As 11:35 p.m. approached during a long-awaited memorable evening last week, I began gnawing at my fingernails in anticipation. The thought of actually seeing Ted Koppel grace a Utah TV screen still seemed incredible.

"No way," I remember thinking. "It's not going to be on, I just know it. Executives at KTVX are going to have a change of heart minutes before the planned broadcast and put on reruns of `Manimal.' "Then, the once-familiar music of the show begins, and the screen is filled with a computer-aided design of the world taking shape. The announcer speaks that longed-for phrase, "Nightline with Ted Koppel." Suddenly I proclaim, "There is a God, and he hears my prayers."

My roommate asks, "Can we watch `Entertainment Tonight'?" My response is kind but firm. "Do you know how long I've waited to see this show in this state?"

"Oh! `Nightline!' " he reacts.

"Yes! Maybe there won't be a nightly struggle for the remote control," I think to myself.

We have a miniature basketball hoop in our kitchen. "Game of horse?" another roommate asks. At this point I merely need to repeat my soothingly spirited response of seconds ago. "Do you know how long I've waited to see this show in this state?"

He responds: "Meaningful television? I'm not used to seeing that in this apartment."

For a moment I thought he must never have been home when we had "CNN Headline News" tuned in, but he could have assumed that we had simply been waiting for 19 and 49 minutes past the hour, for the sports news.

But "meaningful" is perhaps too simple to describe the return of "Nightline" to the Utah airwaves. I think words like profound, enlightening and remarkable more aptly fit the description of Nightline's presence.

What began as a nightly update on the Iran hostage situation continued even after Day 444. By the time the hostages came home, Americans had a new nightly addiction, not to mention a new president. There was so much to talk about. There was so much to argue about.

In Utah, however, the show was unceremoniously removed in favor of "WKRP in Cincinnati," then "Magnum P.I." and "Nightcourt." That's embarrassing for a state that supposedly is one of the better-educated.

KTVX officials said they consistently received more letters about the show's absence than any other issue. But ratings on the station did increase when "Nightline" was axed. Gloriously, they have seen fit to return the show, opposite "E.T." and "Pat Sajak."

"Let me remind the affiliates throughout the nation that our show will be running long tonight." How I've missed that phrase, and how I rejoice at its return.