PBS now expects that the epic "The Civil War" -- which concluded its run last night -- will turn out to be the most-watched series ever on the public network ...

Wednesday night, the two-hour broadcast averaged a 9.2 Nielsen rating and a 14 percent audience share in 24 major markets around the country. PBS estimates that some 14.2 million viewers saw the program ...

That was up 6 percent from the previous night. Over its first four nights the series averaged a 9.0/13. Viewership usually declines after the first night by as much as one-third and the continuing success has convinced PBS officials they have a record-setter on their hands ...

In Washington, however, viewership dropped 15 percent on Wednesday night, averaging an 8.1/12, or some 198,000 viewers in approximately 141,000 TV homes in the area ...

Regardless, ratings for WETA grew from a 6.8 in the first half-hour to a 10.1 by the conclusion at 10 p.m. Wednesday night ...

PBS researchers were estimating that one-third of all American households watching TV last night would tune in for all or part of the final broadcast of the monumental series ...

By comparison, PBS says the "Cosmos" series that debuted in September 1980 averaged a 6.5 national rating, or about 8.6 million viewers a night; "Vietnam: A Television History" averaged a 5.2 rating or about 6.3 million viewers; and the "Great Performances" series "Brideshead Revisited" averaged a 4.7 rating, or 5.5 million viewers starting in January 1982 ...

One more sign of "The Civil War's" hold on the viewing public: Johnny Carson, whose opening monologues often provide shrewd insights into American culture as it's perceived from off the Ventura Freeway and who has had some kind words about the series this week -- will interview series creator Ken Burns on tonight's "The Tonight Show" ...

It will be six weeks before national figures can be compiled on the series ...

ABC won Night Three of the Official New Season Wednesday night but its most-publicized new series, Steven Bochco's "Cop Rock," wasn't much help ...

The network averaged a 13.3/22 between 8 and 11, but at 10 "Cop Rock" did a 10.3/19, coming off a lead-in 12.6/20 from another new series, "Married People," which in turn was coming off a strong 15.7/24 lead-in from "Doogie Howser, M.D." at 9 ...

On NBC, "Hunter" did a 12.5/22 at 10 p.m., while CBS, which eventually will air "WIOU" in that hour, did a 10.5/19 with the "Mike Wallace: Then & Now" special ...

CBS kicked off the night with a 6.9/12 from "Lenny" and a 6.6/11 from "Doctor, Doctor." But "Jake and the Fatman" recovered for a 13.0/20 ...

But ABC found solace in the fact that "Cop Rock" finished first among young adults 18 to 34, and 18 to 49, kids 2 to 11 and teens 12 to 17, which a spokesman pointed out yesterday "was our targeted audience group" ... and the fact it got an 18.7/28 in New York ...

Locally, "Cop Rock" did a slim 7.6/13 on Channel 7, compared with a 10.4/17 for "Hunter" on Four and an 8.6/14 for the Wallace retrospective on Nine ...

Ratingzzz Free ZoneTomorrow night's broadcast of CBS News's "48 Hours" will be its last Saturday broadcast until Oct. 27, when CBS has finished its major league baseball broadcasts, although on Wednesday, Oct. 10, there will be a special airing of the series amid the ballgames ...

The Oct. 27 return will be devoted to the story of an 11-year-old Iowa boy whose death from a curable disease has resulted in court action against his parents. That program, "Who Killed Allen Griffen?," will be the pilot of another possible CBS News series tentatively titled "In Court" or "On Trial," which "48 Hours" executive producer Andrew Heyward is preparing for the network ...

Two other such court cases will be aired on "48 Hours" later this year as Heyward works on the concept ...

Heyward is also developing a project, tentatively titled "Whose Side Are You On?," which would examine controversial issues ...

Heyward said yesterday the format would take stories that would put the "issues themselves on trial in as strong a form as possible." A pilot for that series is still in the planning stages ...

Both the court project and "Whose Side Are You On?" would be 30-minute programs should they get a spot on the CBS primetime schedule somewhere down the line ...

Heyward yesterday stressed that the network has made no commitments but said that "the atmosphere's changed" under the team of Broadcast Group president Howard Stringer (a former president of CBS News) and Entertainment president Jeff Sagansky, both of whom, he said, are looking for challenging programming ideas ...

Captain Airwaves says that CNN's "The Capital Gang" is the most fun to watch public affairs show in town these days. By far (careful, Airwaves!) ...

NBC News has chosen Charlotte, N.C., as the site for its new 24-hour News Channel, which will feed footage to affiliates starting Jan. 1. It will have a staff of about 45 ...

North Carolina is a -- we hesitate to mention this -- non-union state ...

Right now, NBC has no firm plans to turn the wee hours of the morning into a structured overnight news show (or at least a headline service on the hour between 1 and 6 a.m.) -- similar to the five-hour program now under serious consideration by ABC News ...

But at the Radio and Television News Directors Association convention in San Jose, Calif., earlier this week, NBC affiliate news directors indicated they liked the idea and News Channel president Bob Horner said he'd take it under consideration ...

Channel 7 will air a one-hour live special tomorrow starting at noon covering the placement of the last stone in the tower of Washington Cathedral. Renee Poussaint will anchor the coverage ...

The ACC football game between Duke and Clemson will be joined in progress at 1 on Seven ...

Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze will make his first appearance ever on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday (Channel 4 at 10:30 a.m.). Tom Brokaw and Garrick Utley will tape the interview tomorrow afternoon at NBC News in New York ...

And on Tuesday night, Ted Koppel will interview Vice President Dan Quayle live on ABC News's "Nightline," the latter's first appearance on the program since his 1988 election ...

The previous night, CBS News will debut its still-untitled half-hour at 11:30 anchored by Lesley Stahl and Charles Kuralt. But the head-to-head competition with Mr. Koppel won't happen since that's Monday Night Football night on ABC and "Nightline" won't air until sometime after midnight ...

Incidentally, though no title has been picked, "America Tonight" is still the front-runner for the new CBS News show ...

Big BucksThe "McMillions on NBC" jackpot was worth $4 million going into last night's broadcast of "The Cosby Show" ...

If nobody got the nine-digit winning number on his trip to a McDonald's, the pot will be $5 million when another winning number is announced on "Night Court" tonight at 9 ...

(If someone won last night, the pot will be "only" $1 million again tonight) ...

This biggest TV promo ever has already helped a couple of NBC programs, although audiences for "The Fanellis" Wednesday night, on which the winning number was announced, were down 4 percent from the previous week ...

On the first night, "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" was up 13 percent from the previous week. On Tuesday, the winning number was announced in the 9 p.m. segment of a two-hour "Matlock," which ended up 7 percent higher than the previous week ...

But, more importantly, the Tuesday tune-in to NBC may have contributed to a 17.6/26 for ABC's "Roseanne," that top-rated series' lowest number ever for an original episode ... The contest runs from Sept. 24 to Oct. 21 and there is $28 million in the big pot, with another $7.5 million available to McDonald's customers who find a winning $1 card on their visits ...

The 15-second winner spots will usually be seen on NBC's new series during the 28-night run of the promo ...

For its part, NBC donates the 15 seconds; McDonald's has provided the $35.5 million ...

Channel 26 has sent fliers to all clinics, health agencies and high schools in the area seeking candidates from whom it will choose six women for its upcoming "Nine Months" series, which will trace the six through their pregnancies ...

"Are you due at the end of March??? Or beginning of April???" the fliers ask. "If you are interested in the program, or know someone who would be a good candidate ... contact Grenda Norris or Darcy Corcoran at Channel 26 703-998-2600. Call Today! Call Today! Call Today!" ...

ABC's "Good Morning America" loped to still another victory in the morning network race last week with a 4.5/20, compared with a 3.2/16 for NBC's "Today" and a 2.6/13 for "CBS This Morning." If you care, the 2.6 was CBS's highest for a week since May. Of 1990 ...