Davey Marlin-Jones, whose off-the-wall film and theater reviews have entertained and bemused viewers of Channel 9 newscasts for the past 17 years, has been dropped by the station ...

Ron Townsend, president of WUSA, said Friday that the station will end its long contractual relationship with the theatrical director/critic on Dec. 31. He said, "It is an amicable parting, if those things can ever be said to be amicable" ...

Marlin-Jones reportedly received a generous settlement on a contract that was in the $75,000-a-year range ...

Townsend said Friday that "David is not disappearing" from Nine -- at least, not at first. "Viewers certainly won't see him as often. Over the last year, he was on sometimes twice a week, sometimes every night. If we use him in the future, it won't be with that frequency" ...

But Marlin-Jones said yesterday that he has made no decision on Nine's offer to continue as a free-lance commentator on the Gannett-owned CBS affiliate ...

As for the future, the veteran critic said, "I need a little thinking time, to put my own heart and soul together again. I figured out that I've done between 5,300 and 5,600 pieces since I started on Nine, just two months short of 18 years ago ...

"Washington has been just so kind to me. My dream would be to stay in the area if we could." He has a son in high school (and another in college) and would prefer to stay in the area for at least another 18 months to see the high schooler graduate ...

He leaves for San Diego in February, where he will be guest critic at the West Coast American College Theater Festival, and confirmed he has already received offers of work on the West Coast. He has signed with agent/attorney Cindy Riley ...

Marlin-Jones has also just completed "a large book for professional magicians," which will be published in a couple of months. He began his career in the theater as a 13-year-old magician who toured 40 states ...

Townsend said Marlin-Jones has been aware of the station's plans to make a change for some time, ever since the "trigger date" for a renewal of Marlin-Jones' contract came up last September, at a time the station was reviewing segments of its major newscasts ...

"We're moving away from specialties," Townsend said. "We will replace Davey in that slot, probably with somebody with a broader range of reportorial expertise" ...

Marlin-Jones focused on national theater reviews and the local scene in films and theater. His criticisms were most often on target but couched in a florid, you're-going-to-have-to-wait-for-the- point style that could flummox the uninitiated viewer ...

Marlin-Jones invariably relied on stage business to liven up his reviews, donning (and doffing) a collection of odd hats or stuffing his pockets with his discarded notes, etc. (Our favorite was the long-ago visit to a gazebo, where he delivered a review while twirling on a post in the summer sunlight, Panama hat on the bias) ...

One source at the station indicated Friday that after 17 years on the air, Davey's stylized reviews "had gotten a little old. You have to make changes once in a while, maximize your resources. It's something like the Carol Randolph decision -- after so many years, there was really no place to go" ...

Townsend said he has had preliminary talks with Post-Newsweek Stations, producers of a film review feature with longtime Washington TV personality Henry Tenenbaum. Currently seen on the Post-Newsweek stations, the Tenenbaum features may be syndicated ...

Davey Marlin-Jones was part of a team assembled by then-owner Post-Newsweek Stations in the early 1970s to give a "distinctive look" to Channel 9 newscasts ...

The cast also included Gordon Peterson, J.C. Hayward, Mike Buchanan, Bruce Johnson, Warner Wolf (now at WCBS in New York) and others who remain as the key elements in Nine's phenomenal local news success over the past decade and a half, under three different owners ...

Jim Snyder, now vice president of Post-Newsweek Stations, who was news director at Nine at the time, said an advertising executive in Washington first tipped him to Marlin-Jones, who was then director of the Washington Theater Club, where Davey specialized in giving young playwrights their first chance. He had also appeared in local TV commercials ...

Once on the air, Snyder recalled recently, "the effect was really startling. The way he acted and looked was certainly different" ...

When Post-Newsweek and the Evening News Association traded Washington and Detroit stations in the mid-1970s, keeping local staffs intact, Marlin-Jones' reviews were also seen in the Detroit market for about six years, Snyder recalled ...

With Marlin-Jones' departure from the regular scene, Channel 4's Arch Campbell -- who can be a little startling, himself -- becomes the dean of local reviewers. Robin Chapman at Seven and Jane Horowitz at Five also contribute regular reviews for their stations ...

Also in the News

Hey, gang! "Bob Ryan's 1988 Weatherwise Guide" goes on sale at Giant stores for 50 cents today, with proceeds going to Children's Hospital and Washington's Hospital for Sick Children ...

The seventh annual guide from the Channel 4 weatherman has added features on boating safety and a hurricane-tracking chart, weather watchers and local weather lore. There are 100,000 copies available, which Giant has coded for the checkout registers ...

Channel 7, which has done very nicely on weekday mornings by ignoring ABC's offerings in that day part, has agreed to try out the network's new "Home Show," which debuts at 11:30 a.m. on Jan. 18 ...

A combination how-to and talk show, it is cohosted by Sandy Hill and Robb Weller ...

Strong rumor on the Coast, TV Column fans: Despite ABC Entertainment's recent announcement that "Hotel" would just head for a brief rest after its Jan. 9 broadcast, the word is that Aaron Spelling has folded the series ...

Reportedly, when work on the 114th episode concluded on Christmas Eve, the production was closed down, with 17 episodes completed for the season and five scripts still on the shelf ...

The last episode, called "Aftershocks," stars John Rubinstein, Robert Hooks and Meret Van Kamp ...

To change the subject, but not by much, there will be an audition for Bozos on Tuesday, Jan. 12, at the First Methodist Church, at the corner of Franklin and Highland, in Hollywood, starting at 11:30 a.m. ...

This is the first-ever audition for a new generation of Bozo the Clowns in the 37 years of Bozo's existence. Still seen daily in 22 million TV homes (it's on WGN, the Chicago superstation seen on cable systems in this area), "Bozo the Clown" is the longest-running kids' show in the world, according to Larry Harmon, the original Bozo and owner of worldwide rights to the clown ...

Harmon even trained Willard Scott to be a Bozo 25 years ago. He did a very good job, too ...

Applications should go to Bozo Auditions, Larry Harmon Pictures Corp., 650 N. Bronson, Los Angeles, Calif. 90004 ...

And Finally

Linda Taira, Cable News Network Capitol Hill correspondent, has been elected to a two-year term on the executive committee of the Congressional Radio/Television Galleries-Radio and TV Correspondents Association ...

She will become chairman in 1989 ...

Also on the executive committee: current chairman Dan Scanlan of the Mutual Broadcasting System; Bob Kur, NBC News; Joe Tomko, Evening News Broadcasting; Cokie Roberts, National Public Radio; Virginia Nicolaidis, Bonneville News; and John Besney, United Stations Radio Network ...