Mr. Gorbachev mused. "When you drive a combine you can see what it does. You start in the morning and by nightfall you are finished. I could see my work every day. I was satisfied with a day's work. Those were wonderful times. If we can only do something like that in politics" ...

(When Brokaw helped Mr. Gorbachev adjust a microphone, he told him, "I have to do this every day on my job." Gorbachev replied, "You would not believe what I have to do every day in my job") ...

The one-hour interview finished almost exactly on time. Brokaw yesterday was understandably coy about revealing contents of tonight's program but admitted "there were some vigorous exchanges." Russert said the subject of human rights in the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. sparked a particularly "vigorous" response ...

"He occasionally flashed that bulldozer style we sometimes see in Soviet leaders," Brokaw said yesterday. "It was very instructive to see him. I don't think the American people have ever seen a Soviet leader like this one before. It was fascinating to see how his mind works, how he responded. I hope it's the beginning of a process" leading to more such exchanges.

"On balance, it was an instructive hour" ...

Among the subjects discussed, besides human rights: arms control, the coming summit meeting, Star Wars, Afghanistan, Soviet emigration, deposed Moscow chief Boris Yeltsin, the role of women in Soviet society and his wife Raisa ...

When the interview was over, the general secretary spent another 20 minutes with the NBC group. He exchanged picture books with Brokaw ("A Day in the Life of America" from the American, a color pictorial on Moscow from the Georgian).

At that point, one NBC executive showed Mr. Gorbachev a facsimile of the two-page ad that ran yesterday in both The New York Times and The Washington Post, touting this week's "NBC News Exclusives." One page was devoted to "A Conversation With Mikhail S. Gorbachev," the other to tomorrow night's debate on the network between six Republican and six Democratic presidential candidates broadcast from the Kennedy Center ...

After Gorbachev autographed his picture, an American asked him to circle the picture of "the next president" among the 12 faces in the other ad. While his aides muttered, "nyet, nyet," Mr. Gorbachev said "da, da," grabbed the pen again -- and circled all 12 pictures ...

As the meeting broke up, Grossman thanked the general secretary for his time and acceptance of the invitation. Brokaw said, "You will no longer be getting memos from Gordon Manning" ...

Replied Gorbachev: "Yes, I know. I read them all. That is why I agreed to the interview: No more memos!" ...

The NBC group flew to London at midnight Saturday on a chartered British jet. All save Brokaw and Russert remained there to edit the tape of the interview ...

Local Ratingzzz The November ratings sweeps are in, proving once again, as though proof were needed, that Arbitron and Nielsen viewer samples in the Washington market seldom concur ...

This time out, we'll lead with the ARB numbers. Keep in mind that each ARB rating point now represents 16,036 local TV homes. A Nielsen point, 15,851 ...

Let the Ratings Revels now begin! -- starting with the morning network fracas:

In ARB, "Good Morning America" on WJLA led by a good margin with a 5 rating and a 23 percent audience share. CBS' "The Morning Program," believe it or not, was second at 4/16 on WUSA; while NBC's "Today" on WRC slouched in at 3/15 ...

In the Nielsen book, GMA prevailed at 6/25, while "Today" edged "The Morning Program," 4/18 to 4/16 ...

In noon news, WUSA is first in ARB with an 8/33, followed at a considerable distance by WJLA at 5/22. WRC's "Password" does a 3/13 ...

In Nielsen, WUSA does a 9/35, WJLA is 5/19, and WRC is 4/15 ...

Early fringe, from 4 to 5 p.m. on weekdays, can be a big factor in early local news ratings. On the other hand, when a station loses a strong lead-in audience at 5 p.m., better call Maaco ...

In ARB from 4 to 5 p.m., WUSA's "Oprah Winfrey" leads with 9/25, followed by "Magnum" on WJLA with 7/19, and two game shows on WRC, a very poor 3/9 ...

In Nielsen, "Oprah" again does 9/25, "Magnum" is 7/20 and WRC game shows improve to 5/13 ...

From 5 to 6 p.m. weeknights, in ARB, WUSA news leads with a 10/23, followed by WJLA at 8/19 and WRC at 5/11. Both WJLA and WRC introduced new 5 p.m. anchor teams this fall ...

In Nielsen, WUSA jumps to 11/24, WJLA is 8/16 and WRC comes up a tad to 7/16 ...

From 6 to 7 p.m. weeknights, WTTG's sitcoms lead in ARB with 12/25, followed by WUSA news at 10/21, WJLA news (from 6 to 6:30) at 9/19, WRC news at 7/14 and WDCA's sitcoms at 4/7 ...

In Nielsen, WUSA news leaps to the forefront with a 13/24, followed by WRC news, which catapults to a 10/19; WJLA's half-hour news and WTTG's sitcoms tied at 10/18; and WDCA at 4/7 ...

In the network news race, Mondays through Sundays, in ARB, "ABC World News Tonight" at 6:30 on WJLA is first with an 11/21, followed by "CBS Evening News" at 7 on WUSA at 10/18 and "NBC Nightly News" at 7 on WRC way back at 6/12 ...

The picture's different in Nielsen, where "CBS Evening News" on WUSA dominates with a 13/22, followed by "ABC World News Tonight" on WJLA with 11/20 and "NBC Nightly News" on WRC, up to a 9/15 ...

From 7 to 7:30 on weeknights in ARB, WJLA's "Jeopardy!" and WTTG's "Family Ties," well, tie for first with 12/22 (CBS and NBC news shows are listed above); with WDCA's "Cheers" at 3/6 ...

In Nielsen, "Jeopardy!" jumps to 13/22; "Family Ties" slips a bit to 11/18; while "Cheers" jumps to 5/8 ...

In the money-making 7:30 to 8 p.m. weeknight time slot, in ARB, WUSA's "Wheel of Fortune" leads with 13/23; followed by "Entertainment Tonight" on WJLA, which closed in with a 12/21; followed by "M*A*S*H" on WTTG with 11/20; WRC's "checkerboard" of five different sitcoms, at 6/11; and WDCA's "The Jeffersons" at 2/4 ...

In Nielsen, "Wheel" is first at 14/24; followed by ET at 13/22; "M*A*S*H" at 11/18; the "checkerboard" at 9/15; and "The Jeffersons" at 3/5 ...

In the late news, Mondays through Sundays, according to ARB, WUSA leads with 9/23, followed by WRC's 8/21, just a tad ahead of WJLA's 8/20 -- WJLA doesn't include the late-starting news on Monday (NFL) night ...

WTTG's 10 o'clock news averaged a very strong 9/17 ...

In the Nielsen book, WUSA leads with a 12/27; followed very closely by WRC at 12/26; and WJLA at 8/17 ...

WTTG's 10 o'clock averaged a 9/16 ...

More goodies tomorrow! ...