Perhaps this should come as no surprise - but it's still rather shocking.

It seems that some of the folks at NBC have actually been complaining that the results of the February sweeps - which CBS won - might have been different if the ground war hadn't started in Iraq and Kuwait when it did.The outbreak of ground fighting on the final Saturday in February wiped out nearly all of the broadcast networks' regular programming. And Saturday happens to be a night NBC is stronger than either ABC or CBS.

But, still. Even off-the-record whining is entirely inappropriate and rather revolting.

We won't even mention the fact that a big win on that particular Saturday wouldn't have made NBC a sweeps winner (although it might have closed the gap a bit).

Let's show a little perspective here, please.

LET'S GIVE A BIG HAND . . . : Let's not let a few sour grapes from the Peacock spoil an otherwise exemplary record on the part of the broadcast networks.

The war in the gulf may have been the biggest news story of the year, but it still cost ABC, CBS and NBC a bundle. This is not only because of the investment they had to make in the coverage itself, but because of lost revenue from advertising that was pre-empted by war reporting.

We're talking tens of millions of dollars here.

Viewers often question whether television serves the public good, and the networks often deserve to be questioned.

But let's give credit where credit is due and applaud them for their efforts to bring the news to America.

WHOM DO YOU TRUST? Turner Broadcasting was just busting its buttons last week.

The cable giant, which includes four networks - TBS, TNT, CNN and CNN Headline News - was telling everyone who'd listen that for three weeks earlier this year, it commanded a larger share of the audience than ABC, CBS or NBC.

Turner claimed that from Jan. 14 through Feb. 3, his networks captured 14.6 percent of the viewing audience, compared to 11.3 percent for ABC, 10.7 percent for CBS and 9.8 percent for NBC.

"This is a significant milestone in our company's history," said R.E. Turner, president and chairman of Turner Broadcasting Systems.

What it really turned out to be was a significant distortion of the data.

According to the Network Television Association (a consortium of the Big Three), ABC, CBS and NBC each had a greater share of the audience during those three weeks than the Turner networks.

What the Turner number-crunchers did was compare 24-hour-per-day averages - which doesn't work because the Big Three don't broadcast 24 hours a day. In other words, during the times the networks' local affiliates controlled the programming, Turner's people averaged big fat zeros into the Big Three's numbers.

Definitely a case of comparing apples and oranges.

According to NTA, each of the Big Three average 17 percent of the viewers for the three weeks in question.

Shame, shame, Ted Turner and Co.

CNN SURGES: Turner does have plenty to be legitimately happy about, however. And on the top of that list is the big jump CNN made during the February sweeps.

A year ago, the all-news cable network averaged a .7 rating and a 1 share. But in the month just ended, CNN jumped all the way up to a 2.8 rating and a 4 share.

Measured among households equipped with cable, CNN did even better, climbing from a 1.2 rating to a 4.3 - an increase of 258 percent.

VQT ENDORSEMENTS: Viewers for Quality Television, a non-profit group organization devoted to supporting fine programming, has added three series to its endorsement list - "Law & Order," "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "The Trials of Rosie O'Neill."

In the case of "Star Trek," this is the first time VQT has ever endorsed a syndicated program. (And it's about time, I may say.)

The organization has also added three shows to its "tentative support" list (shows that don't quite merit an endorsement) - "Anything But Love," "Equal Justice" and "Guns of Paradise."

In case you're wondering, VQT's other endorsed shows are "China Beach," "Cheers," "Designing Women," "L.A. Law," "Life Goes On," "Murphy Brown," "Quantum Leap," "60 Minutes," "thirtysomething," "The Wonder Years."

And the other tentatively supported series are "Doogie Howser, M.D.," "Empty Nest," "Evening Shade," "Gabriel's Fire," "Midnight Caller," "Northern Exposure," "20/20," "Twin Peaks" and "WIOU."

SPIRITED: KSL-TV's "Spirit of the Nineties" campaign recently won the CBS affiliate community service grand prize award.

A volunteer-based program designed to make positive changes in local communities, "Spirit" has involved projects like recycling, cleanups and graffiti removal.

CBS' educational and community services director called the program a "wide-ranging, comprehensive and most effective campaign."

OLD TIMERS: The soon-to-depart "Dallas" airs its 350th episode this Friday, a record only two other prime-time series have surpassed.

The Ewing saga is No. 3 on the all-time list, well behind No. 1 "Gunsmoke" and just in back of No. 2 "Bonanza."

And who's No. 4? Would you believe "Dallas" spinoff "Knots Landing," which will soon air episode No. 300?

YOU'RE KIDDING: Sometimes, even Mr. Spud can't believe the things he gets in the mail.

A prime example is a recent letter (and accompanying videotape) from Dean Hargrove, the executive producer of "The Father Dowling Mysteries." Hargrove writes:

"I don't make a practice of contacting TV editors to blow our horn. On the other hand, I believe you'll share our enthusiasm when you see Father Dowling (Tom Bosley) and Sister Steve (Tracy Nelson) defend a chimpanzee unjustly accused of murder."

Someday I'll have to get a grown-up job.