HAVE YOU NOTICED?
* With McDonald's teaming up with NBC in that "McMillions" lottery-style promotion this season, competing fast-food chain Wendy's cleverly took the natural counter step this week: It bought a commercial spot in the middle of "Ferris Bueller," NBC's designated show Monday night in which the winning number would be revealed.
* On the same subject, Johnny Carson has marveled on "The Tonight Show" several times recently that a major network has had to resort to a contest to get viewers to watch.
Said Carson one night, "I have a better idea for the networks. Better shows!"
It's nice that the late night king's stature apparently allows him to criticize the hand that feeds him with impunity.
* Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who was upset that the American television networks did not carry his recent videotape message in its entirety, took the wrong approach. Instead of aiming at news shows, he should have targeted regular series.
Some obvious, tongue-in-cheek candidates: "Jeopardy," "As the World Turns," "To Tell the Truth," "American Dreamer," "Growing Pains," "Perfect Strangers" and "Who's the Boss?"
* Television viewing seems to have become something of a sporting event, given media coverage of this fall's pending ratings showdown between "The Cosby Show" and "The Simpsons," which finally premieres for the season this coming Thursday (8 p.m., WBFF-Channel 45).
Yet it is appropriate to ask: Why should viewers really care which show "wins"? Will a victory somehow lend pop culture status to fans of the show? Will a defeat spell social shame?
Yes, it is important that viewers understand that ratings ultimately determine whether a show stays on the air. But rather than playing along with the networks' game, viewers might be wiser objecting to such competitive tactics that can make a "loser," and perhaps even a "goner," of shows still enjoyed by millions.
* If you missed last weekend's resolution of the season-ending cliff-hanger on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," WBFF-Channel 45 repeats the episode at 10 tonight.
And if you caught up last week with the season premiere of ABC's "Twin Peaks," note that the murkiness continues in a new time slot tonight at 10 on Channel 13.
By the way, did anybody else think that this series' two-hour return Sunday was a self-conscious caricature of itself, even funnier than the skit that "Saturday Night Live" put together for guest host Kyle McLachlan (Agent Cooper on "Peaks")?
* The raunchy rap group Two Live Crew, whose album "As Nasty As They Wanna Be" just resulted in an obscenity conviction for a Florida record-seller, is slated for a nationally distributed Nov. 8 pay-per-view concert on cable. That means viewers with access to the service can opt to pay $19.95 to have the concert telecast into their homes.
In addition, distributor Choice Entertainment is planning just prior to the concert to show a debate on the controversial album's extremely vulgar, sexist content in the context of the First Amendment. The debate combatants are scheduled to be Jack Thompson, a Miami attorney who led the campaign against the album in Florida, and attorney Danny Goldberg, of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Elizabeth Chuday, a spokesman for Comcast Cablevision here, says the Comcast-affiliated systems in Baltimore, Harford and Howard counties do plan to offer the concert to subscribers. But the city's United Cable Television system says it currently has no plans to do so.
* Still wired into cable, the Arts & Entertainment network is premiering this weekend a six-part series that attempts to assess and project the future of the African-American experience.
"In Search of the Dream," introduced by tennis legend Arthur Ashe and narrated by Haskell Ward, former deputy mayor of New York City, can be seen at 8 p.m. Sunday on the basic-cable service, with future episodes Oct. 12, 21, 28 and Nov. 4.
Significantly, given the broadcast networks' shrinking mass audience in the face of cable and video options, the show is a co-production with ABC, specifically ABC Video Enterprises.
* The Baltimore region continues to be unfulfilled when it comes to cable television's biggest competition at the moment: the no-yuks-barred battle between rival all-comedy channels HA! (from the MTV people) and The Comedy Channel (from HBO).
Both have been uneven at best since their launches, but viewers ought to have the chance to check them out. And the lack of HA! just became especially irritating with its recent addition of regular airings of the old "Steve Allen Show," some of the best comedy ever on the tube.
Yet the nearest cable system that carries HA! is in Prince Georges county (beginning Nov. 1 on Multi-Vision Cable), while the closest that telecasts The Comedy Channel is in Frederick County.