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KATO'S ON TV TONIGHT - IN A FICTIONAL ROLE

For perhaps the first time since "The Green Hornet" was canceled in 1967, Kato will be on prime-time, non-news network TV tonight.

No, not the character played by Bruce Lee. The character who used to live on O.J. Simpson's estate - Kato Kaelin.Kaelin guest stars on an episode of UPN's "The Watcher" (9 p.m., Ch. 14), playing a murdered businessman who is given 48 hours to find his killers and set his life straight.

Oddly enough, this role is no more fantastic than Kaelin's real life. (Just watch the O.J. Simpson trial or Kato's appearances with Larry King or Barbara Walters.)

At least Kaelin can't be accused of killing the show. "The Watcher" - the lowest-rated show on the low-rated UPN network - is scheduled to head off to hiatus after tonight's episode.

This may not be the last we'll see of the present-day Kato, however. Kaelin reportedly has a part in a sitcom that's in development for CBS.

DUELING FOR A FEW VIEWERS: Not to be outdone by KTVX-Ch. 4, KUTV-Ch. 2 moved the expansion of its early morning news up a week.

As a result, both newscasts expanded from 6-7 a.m. to 5:30-7 a.m. on Monday.

The two are duking it out for that huge viewing audience craving local news between 5:30-6 a.m.

(There. We've finally, utterly beaten that joke into the dirt.)

CASTING ABOUT: Reportedly, Luke Perry will appear on "Beverly Hills, 90210" in only 13 of 32 scheduled episodes next season, then leave the show for good. He's been a cast member since the show's second episode back in October 1990.

- NBC and the producers of "Law & Order" have announced who will replace the soon-to-be jettisoned Christopher Noth on that series.

Benjamin Bratt ("Clear and Present Danger") will step in as a conservative young Hispanic detective whose views will clash with those of his partner, played by Jerry Orbach.

Noth's departure leaves a grand total of zero remaining stars from the series' beginning. The only original cast member who'll be back next season is co-star Steven Hill, who plays District Attorney Adam Schiff.