CNN did not have plenty to be thankful for last month, having plunged 44 percent in prime time vs. November '98.

CNN wasn't the only cable news network to experience that sense of weightlessness November-to-November, but its decline was by far the steepest.

When it landed, CNN was still the leader of the pack, with an average of 561,000 viewers last month in prime time--where most of the viewer and ad action is. But last November CNN was pulling in 1 million watchers. And CNN's lead against its closest competitor, CNBC, was cut from about 490,000 viewers to just 128,000.

CNBC had dropped 15 percent in prime time, from 511,000 viewers to 433,000.

Fox News Channel was the only one of the pack in the black; up from 202,000 to 248,000 viewers. That puts it ahead of MSNBC in prime time for the seventh month this year. MSNBC averaged 197,000 prime-time sets of eyeballs, vs. 248,000 last November.

CNN's prime-time flagship show "Larry King Live" was down about as much as the network was overall in prime time. But King can still crush his competitors; CNBC, for instance, averaged just 455,000 viewers opposite King's audience of 1 million.

It can be argued that CNN's bad news is actually its good news because it shows that CNN is still the cable news network of choice in times of crisis. November '98 was a crisis-riddled month what with the U.S. bombing of Iraq, Ken Starr's impeachment testimony and John Glenn's return to outer space. By comparison November '99 was calm.

At least CNN was saying as much when asked for comment.

The network might also have mentioned that fledgling Fox News Channel has added 7.7 million TV homes since last November and MSNBC has added 7.1 million.

CBS has named Carol Marin solo anchor of the 10 p.m. newscast on its network-owned TV station in Chicago, the nation's No. 3 TV market. Marin, who's been a reporter at the station since '97, will start her new gig during the February sweeps, while continuing as a correspondent on the net's "60 Minutes II."

The Windy City native has been a news fixture there for two decades, but catapulted to national fame in '97 when she walked from the town's NBC station, where she'd been the 10 p.m. co-anchor for 12 years, rather than share the news desk with syndicated schlock TV host Jerry Springer, who had been hired by the station as a commentator.

Since then, Marin has been an investigative reporter at WBBM-TV, the CBS station. CBS hopes her national profile on the network's news programs will help boost ratings on the Chi station's late local news shows, which are running a distant third behind ABC's and NBC's in that market.

She'll be the first woman to solo anchor a late-night newscast in Chicago, which, I'm sorry to say, is still considered so extraordinary it's news. She's replacing the ubiquitous man-woman anchor team; they'll continue anchoring the station's 4 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. newscasts.

NBC's late-night king Jay Leno has been tapped to entertain the White House Correspondents' Association at its annual dinner on April 29.

For the uninitiated, the White House Correspondents' Association is an 85-year-old clan of reporters who cover the White House for wire services, newspapers, newsmagazines, television and radio networks. The annual dinner is a mega schmooze-fest traditionally attended by the sitting U.S. president.

Leno last sang for his supper before the White House correspondents way back in 1987. He says he's jazzed about coming back because it gives him the opportunity "to meet the true comedy writers of America."

Hey, with a laugh track, that line could be funny.


Fox has spared midseason comedy series "Malcolm in the Middle" a certain DOA debut by moving it out of its designated Sunday 7 p.m. time slot--the toughest on the network's schedule--and over to Sundays at 8:30 p.m.--the cushiest comedy slot on Fox's schedule.

The nonanimated half-hour show, about a boy who is a genius and his very non-genius family, debuts on Jan. 9 in the plum slot, right after "The Simpsons" and before "The X-Files." Its first three outings will be boosted by NFL playoff games airing just before the start of prime time.

"Futurama," the animated half-hour from "The Simpsons" creator Matt Groening that is the current slot occupant, will take off a month and then move into that dreadful Sunday 7 p.m. slot starting Feb. 6. Fans of the slot's current tenant, "World's Funniest!"-- you know who you are--must bid it adieu on Jan. 30.

20th Century Fox has hired the former Mrs. Mike Tyson, Robin Givens, to play peacemaking host on its daytime relationship show "Forgive or Forget."

I know, I know, the irony is not lost on you, either.

Givens is replacing Mother Love, a former radio personality, who has hosted the show since its debut in June 1998. The former "Head of the Class" star takes over in January, which, not coincidentally, is right around the time that stations will decide whether they want to reup the low-rated daily show. The head of the Fox division that syndicates it says they're taking it in "a new direction."

Givens is a big fan of playing out marital problems on TV in front of millions of people. That's how she handled hers when she went on "20/20" with Tyson and told America that she was afraid of her husband and that life with him was "torture . . . pure hell . . . worse than anything I could possibly imagine." One month later, she filed for divorce.

In the Washington market, where "Forgive or Forget" airs on Channel 50, it's averaging about 11,000 TV households this season, and finishes last in its time slot among broadcast programs.

WETA's head of public and media relations, Elise Adde, has resigned to team with former colleague Tom Goodman at Goodman Media International. Ten-year station vet Mary Stewart replaces her.

Adde has been named president at GMI's newly opened Washington office, which is actually located in Alexandria.

Goodman and Adde go way back; they were colleagues in the media relations department at ABC News, where they were assigned to "World News Tonight With Peter Jennings." Goodman went on to become head of communications at CBS Inc. before leaving to start his own New York-based firm.

As senior VP of communications at WETA, Adde oversaw creation and coordination of advertising for WETA-produced programs, including "Washington Week in Review" and the station's co-productions with Ken Burns. She also directed marketing and PR for Fanfare, WETA's new 24-hour classical music cable network.

Only one more chance to catch a new episode of NBC's Saturday morning show "Saved by the Bell." After 265 episodes, the teenie-bopper series is calling it a day on NBC's weekend lineup after this coming Saturday. Sure, you're not a regular watcher of Saturday morning kids' stuff, but you might want to check it out anyway, if only to see what passes these days for "educational and informational" programming, per the FCC's requirements in the Children's Television Act of 1990.