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OSCARS, LETTERMAN WILL ATTRACT A CROWD

So, do you think David Letterman is the only one who cares who wins an Oscar tonight?

Apparently not. According to ABC, the Academy Awards will be telecast live to a total of 70 countries and territories around the world.They'll be watching in Algeria. And Argentina. And Australia. And Austria.

And the Bahamas, Bahrain, Belgium (Flemish), Belgium (French), Brazil, Canada, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Germany, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Korea, Kuwait, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Oman, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland (German), Taiwan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Venezuela and Yemen.

Whew!

In addition, a 90-minute cut-down version of the Oscarcast will be prepared overnight for broadcast to 21 other countries.

(Which hardly seems fair. Why should Americans have to sit through the three-hours-plus broadcast when some people will get to see only the good parts?)

At any rate, this short version will be seen in Bosnia, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iraq, Ireland, Latvia, Libya, Macedonia, Malta, Mauritius, Peru, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Syria.

All of which means that if one of Letterman's jokes bombs, it's going to bomb in an awful lot of countries.

And isn't it at least a little bit frightening that a billion people are going to get their impressions of America from the Academy Awards broadcast?

PRESSURE POINT: Letterman, who is the only man in history to take on "The Tonight Show" and beat it, has an even bigger challenge tonight.

Will his humor translate to a bloated event like the Oscars? Will he be able to emulate his hero, Johnny Carson - who may have been the best host the Academy Awards have ever had?

It's a big opportunity. And a huge challenge made even tougher by the fact that expectations for Letterman are so high.

Here's hoping he pulls it off and stays himself. It would be refreshing to have someone out front who knows just how silly the whole thing really is.

LATE-NIGHT RATINGS: NBC, which is getting into a habit of lying with statistics, would like you to think that Jay Leno beat David Letterman in the ratings last week.

But the Peacock's latest obfuscation results from an attempt to compare apples and oranges - NBC took Leno's five-day average and compared it to Letterman's three-day average. (CBS pre-empted the "Late Show" on Thursday and Friday for the NCAA basketball tournament.)

Now, any idiot can tell you that wouldn't work. Not only is Friday generally the highest-rated night for late-night talk shows, but Thursday is generally a great night for Leno - who benefits greatly from the huge ratings for "ER" earlier in the evening.

Comparing apples to apples, it was still close, but Letterman (4.4 rating) edged out Leno (4.1) once again.

Dave's ratings have been down somewhat of late - a fact largely attributable to the atrocious lead-in he's getting from CBS's weak prime-time schedule. So if you detect a certain edge to Letterman's jokes when he's poking fun at the CBS executives and their shows, you may be right.

QUICK CHANGE: You may have seen advertisements for the new ABC sitcom "Bringing Up Jack." It's listed in this week's TV Week and TV Guide.

It was supposed to debut Tuesday after "Home Improvement" before moving to Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. a night later.

Forget it

Not gonna happen.

ABC has decided it won't be airing "Jack" anytime soon. Instead, it has decided to rescue the beleaguered "Coach" from its black-hole time-slot on Monday night and move it to Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m.

(It's part of a revamped Wednesday schedule for the alphabet network - "Roseanne" at 7 p.m., "Ellen" at 7:30 p.m., "Grace Under Fire" at 8 p.m. and "Coach" at 8:30 p.m.)

"Coach" was the No. 7 show on television last season. But, since moving to Mondays, it has fallen all the way to No. 57. It has also already been picked up for the 1995-96 season.

No such luck for "Bringing Up Jack." It probably won't make it on the air until sometime this summer - too late to make the fall schedule.

The sitcom, headlined by stand-up comedian Jack Gallagher, is about a middle-aged sports radio host who has married a widow with two kids - and the couple is expecting a child of their own. It's not great, but it's OK. And it's better than several of the saccharine sitcoms that mar ABC's schedule.

But, on the other hand, "Coach" is an above-average sitcom that deserves better than to be buried on Mondays.

NOTH HEADED NORTH: The last original member of the "Law & Order" cast won't be back with the show next season.

And, for a change, it wasn't the actor who wanted out.

The executive producer of the show, Dick Wolf, decided not to bring Chris Noth back for the show's sixth season. Instead, he'll cast a younger actor to create more conflict with the older detective played by Jerry Orbach.

(And Wolf will also save some money by bringing in someone at a lower salary level.)

Wolf stressed that he wasn't unhappy with Noth - but that must be small comfort to someone who just lost his job.

EMPTY "HOUSE": It looks like "Full House" really is done for now.

ABC announced some weeks ago that it would not pick the show up for a ninth season, citing the enormous cost to keep it on the air. The production company wanted $1.5 million per episode, which is an awful lot - particularly considering that the show's ratings are in decline.

(Costs have killed a lot of other shows in the past that still pulled decent ratings - everything from "Mission Impossible" to "Knots Landing." Everyone involved in the series - particularly the actors - gets raises every year, and eventually the cost is too great to continue.)

When ABC announced it was axing "Full House," there was some initial speculation that CBS might be interested in keeping it alive - but CBS had no intention of paying that kind of money, either.

The new WB network seriously considered picking the show up but has announced it has decided against it.

Which means that "Full House" - which has turned into sort of the "Brady Bunch" of the '90s - really is done for.

Except, of course, for the reruns, which will re-run indefinitely.

WHAT'S SHE RUNNING FOR? Marilyn Quayle, the wife of the former vice president, will pinch hit as the conservative half of CNN's "Crossfire" tonight and Tuesday.

That, of course, is the seat that has been vacated - again - by GOP presidential hopeful Pat Buchanan.

BOUNCED THE WRONG WAY: CBS is learning that when your luck is bad, it's really bad.

The network has had more than its share of troubles in the prime-time ratings this season. But the NCAA basketball tournament loomed as a bright spot.

Enter a dark cloud by the name of Michael Jordan. His reappearance on Sunday afternoon in a game telecast by NBC was the most-watched regular-season NBA game in history. NBC estimates that about 35 million people watched all or part of the Bulls-Pacers matchup - beating a 1987 Celtics-Lakers game by some 5 million.

And that, of course, put a big dent in CBS's ratings for the NCAAs on Sunday afternoon.

SURPRISE, SURPRISE: Is it my imagination, or did KSL's Brad Steinke look a little surprised when his "SportsBeat Saturday" phone poll on March 18 indicated that more than 70 percent of the callers preferred watching the Jazz game to the Bulls game on the Sunday, March 19?

And, all things considered, KUTV-Ch. 2 did the best it could in a difficult situation. If it had dumped the Jazz game in favor Jordan's return, it would have upset an awful lot of people.

Liberal cuts to Indianapolis - aided by being able to show the end of that game uninterrupted - allowed viewers to see the hometown heroes as well as Mr. Egomaniac . . . er, uh, Mr. Jordan.

STOP IT: On the other side of local sports . . . there's Carl Arky.

We've become accustomed to his self-serving "Arky Awards" (which, fortunately, seem to have been shortened from their original endlessness).

But did you happen to catch him last week when he was introducing a clip of himself playing basketball? That was a bit over the top.

Carl, you're supposed to report the news, not make yourself part of it.

HOLD THE RICE: All you "Murphy Brown" fans probably know that Murphy (Candice Bergen) got engaged to Peter Hunt (Scott Bakula) in last week's episode.

Well, we've got re-runs coming in the next few weeks. But, by mid-May, Murphy will be rethinking this marriage thing.

SINBAD IS BACK: Actor/comedian Sinbad has signed on to do three comedy specials for Home Box Office, the first of which will air later this year.

And they would have to be really terrible comedy specials to be any worse than the sitcom Sinbad starred in on Fox last year.