* What remotely public purpose is served by the current television frenzy over the alleged rape of a young woman at a Kennedy family estate in Florida, as illustrated especially by yesterday's edition of "The Sally Jessy Raphael Show?"
Producers managed to pull together for the show a lawyer of the victim, several friends of the victim and a friend and former
college roommate of alleged chief suspect William Kennedy Smith.
But what an empty exercise in speculation! The lawyer could not talk details, Smith's friend said he is confident the young man will be acquitted (even though he himself was not there) and the victim's friends claimed their image has been tarnished by suggestions they are party girls.
Did we learn anything? Perhaps only this: that anyone who watched the show is unlikely to be eligible for any jury convened to try a case that has yet to even be a case because nobody has been charged.
This is not to say there isn't a legitimate news interest here. Clearly there is, especially with the implication that the power of Sen. Edward Kennedy, uncle of the alleged suspect, might obstruct the course of justice.
Yet it seems absurdly early to turn the case into a titillating TV trial.
* Does CBS' "48 Hours" represent another step toward the big time for a Baltimore 7-year-old?
Jermaine Gardner, a youngster who has received much local attention, is among the subjects of tonight's edition of the show (at 10 p.m., WBAL-Channel 11), which is titled "Wonder Kids."
Jermaine was born blind and seemingly retarded. Yet his parents discovered when he was an infant that he could play the piano, apparently repeating tunes he heard, and they have directed his progress toward music instruction and performance ever since.
Other subjects in the "48 Hours" exploration of inexplicable childhood talents include a 5-year-old geography whiz and an 8-year-old who read "Hamlet" in kindergarten. Yet we also see 46-year-old pianist Lorin Hollander, who was a prodigy himself but then lost his gift.
* What is the continuing appeal of "Gilligan's Island?"
The silly 1964-67 series about those hapless castaways has a remarkable hold on our pop culture consciousness, as shown by the latest promotion by radio station WYST-FM 92.3.
It's a three-hour tour on the Lady Baltimore, scheduled on April 24 and featuring appearances by original "Gilligan's" cast members Bob Denver (Gilligan), Russell Johnson (The Professor) and Dawn Wells (Mary Ann). Tickets are free; call 92 Star at 523-6900.