ON AND OFF THE AIR:
* Comedy can be serious business. And among the most thoughtful, serious practitioners is veteran Alan King, a scheduled guest tonight on "Late Night With David Letterman" (at 1:05 a.m., WMAR-Channel 2).
Indeed, King is one reason to feel deprived if you are a cable subscriber whose system does not yet carry the Comedy Central network. (United Artist systems in this area do, but Comcast Cablevision systems do not.)
For "Alan King: Inside the Comedy Mind" ranks as one of the more revealing talk shows on television. It currently runs at 10:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday, as well as 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays, 4:30 p.m. Saturdays and 1:30 and 8 p.m. Sundays on the all-comedy service.
In each show, King talks candidly with a single comedy performer about his or her work, often eliciting remarkable insight into the motivations for and difficulty of getting that laugh.
* Maryland Public television has announced a trio of projected new international series.
Script work has begun on "Questions of Faith: A Spiritual Guide to the 21st Century," a seven-part series targeted for production next January and airing in 1994. Negotiations are going on with co-producers in the United Kingdom.
On-location taping began this month on "Seapower: A Global Journey," a six-episode series slated for 1993 broadcast, in collaboration with England's Central Independent Television and NHK, Japan.
And final editing is under way on "Europe, Road to Unity," a three-part series being co-produced with Germany's RIAS-TV and scheduled to air this fall.
* Is praise better than protest in helping assure good TV series remain on the air?
That is the philosophy behind an ongoing effort to encourage viewers to give sponsors of shows some good news for a change.
"We assume that sponsors like to hear positive responses," notes Dorothy Swanson, founder of the Virginia-based organization Viewers for Quality Television.
And a Baltimore-based VQT official coordinates the sponsor program by compiling and providing viewers with lists of major sponsors of shows which VQT members have voted to support.
For information, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: VQT Sponsor Coordinator, Mark McClelland, 11 Warren Lodge Court, No. 1A, Baltimore 21030.
* Trivia test, triggered by tonight's airing (8 o'clock, WNUV-Channel 54) of "Hud": How many other "H" movies did Paul Newman make in one of Hollywood's more unusual title curiosities?
Media Monitor can count at least five in which his title character's name began with the letter: "The Hustler," "Harper," "Hombre" and "The Secret War of Harry Frigg." And don't forget "Cool Hand Luke," which almost fits.