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The CBS TV movie "Child of Rage" (8 p.m., Ch. 5) is, at times, extremely frightening. But it's biggest impact comes because it's so unsettling.

The title character is a 7-year-old girl named Catherine (Ashley Peldon in a remarkable performance for one so young). Abandoned by her father, Catherine and her younger brother, Eric, have been shuttled to various foster homes before being adopted by a minister (Dwight Schultz) and his wife (Mel Harris).It isn't long before the adoptive parents begin to suspect there is something seriously wrong with Catherine. She lies, she's cruel and, most chillingly, she seems capable of murder.

At first, they believe love can conquer all. But when Catherine nearly kills her brother, they look for help from an unconventional psychiatrist.

What unfolds is a horrifying tale of abuse and psychological terror. And it's based on a true story.

This isn't a perfect movie - it's a bit too syrupy sweet at times and the ending is rather forced. But it is powerful, gripping and disturbing.

One warning - this is not something that young kids should be watching. Although certainly not gory in what has become the Hollywood horror movie style, it's as frightening as anything you'll see on network television.

MORE ON KUSHNICK: NBC fired Helen Kushnick as executive producer of "The Tonight Show," but Jay Leno is keeping her on his payroll. Leno is allowing Kushnick to remain as president of his Big Dog Productions. And here's where it gets a little confusing.

NBC insists that Kushnick will have absolutely nothing to do with "Tonight," of which the network is the sole owner. But Big Dog has a piece of the financial pie in off-network usage of the show. (For example, if reruns showed up on a cable channel the way "Late Night" used to play on A&E.)

Nonetheless, don't expect Kushnick to be welcomed back onto the NBC lot in Burbank any time soon. Or ever.

FOX ON HOLD: Fox's seventh night of programming, announced with much ballyhoo earlier this year, has been postponed again - possibly until 1993.

Two new hourlong dramas, "Class of '96" and "Key West," were originally supposed to have started this month. Then they were pushed back until Oct. 27.

Now Fox is looking at mid-December or early January.

The network programming chief released a statement saying he wanted more time to launch his Tuesday shows "through a focused, long-range marketing, promotion and publicity campaign."

What he's really saying is that Fox is shaking in its boots - ABC, with a lineup that includes "Full House" and "Roseanne," and CBS, with "Rescue 911," are already attracting the young audience that Fox is going after.

EYRE ON "DONAHUE": Congratulations to former gubernatorial candidate Richard Eyre, his wife and children for their appearance on the syndicated talk show "Donahue" last week.

Appearing as unofficial representatives of the LDS Church opposite a "cult deprogrammer," the Eyres managed to come across as calm, intelligent and reasonable.

And, as anyone who has ever watched "Donahue" - or any daytime talk show for that matter - is well aware, that isn't easy.