James Adams has returned to work at Channel 5 after a month's treatment for substance abuse ...

But Adams, who has been co-anchor of the 10 o'clock news with Morris Jones since 1984, has not been returned to his anchor duties ...

Instead, news director Kim Montour has assigned him to what she calls "high profile stories on key community subjects." Yesterday she praised him for "some great pieces, people pieces," since his return July 30, including street interviews following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and with the Marion Barry trial watchers ...

Meanwhile, Angela Robinson, who stepped in for Adams as co-anchor following his June 8 arrest in Herndon for driving while intoxicated, continues as co-anchor ...

Adams has yet to go to trial on the June charge. Both he and management are reluctant to talk about his reassignment at this time. The situation is especially sensitive since Adams had been working without a contract for some time before the Herndon arrest ...

Alfred Geller, Adams's agent, yesterday would say only that "we're in conversations and I hope we'll resolve it. It's sensitive stuff" ...

Montour was equally reticent, saying only that "we're working some things out privately. I'm happy with James being back, we want him to be there. He has a great flair for writing. I'm happy with Angela and Morris. We're taking it day by day" ...

Adams, a 13-year WTTG veteran, recently completed a month of treatment at an unspecified site. The June arrest was his third since 1985, all involving abuse of alcohol. He was convicted of DWI following an accident in Alexandria in 1985. A subsequent arrest while driving did not go to trial ...

In June he told a reporter, before leaving for a brief vacation and treatment, that "I really want to get my life in order," and asked for viewers' prayers ...

Yesterday, he referred all questions to Geller ...

Although the principals would not discuss the situation, some at the Fox-owned station are concerned that the relegation to street reporter status could affect Adams's therapy ...

One close to the story yesterday pointed out that Channel 4 had been sympathetic to anchor Jim Vance several years ago when he needed help for a substance abuse problem and, after treatment, restored him to his anchor position on his return ...

One more small step for personkind ... as Maryland Public Television announces it will "suspend traditional public TV practice of long pledge drives" ...

But only after MPT's upcoming August drive that runs from Friday the 17th through Sunday the 26th and will rely on the usual telethon format with heavy promotions between the shows ...

Channel 26 here has already announced that its upcoming August fund-raising drive has been canceled in favor of a campaign using 900 telephone number spots urging viewer contributions all this month ...

Public TV fans around the country for years have had to endure three major fund-raising sessions annually -- in August, December and March -- featuring long-drawn-out and frequent program-interrupting pledge pleas in front of a bank of telephones waiting to ring ...

Marketing surveys indicate this is a big turnoff for audiences, although public TV loyalists have continued to support the system generously, considering the annoyance ...

MPT will henceforth rely on spot announcements throughout the broadcast year appealing for funds as well as direct mail appeals. The short announcements, running up to 90 seconds, will be seen only during regular breaks. Many will use celebrities ...

A spokesman for MPT yesterday pledged that the Maryland network of six stations will not overdo the brief spots either, as the non-fund-raising-drive year goes by. "We discovered the public wants to give but it wants to be asked in a different way" ...

Last year's August drive netted nearly $400,000 for MPT ...

Along the Ratingzz Rialto: That updated NBC News "Expose" hour on Monday night averaged a 10.2 national Nielsen rating and an 18 percent audience share at 8 p.m. CBS's "Face to Face With Connie Chung" did an 11.3/20 at 10 p.m... .

The NBC movie from 9 to 11, "Hiroshima: Out of the Ashes," averaged an 11.3/20 ...

TV RATINGZZZZ

Following are the top 20 network prime-time shows last week, ranked according to the percentage of the nation's 92.1 milllion TV households that watched, as measured by the A.C. Nielsen Co. A share represents the percentage of actual sets-in-use tuned to a particular program when it aired.

...RATINGS.....................................SHARE...NETWORK

1.....14.7.....Cheers.............................27.......NBC

2.....13.3.....60 Minutes.........................28.......CBS

3.....13.0.....Unsolved Mysteries.................26.......NBC

......13.0.....Empty Nest.........................26.......NBC

......13.0.....America's Funniest Home Videos.....24.......ABC

......13.0.....Roseanne...........................22.......ABC

......13.0.....Married ... With Children........22.......FOX

8.....12.9.....Designing Women....................22.......CBS

9.....12.8.....The Simpsons.......................23.......FOX

10....12.7.....Murder Ordained....................22.......CBS

11....12.6.....The Cosby Show.....................26.......NBC

12....12.5.....A Different World..................25.......NBC

13....12.2.....The Golden Girls...................26.......NBC

14....11.6.....Murder, She Wrote..................21.......CBS

......11.6.....Twin Peaks.........................20.......ABC

16....11.5.....Top Cops...........................22.......CBS

......11.5.....Murphy Brown.......................20.......CBS

18....11.4.....20/20..............................24.......ABC

......11.4.....Grand..............................21.......NBC

20....11.3.....In Living Color....................19.......FOX

The three major networks averaged only a cumulative 50 percent audience share last week, the lowest ever, except for the summer of 1988 when the big guys slipped to a cumulative 47 share during the GOP national convention ...

However, the FOX network added another 10 percent share and a 5.2 rating to the network totals for the week ending Sunday, as NBC won with a 9.0/17, followed by ABC at 8.9/17 and CBS at 8.5/16 ...

Things were so slow at the networks, the nightly newscasts nearly matched the primetime performances as "ABC World News Tonight" did an 8.8/20, compared with a 7.8/18 for "NBC Nightly News" and a 7.7/18 for "CBS Evening News." That added up to a combined 56 percent share. The news numbers were apparently boosted at the end of the week as the Iraqi crisis built ...

Among the highlights: In her first rerun appearance since she screeched her way through the national anthem on Aug. 1, "Roseanne" Barr's audience fell off some 1.4 million TV homes from the previous week ...

And among the new shows seen last week, ABC's "Tim Conway: Funny America" was 25th, CBS's "Face to Face With Connie Chung" was 30th, NBC's "Parker Kane" tied for 31st, CBS's "Northern Exposure" tied for 39th and Deborah Norville's NBC News special, "Sex, Buys & Advertising," was 45th ...

A brand new episode of CBS's "Beauty & the Beast" finished 85th among 93 programs aired on all four networks last week ...

In Other News

NBC Entertainment has finally released details of its very early season premieres of seven new series -- each of which will be repeated once before the start of the season on Sept. 17 ...

The so-called "double pumping" (with the repeat airdates in parentheses) gets underway Monday, Aug. 20, when "Hull High" debuts at 8 (Sept. 15), followed by "Parenthood" (Sept. 6) at 9 and "Lifestories" (Sept. 12) at 10 ...

On Wednesday, Aug. 22, "Working It Out" (Sept. 8) airs at 9. That same evening "Hunter" will be introduced in its new fall 10 p.m. timeslot ...

Thursday, Aug. 23, "Ferris Bueller" (Sept. 10) will air at 8:30 ...

"Law & Order" will begin its double-pumping at 10 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13 (again at 11:30 p.m., Sept. 27) ...

"The Fanelli Boys" will show up at 9:30 on Saturday, Sept. 8 (Sept. 12) ...

Among the other new NBC series, "American Dreamer" will debut at 9:30 on Sept. 20 and "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" will debut at 8 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 10 ...

As the Iraqi crisis escalated yesterday, the networks bared their competitive teeth, as usual. But there were also a couple of rare acknowledgments of small triumphs by the competition ...

CBS News broke into regular broadcasts at 3:30 p.m. as Pentagon correspondent David Martin reported that U.S. troops would be deployed to Saudi Arabia ...

Shortly thereafter, NBC's Tom Brokaw came on the air and repeated the report, actually crediting CBS News ...

CNN's Wolf Blitzer at 3:50 also confirmed the CBS report that President Bush had okayed the deployment of troops to Saudi Arabia. (CNN said it had been reporting U.S. troop movements both here and in Europe since 7 a.m.) ...

At 3:57, ABC News reported only that the Saudis had agreed to permit the basing of U.S. aircraft at Saudi bases ...

Then, at 4:04, NBC Pentagon correspondent Fred Francis made the breakthrough, reporting that U.S. troops were already in Saudi Arabia ...

(Apparently miffed by a spate of claims by rivals about who was first with the American moves in the Middle East, one CBS News official let it be known late yesterday that half an hour before Francis's report, NBC had come on the air to say that the talks between Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and Saudi officials had "gone badly") ...