There's a possibility that "Cheers," the No. 1 show on television today, may not be back on the air next season. And not because the stars want out, but because the studio wants an incredible amount of money from the network.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Paramount is demanding $120 million for a 10th season of the 9-year-old sitcom - nearly a 400 percent increase. (NBC is paying $31 million this season.)The Peacock is not pleased, to put it mildly. If it were to pay the $120 million, it wouldn't make much - if any - profit on the show.

NBC's exclusive option to renew "Cheers" ran out last week, and there are reports that Paramount has offered the show to both ABC and CBS - and neither company has agreed to pay the studio's price.

What makes this all the more interesting is the fact that the Big Three networks are locked in such a tight ratings battle this season. NBC is still No. 1, but just barely - it's two-tenths of a rating point ahead of ABC and half a point ahead of CBS.

Without "Cheers," NBC wouldn't be in first place and might be in third. And if either of the other two networks were to pick up the show, it would almost certainly be lifted No. 1.

The mere fact that neither ABC nor CBS has leaped at the chance to steal away the No. 1 show on television is a pretty good indication that Paramount is asking too much.

Paramount, on the other hand, is quick to point out that it costs about $1 million more per episode to make "Cheers" than NBC is paying for it. (That's mainly because of the huge salaries paid to the stars.)

But there does seem to be an element of greed on the part of the studio, which has been selling "Cheers" in syndication since 1984 and has reportedly made $315 million on those sales already. Networks are forbidden from participating in syndication revenues.

If this dispute does lead to the demise of "Cheers," it wouldn't be the first time. "Newhart" didn't make it back on the air this season because MTM's new British owners demanded more money than CBS was willing to pay.FAIR CHER: It seems that KSL received several dozen calls Monday night complaining about "Cher: At the Mirage." The callers were concerned because the singer/actress was wearing several skimpy outfits that didn't cover all of her tatoos.

OK, let me get this straight - some of you were surprised that Cher was wearing outrageous, revealing costumes?

Isn't that sort of like tuning in to "The Cosby Show" and being surprised to find sappy humor? Or tuning in to "Dallas" and being surprised that J.R. is a mean guy?

And as far as I know, no one was being forced to watch Cher. (With the possible exception of my wife.)

Televisions today come equipped with a couple of amazing bits of equipment - a channel changer and an off switch. If you don't like what you're seeing on one station, you're allowed to either change channels or turn your TV off.

That's a good point to remember no matter what you're watching.HOW THINGS CHANGE: At the same time, it is rather interesting how things have changed in the past 14 years.

During the runs of "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour," "Cher" and "The Sonny and Cher Show" from 1971-77, there were continual stories about conflicts between CBS and the stars over Cher's costumes.

But in 1991, CBS ran advertisements that basically said, "Watch `Cher: At the Mirage' and see how little she's wearing."

(OK, the spots were a bit more subtle than that, but not much.)

We're living in different times . . . MISSING ANCHORMAN: If you've been wondering what happened to KUTV's Terry Wood for much of this week, he's been down with a respiratory infection.

Ch. 2's top anchorman missed much of this week, but he's feeling quite a bit better. If he didn't make it back for Thursday's broadcasts, he's expected back tonight.

His absence couldn't have come at a worse time for the station. We're in the midst of the February sweeps, which go a long way toward determining how much broadcasters can charge for their commercials.

Losing one of your lead attractions doesn't help.

It's already turning out to be a rather interesting ratings period. Not only was Wood out much of this week, but KTVX anchorman Phil Riesen missed all but the first couple of days of the sweeps period when he was stricken with a brain aneurysm. (He's on the road to a full recovery.)

All of which would seem to be quite an opportunity for KSL - but also puts that station under quite a bit of pressure. Not only is this the first sweeps since weatherman Mark Eubank signed on (reportedly at great expense to Ch. 5), but KSL almost has to do even better in light of the other stations' problems.