The oddest thing about "Roseanne" is that what goes on behind the scenes is far less believable than the show that is broadcast to millions of viewers every week.

And the latest controversy has implications for both a pair of networks and a pair of local stations.In case you missed it, ABC is refusing to air a gay-themed episode of "Roseanne" that the producers planned for March 1, at least not without some editing.

In the episode, Roseanne Connor (Roseanne Arnold) goes to a gay bar with her bisexual friend Nancy (Sandra Bernhard). Roseanne dances with a woman (Mariel Hemingway) and, after she makes a wisecrack that is misinterpreted, Hemingway kisses her.

Roseanne Arnold and her husband, Tom - the executive producers - knew they were in for a fight before they taped the episode last week. ABC executives had rejected the script, but the Arnolds went ahead with it anyway.

Tom Arnold has blasted the network for its refusal to air the episode as is. ABC is demanding it be edited, and the Arnolds refuse.

The timing of all of this is somewhat interesting. ABC is in the midst of negotiating with Carsey-Werner, the company that produces "Roseanne," for the rights to continue carrying the hit show after this season.

And you may recall that in a particularly nasty public exchange last year, Roseanne vowed that she'd take the show to CBS.

Of course, since that time the Arnolds have signed a deal with ABC to produce four new sitcoms for that network, proving they can work with the company they publicly vilified.

On the other hand, Tom Arnold's new sitcom debuts next month on CBS. And it's no secret that that network would love to steal "Roseanne" away from ABC.

While CBS would be thrilled to get "Roseanne," there's also no doubt that local CBS affiliate KSL would be considerably less happy about it. You don't have to stretch your imagination much to envision KSL pre-empting episodes of "Roseanne" with some frequency should the show end up on CBS.

Stay tuned . . .

DUELING FOR DIANE: The ongoing, multimillion-dollar battle for the services of Diane Sawyer is yet another example of how one need not be a good journalist to be a big success in the network news game.

Sawyer, the "PrimeTime Live" co-anchor who's currently struggling to get by on a mere $3 million per year, is entertaining all kinds of ridiculous offers for when her contract expires at the end of the month. In addition to ABC's efforts to keep her, CBS, NBC and Fox are offering as much as $10 million per year to take her away, according to The New Yorker.

It certainly can't be because she's a good journalist.

Case in point - her recent interviews with Tonya Harding and Harding's former bodyguard Shawn Eckardt on "PrimeTime."

In a taped interview with Eckardt, Sawyer came off like a district attorney. She grilled him. She followed up soft answers with tough questions. She all but called him a liar.

No particular problem there. But Sawyer's live (in some time zones) interview with Harding took on a completely different tone.

Following a taped bit that was decidedly pro-Harding, Sawyer treated the embattled skater with all the toughness of Arsenio Hall interviewing Charo. She chatted and joked. She made nice.

Sawyer fawned over Harding. This alleged newswoman did everything but haul out the pompons and lead cheers for Harding.

Still, Sawyer is sure to be making millions more than the millions she's already making. Not because she's a reporter, but because she can attract viewers.

Which wouldn't be so disgusting were it not for the fact that Sawyer pretends to be a reporter, sullying journalism in the process.

RATINGS "LESSONS": Here's some good news from the ratings - CBS' movie "Breathing Lessons" on Sunday was the No. 3 show of the week and the second-highest-rated movie of the season on any network.

This for a gentle Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation headlined by two older actors - Joanne Woodward and James Garner.

Let's hope this serves as another lesson to network programmers that this kind of family entertainment can do big business - they don't have to rely on smarmy based-on-fact potboilers.

FISHY SOAP: Now, I don't want to cast any aspersions on the venerable Soap Opera Digest Awards, but last Friday's ceremonies did seem a might suspicious.

Eleven of the 16 awards went to NBC's low-rated "Days of Our Lives." The awards show is seen on - surprise! - NBC.

Of course, they're voted on by readers of Soap Opera Digest, and it's possible that "DOOL" fans are simply more likely to vote.

TOP TEN LIST: From the "Late Show with David Letterman," the Top Ten ways to mispronounce Jeff Gilooly's name:

10. Jeff Giloony

9. Jeff Gluey

8. Jif Gellahee

7. Jeff Goldblum

6. Gilly Ooly Ooly Gilly Goo

5. Prisoner 3275

4. Mr. Magooly

3. Chef Boyardee

2. Boutros Boutros Gillooly

1. Guilty