ON AND OFF THE AIR:
* From the beginning, it has been a cute gimmick on "Murphy Brown" to see real-life television news figures pop up on the show. But it is hard to remember one of those cameos getting so much promotional mileage as Harry Smith's appearance on the CBS show Monday night.
He was on for just a short spot, as the presenter of the fictional Humboldt Award reporting prize won by Frank (Joe Regalbuto).
But Smith got a lot more air time yesterday on his "CBS This Morning," reminiscing about the puff appearance. He chatted with weatherman Mark McEwen about muffing his lines in rehearsals, and said he had made sure that co-host Paula Zahn didn't mind a line on the series about wearing his underwear.
* Speaking of CBS promotions, the morning show yesterday also did the usual gratuitous hyping of last night's network movie, "Nightmare in Columbia County." Star William Devane was interviewed at length by Zahn about not only the movie, but his series, "Knot's Landing."
And on what network can the series be seen? CBS, of course.
And in a further beneficial boost, local CBS affiliate WBAL-Channel 11 carries "Live With Regis and Kathie Lee" at 9 a.m. daily. That show's first guest yesterday was -- surprise! -- William Devane.
* On the same general topic, it also seems highly unlikely that coincidence is the reason for the scheduling by cable's Arts & Entertainment network of repeats of the old show "In Search Of. . ." at 10 p.m. Wednesdays all this month.
Why? The host of the 1976-82 syndicated series that explores a variety of legends, myths and supernatural stuff is Leonard Nimoy, a.k.a. Capt. Spock of the new film "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country," which hit the theaters this past weekend.
* And speaking of "Trek"ing, when the credits of "Star Trek VI" began to roll Friday night at Lowe's Valley Centre theater in Owings Mills, a nicely spontaneous burst of applause from the full house greeted the opening dedication to Gene Roddenberry. The creator of the whole "Star Trek" world died in October.
The pretty good movie also got a hand at its conclusion from the obviously "Trek"-a-natic first-night crowd. No Star Fleet costumes in sight, though, as at some "Star Trek" premieres in earlier years.
* WMAR-Channel 2 is pre-empting NBC's "Unsolved Mysteries" tonight (at 8 o'clock) for "Town Meeting: Surviving the Pink Slip," an hourlong examination of the economic recession's serious local impact.
* And regarding tonight's holiday perennial on CBS, "Twas the Night Before Christmas" (at 8:30, Channel 11), that is the voice of singer/actor Joel Grey doing the narration and songs.