ON AND OFF THE AIR:
* While his show business career back to the vaudeville stage and 1930s movies has to be about the lengthiest on record, George Burns didn't win an Oscar until 1975, for a film in which he played a character very much like himself.
It was "The Sunshine Boys," in which Burns and Walter Matthau are long-feuding partners in a former burlesque team trying to reunite for a television special. Maryland Public Television is airing the sweetly believable, Neil Simon-scripted comedy at 11:30 tonight (channels 22 and 67).
* "Steering Clear," an anti-substance abuse show which is seen on Baltimore County's Comcast Cablevision, has won a national award for the Baltimore County Office of Substance Abuse.
The five-minute interview show was honored with a 1991 National Association of Counties Achievement Award. Hosted by Michael Gimbel, director of the county office, the show is shown several times daily as an insert on Channel 10, the CNN Headline News service.
* On the same subject, "Substance Abuse . . . It Doesn't Have to be That Way!" is a new phone-in radio program airing weekly on WCBM-AM 680. It can be heard at 10 p.m. Sundays.
Counselors Tom MacDougal and Karen Dill host the advice program, which this week features an exploration of the problems of drunk driving. Guests include Donna Becker, president of the Maryland chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving; Joe Murtha, Howard County states attorney; and Larry Pinno, a defense attorney.
* And also on WCBM this weekend, personality Bennie the Fan returns to the local airwaves with longtime sports radio voice Joe Croghan, in a new call-in sports show from noon to 2 p.m. on Sundays. Both were last heard together here in 1961.
* Have you noticed? Somewhat astonishingly, the continuing PBS rebroadcast of the classic "I, Claudius" edition of "Masterpiece Theatre" is as engrossing now as when originally broadcast in 1977. If you are not re-hooked already, pick up with Part Four at 9 p.m. Sunday (channels 22, 26, and 67).
* It has been the subject of many a western movie, but did you know that people are still wrangling over cattle grazing issues in the West?
"The New Range Wars" is a documentary premiering this weekend on the "World of Audubon" series on the TBS basic cable service (at 10 p.m. Sunday). Today cattle ranchers and environmentalists dispute the impact of cattle on diminishing rangelands.
The Ford Motor Co. recently yanked its commercials from the show because of the subject's controversial nature.