Utah still lags far behind the rest of the country in cable penetration.

According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., 59 percent of all American homes - a total of 54,871,330 - were wired for cable in November, 1990.But here in the Salt Lake City market, just 47 percent of our homes - a total of 278,050 - are watching ESPN, CNN, USA, AMC, TNT, WGN, etc.

That puts us very near the bottom of Nielsen's rankings for 210 markets throughout the country. We're No. 201, to be exact.

There are a couple of other markets in this part of the country with an even lower percentage of cable-equipped homes. Las Vegas was listed at 46.2 percent and Boise at 45.2.

But most were ahead of us: Idaho Falls, 52.7 percent; Albuquerque, 53.5; Denver, 55.2; Twin Falls, 55.6; Grand Junction, 63.2; Reno, 64.9; Cheyenne, 72.2.

And, for the record, the No. 1 cable market in the country, in terms of percentage, is Palm Springs at 90 percent. And No. 1 in total number of cable households is New York City with 3,984,400.

So, why is Utah lagging behind? One likely explanation is that some of us still suffer under the "cable is dirty" misapprehension that resulted from efforts to regulate the industry in the Utah Legislature a few years ago.

And you can never rule out the cost and service problems that have plagued the industry. (Although the cable companies are trying to improve their reputation in that area.)TELEVISION WAR: Much has been written about how the current conflict in the Persian Gulf is a television war.

That's were most people are turning for information, and TV news offers that information almost instantaneously in many cases.

An indication of just how much of a television war this is comes in the form of a poll conducted by Birch/Scarborough the day after the fighting began. Here are the results of a few of their questions:

- How did you find out war had started?

- Television, 61.6 percent.

- Radio, 18.1 percent.

- Someone told me, 16.9 percent.

- Who had the best information the first night of the war?

- Television, 88.6 percent.

- Radio, 6.6 percent.

- How did you keep up with war news the day after fighting began?

- Television, 54.7 percent.

- Radio, 22.7 percent.

- Newspapers, 8.9 percent.CLARIFICATION: In last week's story about the November ratings, the fact that KSL used its weekend anchor (Keith McCord) on election night while KUTV used its lead anchor team (Terry Wood and Michelle King) was cited as one possible reason for Ch. 2's domination of that evening's ratings.

This was not meant in any way as a criticism of McCord's performance that night. As a matter of fact, I thought he did a fine job.

TV viewers continually demonstrate that they're creatures of habit, particularly when it comes to news. One explanation for that evening's ratings was that local viewers turned to the anchors they were more familiar with.

As I've written here innumerable times, ratings and quality are not always synonymous. (And before anyone else gets upset, this is not meant as criticism of KUTV.)`SUNDAY BEST' ISN'T: When studios won't let movie critics see a film before it's released, that's a good sign it isn't much of a movie.

It's the same sort of thing in television, when the networks don't make their programs available before they premiere. NBC didn't let anyone see "Sunday Best" before its weekend premiere. Need we say more?

Actually, not all of "Sunday Best" was bad. There were some great clips of old series - particularly bits of the premiere episodes of everything from "Bewitched" to "Mary Tyler Moore." For a television buff, those things are precious.

But most of the rest of the show was junk. In addition to being nauseatingly self-promotional, the original comedy bits just weren't funny.

Jeff Cesario turned in a segment that was tedious at best. And Harry Shearer's supposed lampoon of "60 Minutes" - already done to death in advertisements for "Best" - was excruciatingly long and boring.

It's almost criminal to see talents like Carl Reiner and Linda Ellerbee trapped in this turkey.

Don't waste your time here. Especially when the other networks are airing two fine shows, "60 Minutes" and "Life Goes On."