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On the Air

The latest news from the TV beat

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EQUAL-OPPORTUNITY ADVOCATES TAKE NOTE NewsRadio‘s one minority regular, Catherine Duke, is exiting. Khandi Alexander, who plays the newscaster, will leave the NBC sitcom this fall.

Sources close to Alexander say she has long been frustrated by the show’s inability to write for an African-American woman, but her reps deny this; the actress, they claim, simply wants to do more drama (as in her recurring part on NBC’s ER). The show is allowing Alexander to split with close to two years left on her contract, but, says exec producer Paul Simms, ”we will leave the door open for her to come back.” Alexander isn’t the only serious loss for NewsRadio: The sitcom lost nearly 8 million of Mad About You‘s viewers its first week in a new Tuesday slot.

SPIN CONTROL When it comes to actress problems, NewsRadio apparently has company. EW received an anonymous letter last week saying, among other things, that Spin City‘s ”high tension” set includes a ”pretty miserable cast,” Connie Britton (Nikki Faber) in particular. According to the source, the actress is distraught because her role on the ABC sitcom is getting ”smaller and smaller.” Britton’s agent, Steven Levy, says not true: Britton’s happy, although he does admit to wishing ”she had more to do.”

AND SO ON Don’t say a eulogy yet, but two of NBC’s Wednesday-night freshmen, The Tony Danza Show and Built to Last, appear to be flunking out: Danza, at eight, finished fourth in its slot, with 9.9 million viewers — and that’s without competition from CBS’ preempted powerhouse, The Nanny. Built, at 8:30, averaged just 7.5 million. Not a good sign for 3rd Rock from the Sun, which NBC gutsily moved to Wednesday at nine as a challenge to ABC’s The Drew Carey Show … Two of the hottest new syndicated daytime shows are hosted by a 72-year-old ex-politician and a 56-year-old gardening zealot. The first national ratings indicate The People’s Court with Ed Koch and Martha Stewart Living are on a roll, with Koch luring men 18 to 49 and Stewart commanding women 25 to 54. And that’s a good thing.