Lynn Marie Latham and Bernie Lechowick have been doing basically the same thing for a good many years - writing and producing wonderfully entertaining shows for television.

The husband-and-wife team wrote and produced "Knots Landing" for six seasons, created, wrote and produced "Homefront" and did the same with "Second Chances."Now they're working on "Hotel Malibu," which debuted last week to surprisingly strong ratings.

But while Latham and Lechowick have been consistent, the critical reaction to their work has not. That critical reaction has run the gamut from disdain to praise.

When they were writing for and producing "Knots Landing," Lath-am and Lechowick were overwhelmingly dismissed - largely by people who never watched the show and scorned it because of its "soap opera" label.

But both "Homefront" and "Second Chances" were embraced by many critics and endorsed by Viewers for Quality Television - even though the style and tone were right out of "Knots."

In other words, Latham and Lechowick hadn't changed, but their critics had.

"I think sometimes it's forgotten that people turn on the television for only two reasons and none other. And that is for entertainment or enlightenment," Lechowick said. "There's no other reason to pick up a book, a magazine, go to a movie, go to a museum, or turn on the television. It's only for entertainment or enlightenment."

Latham and Lechowick's shows have always been a lot of fun to watch. And, at times, even enlightening - issues like child abuse and drug abuse have played a part in various plot lines.

But even without the "enlightening" aspects, there's nothing wrong with a show that sets out to be a pleasant diversion for its audience.

"Lynn and I only tried to be entertaining," Lechowick said. "We've always thought our work was commercial, and sometimes it doesn't succeed. We have never tried to be more or less commercial. We've only tried to do our best."

CHECKING IT OUT: Much of "Hotel Malibu" is being shot on location, although Latham/Lechowick productions have rented some studio space.

After their disastrous experience with "Second Chances," when the Southern California earthquake destroyed their studios and canceled the show, they are being somewhat cautious.

"We had a structural engineer look into the studios before we went in," Lechowick said.

COMING ATTRACTIONS: In upcoming episodes of "Frasier," expect to see both Frasier and Niles get involved in a political campaign. And Martin will try to settle a feud with his old police partner.

And there will even be an episode about Martin's dog, Eddie.

"Eddie's getting the old snip-snip," said executive producer David Lee.

"Eddie's love life is coming to a crashing halt," added executive producer Peter Casey.

"CHRISTY" RETURNS - FOR A WHILE: The good news is that "Christy" returns to the CBS schedule next week.

The bad news is, it's only temporary.

The network will rebroadcast the show's excellent two-hour pilot on Wednesday, Aug. 17 at 7 p.m. And beginning the following week, reruns of the hourlong episodes will air Wednesdays at 8 p.m. - but only until the regular season begins.

"Christy," based on the novel by the late Catherine Marshall, follows the adventures of spirited 19-year-old woman (Kellie Martin) who leaves her sheltered life to teach school in a remote, poverty-stricken area of the the Appalachians in pre-World War I Tennes-see.

The best news is that 13 new episodes of the series have been ordered by CBS, and will air sooner or later as a midseason replacement - which could mean any time from a a couple of weeks into the season to sometime next spring.

There's also another two-hour movie that will be seen on Thanksgiving night.

Now, of course, if "Christy" does surprisingly well on Wednesday nights - and that's a tough proposition, up against No. 1-rated "Home Improvement - the show could be back a lot sooner instead of later.

TREKKING TO TENNESSEE: When "Christy" does return with new episodes, a former Star Fleet officer will be joining the cast.

LeVar Burton, who has spent the last seven seasons on the Starship Enterprise at Geordi LaForge, will play a young man who comes to Cutter Gap to study medicine.

The recurring character, Daniel Scott, is the son of Miss Alice's (Tyne Daly) mentor. And he'll be introduced in an episode co-written by Daly.

"TEKWAR" RETURNS: The futuristic "TekWar," which aired as a series of syndicated TV movies during the past year, has been picked up as a series by the USA Network.

And William Shatner, who wrote the books on which the series will be based, will serve as executive producer as well as continue his guest-starring role in the show.

A total of 18 hourlong episodes have been ordered, and they'll begin airing in January.

Greg Evigan will return as Jake Cardigan, who battles various foes in Los Angeles of the future - dealing with drug lords, androids and all manner of difficulties.

NOT MADE IN THE "SHADE": The Family Channel begins airing reruns of the canceled CBS series "Evening Shade" in the fall.

While that might sound like at least somewhat of an acquisition for the cable channel, there's more to the story than that.

"Evening Shade," the Burt Reynolds sitcom, was co-produced by MTM - which is owned by the Pat Robertson company that also owns the Family Channel. And attempts to syndicate the program to local stations were pretty much a dismal failure, at least in part due to Reynolds' personal problems.

(One local station manager actually laughed out loud when a syndication rep tried to pitch "Eve-ning Shade" to him.)

So the Family Channel became a backup plan for "Shade."

A considerably less lucrative backup plan.

ALSO ON CABLE: Fans of "Law & Order" can see old shows beginning this fall on cable's A&E channel.

That series, however, has not been canceled and will return with new episodes on NBC this fall.

HAMMER IS BACK: Mike Hammer is returning to CBS, but Stacy Keach isn't.

Keach, who played the title character in the 1984-85 series "Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer" and the 1986-87 series "The New Mike Hammer," as well as several "Mike Hammer" movies that aired from 1983 to 1989, won't be on hand when CBS broadcasts "Deader Than Ever: A Mike Hammer Mystery" sometime this coming season.

He's been replaced by Rob Estes, who has two claims to fame.

First, he co-stars in the USA series "Silk Stalkings."

Second, he's married to "Melrose Place" co-star Josie Bisset.

AUCTION OFF RIGHTS: Veteran newsman Daniel Schorr, who's narrating the "Watergate" documentary series this week on the Discovery Channel, said that he grew a bit tired of seeing the O.J. Simpson hearing on all the broadcast networks earlier this summer. And he had a suggestion that was "slightly, but not entirely, tongue-in-cheek."

When NBC's coverage of Wimbledon was pre-empted by the hearing, that "put in my mind the thought that you could get a couple of billion dollars easily by auctioning off NFL Games, the World Series and so on, so why should California give all this away free?" he said.

"My idea is that (TV rights to the trial) would be sold exclusively to one network - probably Fox - and as a result of that you would be able to provide lunches for children in California schools again."