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NBC NEWS: `MURPHY BROWN’ FACSIMILE

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Like sands in the hourglass, so are the Days of NBC News.

In the wake of Bryant vs. Willard, Jane vs. Deborah and NBC News vs. KRON, the peacock blushingly presents Tom vs. New York City.Seems Tom Brokaw offended the city he lives and works in (which, not coincidentally, happens to be the nation's largest television market) when he used "NBC Nightly News" time to compliment San Francisco motorists for their courtesy after traffic lights went out, adding that such a thing would never happen in the Big Apple.

"In New York City," he said, "not a chance."

Well, Mayor Ed Koch, among others, let Brokaw know that the shot was not taken lightly.

"A lot of my fellow New Yorkers . . . reminded me of how smoothly traffic moved in this city during the big power blackouts," a humble Tom Not-So-Terrific said in apologizing on the air Wednesday. "And they were right. I was wrong."

Then he added: "Traffic does move a lot better here when the traffic lights don't work."

OK, I get it. NBC News isn't really NBC News. It's "Murphy Brown" brought to life.

-ON TV TONIGHT: Sports fans will have some serious channel-hopping to do tonight. I know, I know - I've asked you not to do that. But the way I see it, "channel-hopping" is aimlessly drifting from channel to channel, which is dangerously mindless. Bouncing back and forth between specific viewing alternative is "multi-option monitoring," and that's challenging and kind of fun - especially when you've got two good football games going at the same time that are staggered just right so you can watch a play unfold on one channel while the teams on the other channel are in the huddle.

Tonight, however, the action will be more continuous - and the channel-hopping . . . er, excuse me, multi-option monitoring a little more strenuous - when the Jazz travel to Cincinnati to take on Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics (including former BYU star Mike Smith) in NBA Preseason Basketball (5:30 p.m., Ch. 13). And just a half-hour after tip-off, The World Series (6 p.m., Ch. 4) resumes, with the Giants and the Athletics finally finished with the quakin' and ready to do some shakin' and bakin' at Candlestick Park.

If you think you'd prefer life on the Mississippi to baseball by the Bay, you won't want to miss "Great Performances"' entertaining new production of the Kern-Hammerstein musical classic, Show Boat (8:30 p.m., Ch. 7). Based on the Edna Ferber novel, this PBS version features strong performances, wonderful staging and those marvelous "Show" tunes. If you can watch this and not find yourself humming something from the score sometime during the weekend, you weren't really paying attention.

Among the evening's interesting mix of movie options, the lone TV-movie premiere is Single Women, Married Men (8 p.m., Ch. 5). It features a bunch of TV stars (Lee "Paradise" Horsley, Michele "Knots Landing" Lee, Mary "Newhart" Frann and Alan "L.A. Law" Rachins) in a story about a single shrink who researches why single women fall for married men - and then falls for one herself. I haven't seen it yet - and to tell you the truth, I don't really intend to. You're on your own.

Elsewhere, James Stewart and June Allyson star in The Glenn Miller Story (6 p.m., TNT); The Concorde: Airport '79 (8 p.m., Ch. 13) features Robert Wagner and George Kennedy (and no, I haven't forgotten Charo - no matter how hard I try); a fine cast (Doris Day, Stephen Boyd, Jimmy Durante, Martha Raye and Dean Jagger) makes Jumbo (8 p.m., Ch. 14) worth watching; and Peter Sellers stars in Stanley Kubrick's wonderfully campy Dr. Strangelove (10:05 p.m., TBS).

-WEEKEND SPORTS: The World Series takes center stage this weekend, with Game Four set for Saturday at 6 p.m. on Ch. 4. If a Game Five is needed, it will be played Sunday, same batting time, same batting channel. College Football games set for Saturday coverage include Indiana-Michigan (10 a.m., Ch. 4), Tennessee-LSU (11 a.m., TBS), Alabama-Penn State (12:30 p.m., Ch. 5), Washington-UCLA (1:30 p.m., Ch. 4), Pittsburgh-Notre Dame (3 p.m., ESPN), Miami-Florida State (6 p.m., ESPN) and BYU-Hawaii (11:30 p.m., Ch. 5). On Sunday, Pro Football coverage includes Oilers-Browns (11 a.m., Ch. 2), Rams-Bears (11 a.m., Ch. 5) and Eagles-Broncos (2 p.m., Ch. 2).

-WEEKEND SERIES: KUED introduces viewers to America's Century (Saturday at 7 p.m., Ch. 7), a six-part series hosted by Lewis Lapham that examines the changing role of the United States in international politics this century. In part one, America's accidental "Coming of Age" occurs despite the country's isolationist tendencies. Elsewhere, Dick Van Dyke guests as Dorothy's new beau on The Golden Girls (Saturday at 8 p.m., Ch. 2), Emmy-winner James Woods hosts Saturday Night Live (Saturday at 11:35 p.m., Ch. 2) and Slimer! And the Real Ghostbusters (Sunday at 6:30 p.m., Ch. 4) goes prime time with a Halloween special.

-WEEKEND MOVIES: This was supposed to be a big weekend for Nixon-ophiles, with ABC's three-hour airing of its dramatization of Woodward and Bernstein's The Final Days (Sunday at 7 p.m., Ch. 4). But if there's a Game Five of the World Series, it won't air this weekend - if there isn't, it will. No matter when it airs, it is extremely well done and fascinating viewing.

Set to air Sunday night - World Series or no - are two similarly themed movies. The Lady Forgets (Sunday 8 p.m., Ch. 5) is a drama starring Donna Mills as an amnesia victim who discovers that she has led a double life. And Double Your Pleasure (Sunday at 8 p.m., Ch. 2) features Jackee in a comedy about twin sisters who switch places to help solve a crime. (Yikes! I can't abide one Jackee. I'm absolutely positive I couldn't handle two.)

And on Saturday HBO premieres Perfect Witness (Saturday at 9 p.m., HBO), a made-for-cable thriller about a crime witness (Aidan Quinn) who is used - and abused - by a proselyting district attorney (Brian Dennehy). Stockard Channing also stars in a film that probably would have been rated R for its violence, profanity and sexuality.

Also on tap: Walter Pidgeon and Maureen O'Hara in How Green Was My Valley (Saturday at 3 and 9 p.m., AMC); Fred Astaire and Judy Garland in Easter Parade (Saturday at 6 p.m., TNT); Sidney Poitier in A Patch of Blue (Saturday at 8:15 p.m., TNT); and Jim Varney in - shudder - Ernest Goest to Camp (Sunday at 6 p.m., Ch. 2).