ON AND OFF THE AIR:
* Talk about a lifetime role. Actor James Arness is back again tonight on CBS as Dodge City Marshal Matt Dillon in "Gunsmoke III: To the Last Man" (at 8 p.m., Channel 11).
He first played the role in 1955 when "Gunsmoke" debuted on CBS eventually to become the longest-running prime time drama series in TV history. (It left the air in 1975.)
Trivia buffs may know that John Wayne turned down the TV part, which had been acted on the predating radio series by William Conrad. Most also know that Arness is in real-life the brother of actor Peter Graves ("Mission Impossible," "Fury," etc.)
But who can remember the two series in which Arness starred after "Gunsmoke" left the air and before the reunion movies began? Hint: One was another western, the other a police drama, and neither was particularly successful.
From February 1978 to April 1979, Arness was Zeb Macahan on ABC's "How the West Was Won," and from November 1981 to August 1982, he was retired San Pedro, Calif., detective Jim McClain on "McClain's Law" on NBC.
* NBC's new Sunday night serenade for the down home music crowd, "Hot Country Nights," will have a familiar face later this month. The guest disc jockey on the Jan. 19 edition of the show will be Laurie DeYoung, the Baltimore deejay.
DeYoung presides over the 5:30 to 9 a.m. show on WPOC-FM 93.1 and hosts "New Country Video" at 6:30 p.m. Saturdays.
Among the performers on Jan. 19 (8 p.m., Channel 2) are Holly Dunn, Lorrie Morgan, Hal Ketchum and Mickey Gilley.
* We don't vote, but if Christine Lahti is not named best actress in a movie or miniseries at Sunday's "13th Annual ACE Awards" show (at 9 p.m. on TNT), there is no justice in cableville.
Indeed, it is hard to understand how "Crazy From the Heart," the charming August movie (from TNT) with Lahti as a spinster school principal who reluctantly falls for a Hispanic school custodian (Ruben Blades) was not nominated in the best movie/miniseries category.
* An error, we made.
Media Monitor is grateful to reader Peggy B. Sheffler of Baltimore for noting a memory slip in a column last week.
Last weekend's CBS Sunday movie, "Diagnosis of Murder," in which Dick Van Dyke starred as a sleuthing doctor, did have its origin in an episode of another CBS series. But it was not "Murder, She Wrote," as reported here.
Instead, the Van Dyke character originated on "Jake and the Fatman" last season, and Sunday's movie was a pilot for a potential future series.