The two-hour debate of the 12 Democratic and Republican presidential candidates on NBC Tuesday night averaged national Nielsen rating and a 15 percent audience share ...

During the same 9 to 11 p.m. period, "Moonlighting" and "thirtysomething" on ABC averaged a 17.8/30, while "Jake and the Fatman" and "The Law and Harry McGraw" on CBS averaged a 13.2/22 around the country (each rating points represents 886,000 TV homes) ...

Locally, "America's Future: A Presidential Debate" on Channel 4 did slightly better, averaging an 11.4/18 (each local Nielsen rating point represents 15,851 TV homes) ...

The ABC lineup on Channel 7 did a 18.4/30, while the CBS programs averaged a 14.9/26 on Channel 9 ...

Otherwise, locally, from 8 to 10 Tuesday night on Channel 20, the Geraldo Rivera special "Modern Love" averaged a 4 Arbitron rating and a 7 share ...

And from our Sometimes You Can Be Too Good At Your Job file: During the discussion on AIDS policy Tuesday night in the debate, the Rev. Jesse Jackson reminded the audience that "those who are searching for a moral foundation, the last night on earth of Jesus the Christ, he stayed with Simon the Leper, who was quarantined with the so-called sin sickness of his day ... " ...

At the word "Simon," George Paul, directing coverage for NBC News in the control room, instantaneously ordered a "reaction shot" from the camera following fellow debater Sen. Paul Simon. With the word "leper," Paul just as quickly switched back to Mr. Jackson ...

Paul, director of the "Today" show for the past six years, had 12 cameras to work with Tuesday night, eight of which were manned to stay with the debaters. Yesterday, he admitted trouble with camera angles on one candidate who is shorter than the others: "A couple of times there I thought I was doing 'Saturday Night Live' " ...

Also in the News

The network hasn't announced it yet but CBS News Moscow bureau chief Wyatt Andrews is coming to the CBS News bureau in Washington to cover the State Department, which hasn't had a regular correspondent since Bill McLaughlin moved to London earlier this year. The move will be official next month ...

Channel 26 announced late yesterday it will air "A Conversation with Mikhail Gorbachev" tonight at 11:30 p.m. ...

The historic 58-minute interview was seen Monday night on NBC. Earlier this week, William Baker, president of WNET in New York, called NBC News president Larry Grossman -- a former president of PBS -- to express interest in repeating the program on the New York public TV station. He also offered to share the interview with other PBS stations around the country ...

Grossman, after checking with the network legal department, gave his permission, with a single proviso: Just one airing of the Brokaw-Gorbachev interview per PBS station will be permitted ...

Incidentally, Channel 26, in the midst of its annual pre-Christmas alms talks, promises not, repeat not, to interrupt Mr. Gorbachev and Mr. Brokaw with a plea for either dollars ... or rubles ...

Now This

ABC Entertainment yesterday announced two new series that will debut in January on Friday and Saturday nights, the network's weakest nights of the week ...

"The Thorns," an "irreverent half-hour comedy," will debut Friday, Jan. 15, at 9:30. "Juarez," a one-hour drama, will debut at 9 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 16 ...

They replace "The Pursuit of Happiness," which will be disappeared after the night of Jan. 8, and "Sable," which wraps up (there's just the tiniest effort at early-morning humor there, TV Column fans) with its Dec. 26 telecast ...

"The Thorns," a Mike Nichols effort, stars flamboyant Tony Roberts as Sloan Thorn, a "flamboyant public relations executive" who heads an "oddball family" living over its means in a fashionable New York neighborhood. The cast includes Tony's "social-climbing wife," their three children, Tony's "obtrusive mother," a "shapely mother's helper" and a "feisty French maid." The second half-hour of "Dallas" just went up two ratings points, starting Jan. 15 ...

"Juarez" is the name of a police sergeant (played by Benjamin Banda) fighting crime in El Paso, Tex., but whose "roots are 100 miles south of the Rio Grande." The cast also includes Juarez's wife of six months, an older brother, a superior officer, a fellow lawman and neighbor and an empire-building local gangster. The casts of "The Golden Girls" and "Amen" just ordered champagne all around ...

ABC Entertainment also announced that Harold Pinter's drama "The Room," starring Linda Hunt and Donald Pleasence, will air Saturday, Dec. 26, at 10 p.m., the loneliest hour on the loneliest night of the week on the loneliest weekend of the year for network television. Anywhere ...

Tonight's four-network interview with President Reagan will be taped today at the White House at 2:30 p.m. The four anchors, Peter Jennings of ABC, Dan Rather of CBS, Tom Brokaw of NBC and Bernard Shaw of Cable News Network, will draw numbers out of a hat before the interview to determine the seating and the order of the questioning. The first round of questions will have no follow-ups, but the second round will ...

In anticipation of obtaining its interview with General Secretary Gorbachev on the eve of next week's summit, NBC News had long sought a one-on-one hour primetime interview with President Reagan to match it. Monday, White House chief of staff Howard Baker notified Grossman of Mr. Reagan's decision to go instead with all four networks for half an hour. The networks will be permitted to air five minutes of the 8 p.m. interview during their earlier nightly newscasts tonight ...

Gannett Co. Inc. has reached an agreement in principle to purchase WFMY-TV, the CBS affiliate in Greensboro, N.C., and WTLV-TV, the ABC affiliate in Jacksonville, Fla., from Harte-Hanks Communications, Inc. The purchase price for both stations was $155 million ...

Industry sources say Allbritton Communications, owner of WJLA here, was also interested in the package ...

"CBS Evening News" won the network news race for the 10th week in a row with an 11.3 Nielsen rating and a 21 percent audience share for the week ending Nov. 27. "ABC World News Tonight" was second for the sixth time in seven weeks at 10.5/20, and "NBC Nightly News" was third at 10.2/19 ...

Just Asking: Isn't it about time "CBS Evening News" knew that the District's Walter Fauntroy is a House delegate and not a representative? ...

Poor Harry Smith, the spanking new coanchor of CBS News' spanking new "This Morning." He's already called CBS correspondent Bruce Morton "Bruce Jordan" and identified the Rev. Jesse Jackson as the "Rev. Washington" ...

And Finally

Starting the week of Dec. 21, "The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour" will be seen nightly in Japan. With subtitles. The PBS program will air daily at 11 a.m. Tokyo time on the NHK network, with a repeat in the afternoon ...

The "NewsHour" is already seen on the Armed Forces Network in Europe and on a limited basis on a special screening service of the U.S. State Department ...