So you're a television producer and you want to get a show on the air. And once you get that show on the air, you want it to stay on the air. What do you do? Hire the best talent in Hollywood? Butter up network executives? Hire a detective agency to locate Nielsen families?

Nope. Throw out all those theories about samples and demographics and time periods and counter-programming. In the prime-time game, it's all in the name.The right kind of punctuation will sell a show. Just look at CBS. Put an ampersand in the title, and it's a go: "Kate & Allie," "Eisenhower & Lutz," "Cagney & Lacey," &, of course, "Simon & Simon." "The Law and Harry McGraw" was canceled because it had no ampersand.

This, of course, does not explain "Beauty and the Beast," but, hey, a prediction: by the third season, they'll open a private detective agency and call it "Beauty & Beast," or maybe just "B & B."

CBS is also partial to commas. They make shows sound more intelligent: "Murder (comma) She Wrote," "Magnum (comma) P.I." You know these people didn't just drop off a dangling participle or something.

Those daring ABC executives eschew such mundane punctuation as commas and periods and go more for such exotic symbols as question marks, colons, quotations within quotations, e.e. cummings-style lower-case and even exclamation points: "Who's the Boss?" "thirtysomething," "Spenser: For Hire," "The `Slap' Maxwell Story," "Sledge Hammer!" "Dolly!"

To get a news show into prime time, it must have a number in the title, which explains why "Our World" didn't make it, though a fictional show called "A Different World" did. (that may have something to do with one being opposite "Cosby" and the other following it.)

Note "60 Minutes," "48 Hours," "West 57th" and "20/20," which also has the distinction of being the only network slash show. Numbers did not help "1986," but that was because it would be out of date within the year.

NBC doesn't care for oddball punctuation, despite having once had one of the pioneers in oddball punctuation, "The A-Team," and settling for one all-capitals show this season, "ALF," which stands for "Alien Life Form." NBC also has one all-numbers show, "227," a street address. NBC goes in more for mainstream catch-phrases: "Facts of Life," "Family Ties," "Amen," "Cheers," "A Year in the Life," "Day by Day."

Another way to help your show with any network: give it a one-word title - "MacGyver," "Newhart," "ALF," "Moonlighting," "thirtysomething," "Wiseguy," "Matlock," "Hunter," "Hooperman," "Dynasty," "The Equalizer" (the "the" doesn't count), "Cheers," "Ohara," "Hunter" and "Amen."

Talk show hosts have long since learned this lesson: "Donahue," "Oprah," "Geraldo." Even "The Tonight Show" and "Late Night" are more often referred to simply as "Carson" and "Letterman."

Who can say that "Once a Hero," the first show canceled last fall, wouldn't have been a smash hit if it was called simply "Hero"? How about "The Oldest Rookie" as "Rookie" - Top 10 show, no doubt about it. Who's to say "Tour of Duty" wouldn't have beaten "The Cosby Show" (always trimmed to the more familiar "Cosby") if it had been called simply, say, "War"?

Two-word titles are acceptable, but only for cop shows: "Miami Vice," "Crime Story," "Houston Knights." Private eye shows must have one- or three-word titles: "Hunter," "The Equalizer" (the "the" doesn't count), "Beverly Hills Buntz," "Spenser: For Hire."

Some shows will be hits no matter what they're called. "A Different World" could have been called "The Show After Cosby," or, in keeping with short, simple titles, "Show," and it would still be No. 2.

It's just a theory.