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Shawn Weatherly wanted to leave the NBC series "Baywatch," but the producers wouldn't let her go gently into that Big Blue. They had the character of Jill, whom Weatherly played, attacked by sharks. Poor Jill, fished out of the drink, expired on a hospital bed.

That's right: they fed her to the sharks. This most likely means that Weatherly will not be part of the "Baywatch" reunion show that airs in 2005. Apparently she wanted off the series because she has bigger fish to fry.Dispatching a character to eternity when an actor leaves a show is an old TV tradition. One of the most illustrious cases was the departure of McLean Stevenson from "M*A*S*H" in 1975. Stevenson, who played Col. Blake, had a big NBC contract in his pocket and couldn't wait to start making hits on his own.

The story goes that the producers were so happy to see Stevenson leave that they had Col. Blake die in a plane crash, a device to prevent Stevenson from ever returning. As for the actor, he went on to an oblivion that included the infamous short-lived flop, "Hello, Larry."

But I like this idea of throwing stars to the sharks. It has a certain panache. Already there's been speculation that some similarly ghastly demise might be awaiting Roseanne Conner, the character played by monster-actress Roseanne Barr on ABC's monster-hit "Roseanne." Even the title character of a show can be written out of it, as NBC proved by writing Valerie Harper out of "Valerie."

Barr might think twice before tossing her next tantrum, lest Conner meet with a terrible accident. Let's see - late one night, Roseanne is walking across I-95 to get to the doughnut shop when suddenly, from out of nowhere, a huge tanker truck loaded with sharks . . .

Of course, Barr would be a great loss. There are other actors whose disappearances would be much easier to bear. Like the irrepressible Tony Danza, who plays the irrepressible Tony Micelli on "Who's the Boss?" Both Tony's are a living reminder that some people ought to be repressed.

Danza showed a fresh, ingenuous charm when he made his TV debut on "Taxi" in 1978. He's replaced most of the charm with a hyperactive, overbearing, eye-bulging acting style that recalls Gale Storm's weekly conniption fits on "My Little Margie."

So, one night Tony is out at the local disco trying to master the lambada, see, when all of a sudden, a ferocious Great White comes lunging out of the live lobster tank, and before you can say "Shawn Weatherly" . . .

Fans of Jamie Lee Curtis, and we are legion, have a tough decision facing them Wednesday nights. In order to watch Curtis in the ABC sitcom "Anything But Love," one also must endure the twitches, contortions, gyrations and affectations of Richard Lewis, the "I'm-so-neurotic" comic whose mannerisms would test the patience of Mother Teresa.

This guy has "shark bait" written all over him!

Of course, prime time is chock full of candidates for sharkdom. Every last one of "The Bradys," for instance, and the entire cast of the imbecilic "Night Court." And moody, broody Ken Wahl (rhymes with "wall" - and the resemblance doesn't end there) of the pretentious CBS crime series "Wiseguy."

As for Wilford Brimley, the grizzled old geezer who's always popping up to push oatmeal on you - hey, the sharks can gobble him up any time. And why? Because - it's the right thing to do.

Zamfir, too, must go. The pan flute can stay. Those things are hard to digest, anyway.

We needn't confine these shark attacks to prime time, either. What to do about Geraldo Rivera? Shark! Shark! And Maury Povich, sleazoid host of "A Current Affair"? Shark! Shark! And Roger Ebert, the movie critic who said he thought "Stella" was just terrific? Whale! Whale!

Then there's perky, smirky Deborah Norville, the diabolical twinkle-toes who displaced dear Jane Pauley as cohost of the "Today" show. She may be walking pretty close to the water's edge herself.

After all the fuss from NBC about how wonderful Norville was and how she would bring younger viewers to the "Today" show, it now appears the show's ratings are trending down, not up, since Norville's arrival.

So guess who NBC is blaming for the drop-off. Not the bumbling network vice presidents who insisted on the change, and who screwed it all up, but Little Debbie herself.

It may be only a matter of time before she's edged toward the plank and asked to take a sacrificial stroll.

A "Today" show staffer described Norville once as looking like "a shark, and a shark who's never had a meal in its life." Ah, television. Everyone knows it's a dog-eat-dog world. It follows that it's a shark-eat-shark world as well.