ON AND OFF THE AIR:
* Proving once again that the oft-dreamed time machine has already been invented and sits in most people's living room, take note that one of television's most durable character actors gets a guest shot on tonight's scheduled edition of "Who's the Boss?" (at 8, Channel 13).
He's Pat Buttram, who meets Tony (Tony Danza) on a train to Washington in the first episode of a two-part season finale.
Most viewers probably remember Buttram best as he looks in the photo at right: as the shifty salesman on the 1965-71 comedy "Green Acres." Indeed, Buttram can still be seen as Mr. Haney on nightly reruns of that silly satirical series on the Nick At Nite basic cable channel (10:30 most nights except tonight -- keep reading for another Nick At Night time trip).
But some viewers will remember that Buttram's TV presence goes back a lot earlier. In fact, he's into his fifth decade on the tube, first appearing in 1950 as the wise-cracking sidekick of a singing cowboy on "The Gene Autrey Show," which ran on CBS until 1956.
* The other time trip? Almost coincidental with last week's Baltimore visit by actor Bob ("Gilligan's Island") Denver, it's a six-episode run of "Dobie Gillis," beginning at 8 tonight on Nick At Night. Denver, of course, was the goatee-bearded sidekick of the usually lovestruck Dobie, played by Dwayne Hickman.
* The rather scornful worldwide reputation of Americans for having faint interest in understanding other cultures cannot be helped much by that ad for a certain grocery chain airing on local radio.
Have you heard it? An accented woman named "Katya" calls home to a relative named "Yuri," bending the poor guy's ear about all the wonderful bargains at this supermarket she's found since emigrating here. He listens appreciatively, but asks at the end of the ad, "But Katya, wot is 'supermarket?'"
Not a very subtle message here, is it? We've got it, Russians don't have it and therefore we are the natural envy of the world. Never mind that many Soviets speak better English than some Americans and thus would hardly be mystified by the concept of a supermarket, and that good manners might prevent such bragging in the first place.
* And while Media Monitor is massaging his abused radio ear, is anybody else similarly driven to distraction by those spots for a local bank which feature the Yuppie couple obsessed with low-interest home equity loan rates?
These cloying, annoying drones commiserate over all their friends and relatives for being ignorant of the best banking techniques, to the point you wish they'd get a sudden audit call from the IRS.