ON AND OFF THE AIR:
* The importance of literacy is the message of a nice kids-oriented repeat on WMAR-Channel 2 tonight. "Milo's Secret," which won a regional Emmy Award in 1990, can be seen at 8 o'clock.
Produced at Channel 2, the show is the story of a puppet named Milo who tries to hide the fact he cannot read but learns that it is never too late to learn. Stu Kerr and Cal Ripken Jr. are in the show.
Baltimore native Kevin Clash, a "Sesame Street" puppeteer (he does the character of Elmo), created Milo and the show's storyline, which was developed with assistance of the Baltimore Literacy Council and the Enoch Pratt Free Library.
* Wanna be an "American Gladiator?" The syndicated show featuring mock combat by muscled contestants (seen here at 12:30 a.m. on WJZ-Channel 13) is holding tryouts for possible participants in Baltimore.
The physical auditions are at 5 p.m. Monday at the Baltimore Arena, and would-be competitors should show up in gym clothes. (There is no pre-registration; for information, call the Arena at 347-2020.)
However, contestants chosen will not be headed for TV stardom. The tryouts are not for the broadcast show itself, but for an accompanying national promotional tour, in which the show's Gladiator regulars take on local athletes.
The Baltimore event will be staged Oct. 16 at the Arena, and winners may be eligible for a national "American Gladiators" championship later in the year.
* A measure of how the world has changed: National Public Radio reported yesterday that the national television broadcasting authority in the Soviet Union is weighing a decision on which of two competing evening news shows will be regularly aired.
How? At least in part by measurements of audience opinion -- in other words, ratings! They have McDonald's and Pizza Hut over there already, why not Nielsen families?
* How much talk can even talk-show junkies stand? You have to ask when two more daytime chatfests move into place on local television Monday. Shoot, you can almost field a baseball team with the morning-show hosts, who now include: Phil, Regis, Kathie Lee, Sally Jessy, Chuck, Joan, Jenny and Geraldo.
New at 9 a.m. on WJZ-Channel 13 is the "Chuck Woolery Show," with the former game-show host, and at 10 a.m. on WBAL-Channel 11, it's the "Jenny Jones" show.
Talk-a-teer roll call, count off now! In the morning we can choose at 9 from among "Phil Donahue" (Channel 2), "Live With Regis & Kathie Lee" (Channel 11) and Woolery, and at 10 from "Sally Jessy Raphael" (Channel 2), "Joan Rivers" (Channel 13) and Jones. At 11, "Geraldo" stands alone.