It's over for "The Mike O'Malley Show."

NBC confirmed yesterday that production had been shut down on the sitcom, about a thirty-something slob who's having trouble getting over the fact that his best pal is getting a life.

This past Tuesday, "O'Malley" held on to just 65 percent of its lead-in "Will & Grace" audience, which is the same as the previous week when it debuted. And since anything under an 80 percent lead-in retention is considered really bad, and "The Mike O'Malley Show" is not produced by the people who created "Friends," the network did what it's supposed to do and whacked it.

NBC says to expect reruns in that Tuesday 9:30 p.m. time slot for the time being.

Ed Turner, a former executive vice president for news at CNN, has resigned as president of the Forum Network, a proposed local public affairs cable channel being developed by WETA and the Freedom Forum of Arlington.

Turner, who brought experience and credibility to the fledgling operation, resigned over "differences in management styles" with the Forum Network's board, according to a spokeswoman, who declined to elaborate.

Turner will be replaced by Jack Hurley, vice president of broadcasting for the Freedom Forum, which promotes press freedom and operates the Newseum in Arlington, The Post's Paul Farhi reports. Turner will serve as a consultant to the channel.

The nonprofit channel's backers are hoping to gain carriage on Washington area cable systems, starting around the beginning of next year. It's unclear how many systems have committed to carrying the channel.

What's up with Hillary Howard? The WTTG weekend anchor was last seen on the air in late June. When she left, The TV Column heard that she was on a maternity-related medical leave but she'd be back on our local airwaves soon after her little bundle of joy arrived.

Now, word is the 10-year Channel 5 veteran is gone for good from the station and, according to a source close to the situation, WTTG brass had notified her before she left that she was going to be taken out of the anchor seat.

Howard, speaking from home, confirmed that she has left the station and that she's expecting; she's "blissfully happy" and her due date is Dec. 2. She said she could not answer any other questions about her departure from WTTG.

Next, The TV Column's John Maynard called WTTG to investigate. "Obviously, she's no longer with our station," said Mary Tallie, human resources VP for WTTG. When pressed for more information, Tallie said she couldn't say anything more "based on our policy."

NBC has finally confirmed one of the worst-kept secrets: It has hired Forrest Sawyer as an anchor and contributor for both the broadcast network news operation and the 24-hour cable news network MSNBC.

Sawyer's first day is Oct. 11. He will be the chief substitute anchor on MSNBC's nightly "The News With Brian Williams" and will also contribute to the cable net's upcoming U.S. election coverage, including the presidential race. The former ABC News anchor and correspondent also will anchor and report for various NBC News programs, including prime-time's "Dateline." And, he will continue working at the Discovery Channel; his relationship with that cable network goes back to June, when he hosted "Twister Week."

"Meet the Press With Tim Russert" was the No. 1 Sunday Beltway program for the third quarter of 1999. Russert's program enjoyed its biggest margin over No. 2 "This Week" for the quarter and for the 52-week season since the advent of the people meters in '87. For the third quarter, Russert's NBC broadcast averaged 3.7 million viewers, while ABC's "This Week With Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts" logged 2.8 million. CBS's "Face the Nation" registered 2.4 million and Fox's "News Sunday" 1.3 million. NBC's Sunday program was down 12 percent vs. the third quarter of '98, ABC's dropped 18 percent, CBS's moved up 6 percent and Fox's was down 1 percent.