Weight-challenged actress Calista Flockhart finally made an appearance on a talk show, months after canceling a slew of scheduled appearances amid much speculation about her weight--or lack thereof.

During David Letterman's late-night talk show yesterday, she was asked about the attention the media have paid to her thinness. Flockhart said she was "bored with the whole thing" and didn't pay attention to the reports, then turned to face the camera and said: "I would like to take this opportunity to tell the press to kiss my skinny white [heinie]."

The size 0 star has been dogged by speculation that she has an eating disorder since showing up at the Emmy Awards ceremony last fall in a dress that exposed a back that looked like the underside of a crab.

Things came to a head in April when Flockhart became unnerved during a grilling about her weight by Connie Chung for a "20/20" interview that had been timed to publicize Flockhart's new movie, "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

Flockhart's publicist called her next scheduled show, NBC's "Today," and insisted they agree not to discuss her weight--which they declined to do. So Flockhart canceled. And she went on to cancel on Letterman and daytime talker Rosie O'Donnell, too.

Jesse "The Body" Ventura whipped Tim "Meet the Press" Russert last Sunday.

Ventura, the pro wrestler turned Minnesota governor, appeared on ABC's "This Week With Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts" and pumped up Sam and Cokie's audience to 3.38 million. Meanwhile, Russert's guests on NBC's "Meet the Press"--Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Patrick Buchanan and Gen. Wesley Clark--bagged 3.15 million viewers, Russert's smallest audience since last summer and well below his second-quarter winning average of 3.83 million viewers.

While beat nationally, in the Washington market Russert body-slammed Ventura, with 100,000 homes to "This Week's" 71,000 (only household numbers were available).

Pro wrestling put a cable network ahead of a broadcast network in prime time for a full quarter--for the first time ever.

USA, home of the World Wrestling Federation, bagged 2.7 million viewers in prime time for the second quarter while struggling broadcaster UPN averaged 2.5 million.

UPN execs may be embarrassed, but they're not that worried. They think they've found the right program to solve their ratings woes--two hours of "WWF Smackdown" on Thursday nights, starting this fall.

Pro wrestling was behind much of cable's encroachment on broadcast TV for the second quarter. All but four of the top 30 cable shows from March 29 to June 27 were pro wrestling programs. And WWF home base USA and WCW's TNT and TBS account for three of the top five cable networks. TNT averaged 2.2 million viewers in the second quarter and TBS 2 million. HBO, with 2.3 million people, and Nickelodeon, with an average viewership of 1.9 million, round out the cable top five for the quarter.

Meanwhile, The Nashville Network's audience for the second quarter was a mere 846,000 people, but expect that to change soon. TNN has cut a deal with Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) to produce a weekly one-hour Friday night show. ECW produces pay-per-view wrestling events, which are marked by their violence. TNN says the show will be toned down, reports Variety. It will debut on Aug. 27, paired with "Rollerjam," which the network recently resuscitated and which has been very successful at drawing a younger audience to TNN.

Over in wrestling-free broadcast, CBS averaged 11.4 million viewers in prime time for the second quarter--as many as the top five cable networks combined--and was the only broadcast network whose second quarter audience was bigger than that in the same quarter last year.

NBC also averaged 11.4 million. Well behind were ABC with 9.5 million, Fox with 8.2 million and WB at 3.8 million.

We know of no wrestling connection to the boost in ratings for the cable all-news networks during the second quarter. Instead, it was the crisis in Kosovo and the shootout in Colorado that catapulted Fox News Channel to an audience three times the size that it scored during the second quarter in '98--the biggest percentage increase among the all-news nets.

CNN continued to lead with an average of 812,000 viewers in prime time, which is 16 percent better than the same time last year. CNBC, with 403,000 viewers, dropped 11 percent. MSNBC's average of 285,000 viewers was up 102 percent. And Headline News, at 245,000 people, was 37 percent improved. But Fox News Channel, with 254,000 prime-time viewers, was up 206 percent.

Oliver North has been stripped of his prime-time slot.

Starting Tuesday, MSNBC will bump North's half-hour talk show, "Equal Time," out of its prime-time 8 p.m. time slot and into the access 6:30 p.m. slot. And into 8 p.m. the cable news network will move yet another installment of the channel's rabbitlike "Time & Again" clip show, for the time being.

Network honchos are working on a new one-hour biography show, hosted by "Today" hunk Matt Lauer, with a view to either the 8 or 10 p.m. time slot.

Another candidate for the 10 p.m. period, which now houses the program "Hockenberry," is Chris Matthews, who's over at sister channel CNBC. Matthews's new deal with NBC allows the company to shift him to MSNBC, though the timing of the Matthews move is on ice until CNBC brass figure out how to react to extended trading hours on Wall Street.

"Equal Time" is MSNBC's second least watched show in prime time. From its debut on Feb. 1, with Cynthia Alksne as co-host, until her bow-out in April, the show averaged 270,000 people. Then, former Clinton aide Paul Begala was whisked off the South Lawn and into the "Equal Time" studio to revive the show. In his first month co-hosting, Begala pulled in an average of 373,000 viewers. But since then, "Equal Time" has shed more than half that audience and is now down to 154,000 viewers. Only "Hockenberry" scores a smaller prime-time audience for MSNBC, with an average of 149,000 viewers.

CAPTION: Calista Flockhart, giving Letterman the skinny at last.