In Washington Tuesday night, President Bush's State of the Union address drew its largest audience on Channel 4 (NBC) where it averaged a 16.3 rating and a 22 percent audience share ...

The president's audience was helped by a lead-in rating of 14.3/20 from the second half of "Matlock" ...

President Bush drew a 15.9/21 on Channel 7 (ABC) following the premiere episode of "Davis Rules" (13.7/19). Channel 9 (CBS) was off at 11.0/15 for the address, coming from a 14.7/21 lead-in from the second half of "Rescue: 911." Channel 5, which is just getting its Fox feet wet in the live newscast business this year, averaged only a 2.3/3 for the address while Channel 26 coverage averaged a 2.4/3 ...

Each ratings point represents 17,491 TV households ...

Total Washington audience for the president: a 47.9 rating and a 64 share, which translates to some 837,000-plus homes of an available 1.7 million ...

Scrutiny of the tea leaves (i.e., the audience shifts following the lead-ins) would indicate that ABC News and NBC News are the messengers of choice in this market right now ...

While the president addressed the nation, the NHL Caps and Penguins were attracting, if that's quite the right word, a 1.8/2 on Channel 20, while North Carolina State vs. Virginia on Channel 50 was averaging a 1.9/3 ...

Before Ratingzzz Fatigue settles in totally this morning, TV Column fans, we should report that the premiere of "Davis Rules" on ABC did a 15.1/22 in the national ratingzzz Tuesday night. That's pretty good news for the network, which had to be disappointed when "Davis" delivered only a 15.5/25 following the 41.8/63 for the Super Bowl on ABC and the 25.7/39 of the postgame show that immediately preceded the new sitcom on Sunday. A national ratingzzz point represents 931,000 TV homes. But you knew that ...

Now This

The Associated Press said yesterday that Cable News Network, facing nearly $4 million in costs this month for its round-the-clock Persian Gulf War coverage, is discussing with cable operators a temporary and voluntary surcharge to help pay the bills ...

Unnamed sources told AP that CNN might seek up to seven cents a subscriber for up to six months, if the war lasts that long ...

Speculation was that, initially at least, cable operators might not pass the costs on to subscribers. Larry Gerbrandt of Paul Kagan Associates, a leading cable analyst, told AP that cable operators likely would hope to recover their surcharge costs through new subscribers drawn by the attraction of having CNN as part of their television service ...

CNN serves 56.7 million U.S. homes and offices ...

Three network affiliates here are offering help to viewers during the Persian Gulf crisis ...

On Jan. 17, Channel 9 initiated a Persian Gulf hot line, a 24-hour phone service that provides a "comprehensive list of military and civilian organizations you can contact if you're seeking information about a loved one in the gulf, if you need help or if you want to help someone else who does" ...

The WUSA hot line number is 703-284-3292 ...

On Jan. 23, Channel 7 launched a "help line" in conjunction with the George Washington University Medical Center, which offers professional advice for stress and other emotional problems because of the war. That service is available between 5 and 7 p.m. daily at 202-994-7775 ...

Seven also offers a support line with help from the military offering information for the families of service men and women. The 24-hour service is available at 202-432-WJLA.

And Seven, in cooperation with the American Red Cross and the Marriott organization, is pushing an on-air campaign for blood donations on Feb. 8, 18 and 28 ...

Channel 4 on Monday launched "Operation: Home Front," which, with the help of the USO of metropolitan Washington, provides responses to questions "concerning up-to-the-minute news about the war; where families of troops can find military or counseling information; and where callers can go to volunteer their services in their field of expertise" ...

That service is currently available from 4 until 8 p.m. weekdays at 202-885-HOME. More than 20 telephones are manned daily at the station to help viewers ...

Moving Right Along

ABC Entertainment, after some backing and filling, has restored the "War Game" episode of "Under Cover" to Saturday night's primetime schedule ...

The story line of "War Game" is as outrageous as most Saturday night TV dramas, but the context, at the outset of the Persian Gulf War, obviously troubled the network: A Palestinian terrorist kidnaps the head of the "National Intelligence Agency" (read: CIA), and videotapes his torture. The hero of the series, Dylan (Anthony John Denison), "and a KGB colonel are reluctant partners" as they try to find the terrorist, who is also threatening Dylan's children ...

"Under Cover," produced by William Broyles, the creator of "China Beach," also employs former CIA agent Frank Snepp as consultant. The series has been having ABC problems ever since it debuted in early January with Part I of a two-parter called "Sacrifice," which was set in Kuwait and Iraq last August, just before the invasion ...

ABC showed the first episode of "Sacrifice" but canceled the conclusion in favor of a "MacGyver" rerun as the Persian Gulf War heated up. "War Game," meanwhile, was originally scheduled to air last Saturday but the series returned to the air, instead, with an episode in which the Dylan daughter guesses her mom and dad both work for "the Agency" ...

At the conclusion of the Jan. 26 episode, ABC aired a preview of "War Game" ...

But this past Tuesday, ABC abruptly announced it was pulling "War Game" (again), on the grounds, according to network spokesman Bob Wright, that "it was inappropriate, given the situation in the world." Then yesterday ABC restored it to the schedule ...

Yesterday, Wright offered a second explanation. "We felt originally," he said, "that the story line of the Palestinian terrorist who sends back videotapes of torture was just horribly inappropriate because 'War Games' was originally scheduled just when the Iraqi video tapes of the captured airmen were still fresh in everybody's mind. To show it would have seemed exploitative ...

"Now, with primetime schedules fairly normal again, we feel the story doesn't seem as insensitive" ...

Meanwhile, the entire, two-hour "Sacrifice," whose story line includes the discovery by NIA operatives that Iraq plans to launch rockets full of deadly germs, could be eventually rescheduled as a two-hour movie later this spring, according to Broyles ...

Snepp, in a letter to TV critics around the country before the scheduling problems with "War Game" surfaced, had already pointed out that the episode, which he wrote, had to be cleared by the CIA ...

"Never before," said Snepp, "has this happened in connection with an on-air TV series" ...

Snepp charged elsewhere that ABC is trying to "sanitize reality and coddle the public" with its program decisions ...

Broyles wasn't quite so combative yesterday. As for the initial ABC decision to scrap the conclusion of "Sacrifice," he said, "I disagreed mildly but I understood that was their initial reaction when the war broke out and they weren't sure of viewer sensitivities ...

"But I feel the series deals with things the public ought to see. These shows are about courage and heroism and the choices people make under difficult situations. I think that's what Americans have to wrestle with right now. ABC has a large tent under which they can do all kinds of things. Sitcoms are escapist; I think one hour devoted to the issues is appropriate" ...

As for ABC's move to restore "War Game" to the schedule this week, Broyles said, "I applaud it; I am very happy with the decision" ...

Grumbled one ABC executive in New York, who declined to be named: "I think the letter campaign from Snepp just might have something to do with the ratings" ...

Translation: After two appearances on the network, "Under Cover" is in a three-way tie for 97th in the season-to-date rankings of 117 series launched so far on the four networks, with a slim 6.3/12 average ...

King World and Harpo Inc., Oprah Winfrey's production company, yesterday announced it's extended its agreement under which Oprah will continue to host and produce "The Oprah Winfrey Show" through the 1994-95 broadcast season ...

Since the program debuted in 1986, it has been the number one-rated nationally syndicated talk show, right through 17 consecutive sweeps periods ...

Oprah is seen at 4 p.m. locally on Channel 7 ...

ABC News correspondent Gary Shepard, who reported from Baghdad Jan. 16 as the first bombs of the war fell, returns to the United States this week from Tel Aviv ...

Tomorrow he'll be at Wilton (Conn.) High School conducting four seminars on the war throughout the day for the student body, which includes his sons Chris, 15, and Jamie, 17 ...