As we've mentioned in the past, all three big networks face an unusual problem this fall when they introduce their new season schedules ...

By tradition, the new season begins on the Monday of the third week of September (which would be Sept. 19 this year). But this year, Sept. 19 will be five nights into NBC's primetime coverage of the Summer Olympics in Seoul, which don't conclude until Oct. 2. Two days later, ABC starts coverage of the baseball playoffs, even though NBC also plans some gala wrapup of the Games that same night ...

Then comes the World Series, which starts on NBC Oct. 15 and could conclude Oct. 23 if seven games are played ...

Yesterday, CBS, which has no such special programming on the schedule but isn't about to let NBC and ABC run off with those special audiences, announced it will introduce its 1988-89 primetime season beginning Monday, Sept. 5 ...

Gene F. Jankowski, president of the CBS/Broadcast Group, said, "We are starting two weeks before the opening of the Summer Olympics because we believe people are eager for new programming by Labor Day and it will be much easier for them to sample our new schedule then ...

"... The early start offers them a real benefit, gives CBS a stronger competitive position and, we believe, will also be attractive to our advertisers" ...

Kim LeMasters, president of CBS Entertainment, promised that "even though we will start early we will continue as usual through the normal conclusion of the traditional season" (which traditionally ends after 30 weeks in mid-April) ...

A spokesman for number one NBC countered yesterday that "we will be premiering some of our shows before the Olympics and some more between the end of the Games and the Series" ...

A spokesman for ABC said yesterday, "Our plans for the fall have not yet jelled" (translation: we wanted to see what those other guys are going to do first) ...

Regardless, and this is the whole point of this lengthy TV Column Introduction, TV Column fans, you won't be seeing the Real New TV Season, with real head-to-head competition of old and new series alike, until Monday night, Oct. 24!!! ...

Moving Right Along

The Miss USA Pageant on CBS Tuesday night won the 9 to 11 p.m. competition with a national Nielsen average of 16.2 and a 26 percent audience share (each rating point represents 886,000 TV homes)...

But a poor performance from "Candid Camera" at 8 reduced the CBS average for the night to a 14.5/22, just ahead of NBC, which averaged a 14.3/22 over the three hours ...

ABC's lineup won the night with a 17.7/27 average, although the audience for "thirtysomething" tailed off to a 12.7/21 during the last hour after strong performances from "Who's the Boss?," "Growing Pains" and "Moonlighting" earlier in the evening ...

Members of the Writers Guild of America voted overwhelmingly last night to authorize a strike ...

The vote brought the industry a step closer to a walkout, but negotiators for the writers and producers planned a meeting today to see whether a strike can be averted, union officials said ...

Of 2,411 ballots cast, 97 percent of the writers voted to reject the contract offer from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and 96 percent voted to authorize a strike, according to union spokeswoman Cheryl Rhoden ...

The League of Women Voters has canceled the two one-hour debates of Republican and Democratic presidential candidates it had scheduled this coming Sunday afternoon in Nashville, both of which were to air live on Channel 26 ...

Instead, WETA said yesterday, a rerun of Part 6 of "The Jewel in the Crown" will air in place of the Republicans starting at 2 p.m., while programmers still search for something to fill the 5-to-6-p.m. hole being left by the Democrats ...

If they're all debated out in Nashville, we seem to be pretty debated out in Washington, too. The Democrats -- well, most of them -- had another debate Sunday afternoon in Houston that aired on an ad hoc network of 178 stations around the country ...

Channel 20 here elected to delay the 90-minute broadcast until midnight Monday, at which time the Dems drew an 0.6 Nielsen rating (or 9,700 TV homes) and a 3 percent share of the audience, most of which at that time (7.4/38) was watching "Hunter" and the first half of "Venom" on Channel 9 (each rating point represents 16,116 homes in the Washington area) ...

Also in the News

ABC has renewed its morning talk/service show, "Home," for another 13 weeks. The program, featuring Sandy Hill and Robb Weller, has been cleared by 88 percent of ABC's 200-plus affiliates. It debuted in mid-January ...

Channel 7, which airs it at 11:30 a.m. weekdays, currently plans to continue with the program, despite the fact it's averaged only a 3.3/14 since debuting in January ...

"We're looking at it carefully," a Seven executive said yesterday (whenever a station executive says he or she is looking at something carefully, whether it's the low ratings of a program, length of an anchor's hair or, more likely, the anchor, you can usually start planning the farewell party) ...

Speaking of gone, Channel 9 is going to a full hour of local news at 6 a.m. weekdays, starting Monday, March 28, which means no more "CBS Morning News" with Faith Daniels and Charles Osgood for a half-hour every morning ...

This development comes as rumors continue that Nine will shift "CBS Evening News" to a 6:30 p.m. time slot next fall ... Staff assignments on the expanded local news hour will be announced soon ...

CBS News announced yesterday that Roger Rosenblatt and William Safire will provide commentary during the network's two-hour coverage of Super Tuesday, from 8 to 10 p.m. March 8. Rosenblatt is a senior writer for Time and an essayist on the "MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour"; Safire is a columnist for The New York Times ...

A spokesman for ABC News said yesterday they're still thinking about commentators, although both David Brinkley and George Will will be on hand for its 9-to-11 political special that night ...

NBC will rely on in-house experts John Chancellor and Connie Chung for commentary during its one-hour Super Tuesday special, which starts at 10 that night ...

Incidentally, all three networks are airing reruns that night to fill out the three hours of primetime, now that CBS has cut its Super Tuesday coverage to two hours and NBC back to one. A two-hour "Matlock" will precede NBC's 10 p.m. special, an hour of "Who's the Boss?" will kick off ABC's evening and an old "Cagney & Lacey" will conclude CBS' evening ...

The word around town is that NBC News will not replace Anne Garrels as number two at the State Department, leaving the beat to John Cochran ...

Garrels, whose three-year contract was not renewed by the network, announced last week she is joining National Public Radio as its top foreign policy correspondent ...

CBS News reduced its State Department coverage to one a couple of years ago when Deborah Potter, then number two to Bill McLaughlin, was assigned to cover the House (although Potter still fills in very occasionally at State) ...

That leaves only ABC News with two still on the State Department beat, John McWethy and Jeanne Meserve (since 1985) ...

The basic decision to cut back at State, one CBS executive suggested yesterday, is that "there isn't enough to do on a regular basis for two these days" ...

NBC News' decision not to replace Garrels also prefigures an expected round of staff reductions that would follow the Summer Olympics and the national political races in November ...

Still, the departure of Garrels underscores again a lingering perception among some NBC women correspondents that on-air opportunities are dwindling at the network ...

Garrels hinted as much when she announced her departure last week but didn't put too fine a point on it, lamenting only the lack of air time for all 70 of the network's on-air correspondents on "NBC Nightly News" every week ...

NBC now has six female on-air correspondents out of a staff of 70; CBS has 14 out of 76; and ABC has 14 out of 77 ...

Asked by a reporter yesterday if NBC News was somehow overlooking its female talent, a NBC News executive (male), who asked not to be named, responded, with some asperity:

"The issue is quality, not sex. That's why White House correspondent Andrea Mitchell is on the 'Today' show every morning and frequently substitutes for Chris Wallace on 'Meet the Press.' That's why Deborah Norville, Maria Shriver, Jane Pauley and Connie Chung are all anchors. Why Ann Rubenstein and Cassandra Clayton are fixtures on the 'Nightly News'; Heidi Shulman is a fixture on 'Today'; and why Lisa Myers has been assigned as a principal correspondent for 'Campaign '88' ...

"Then let's talk about the bureau chiefs in London and Burbank -- two of our most important bureaus -- and the bureau chiefs in Atlanta and Frankfurt; the senior producers on 'Nightly News,' 'Main Street' and 'Before Hours' {the early morning business program}; and the executive producer of 'Meet the Press' ... all women, but more important, all quality" ...