Howard Hesseman, who's starred in "Head of the Class" for four years and whined about it almost that long, is finally leaving the ABC sitcom.

Almost since the day the show began, Hesseman has complained about his role - that the show concentrated too little on his character, teacher Charlie Moore, and too much on his students.Poor guy, forced to make all the money appearing on a network television show.

The character will be written out, and a new teacher will be cast to replace the departed Charlie. And here's betting no one will care much about the difference.

"Head of the Class" is not on ABC's fall schedule but will go back into production this summer as a backup series. (When some other show gets canceled, "Class" will get a spot on the schedule.)

By the way, Hesseman announced that he is leaving "to pursue various non-series projects with more flexibility than starring in a series allows me."

That's apparently designed to rule out the possibility that he'll be reprising his role as Dr. Johnny Fever when "WKRP in Cincinnati" returns in syndicated form next year.


HELLO, JERRY: Jerry Seinfeld's summer sitcom, which is considerably more inventive than its title - "Seinfeld" - will be back on NBC sometime during the upcoming season.

NBC has ordered 13 episodes of the show, which completes a four-show tryout on Thursday.

Seinfeld plays himself, more or less, in the series that calls to mind "It's Garry Shandling's Show." He's a single stand-up comic who deals with various friends and neighbors. The sitcom is interspersed with snippets of Jerry doing stand-up about whatever his character is dealing with on that episode.


RUMPLED RETURN: ABC pulled the plug on its "Saturday Mystery Movie," but that wasn't the end of "Columbo" on the network.

Hoping to see the same kind of success NBC has had with Perry Mason movies, ABC has signed Peter Falk to star in three two-hour "Columbo" for next season.


PIA ALERT: Pia Zadora has demonstrated in several stinko movies that she's no actress. Reportedly, now she's talking with ABC about starring in a sitcom, apparently so she can demonstrate she's no actress on the small screen, too.

What a horrifying thought. Say it ain't so!


VIDEO PRIZES: Hold onto your hats, "America's Funniest Home Videos" fans. That cheapo show is actually going to be paying out more money this coming season.

The weekly grand prize will remain $10,000, but second place will get $5,000 and third place $3,000.

And instead of one $100,000 grand prize winner, there will be three. (Current betting is the grand prizes will be awarded during three different sweeps periods.)

Bestill my heart!


EX-COUG SIGNS WITH NBC: Former BYU running back and Los Angeles Raiders all-pro tight end Todd Christensen has joined the NBC sports team.

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Christensen will be a color analyst for NFL games and a reporter/interviewer on other NBC sports telecasts.


QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Bill Cosby, to Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show":

"I'm not worried about Bart Simpson. My daughter says she'll tape me."

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