If the Nielsen national syndication rankings are any indication, a number of major strips could be in trouble when the final local-market May sweeps results are tallied.

Only a handful of the five- or six-day-a-week shows were able to avoid steep year-to-year declines in the four-week period roughly approximating the May sweeps, which started a week earlier last year.

In the key access race, the only magazine to grow during the period was King World’s “Inside Edition,” which jumped 9% to a 7.1 from a 6.5.

Paramount’s “Entertainment Tonight” dipped 6% to a 7.4 from a 7.9, while its “Hard Copy” was flat at a 5.5. Twentieth TV’s “A Current Affair” plunged 14% to a 6.4 from a 7.4.

The KW juggernauts “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” continued to defy the odds, with “Wheel” up 2% to a 12.9 and its companion gaining 3% to an 11.5.

Other gameshows did not pass go. All American TV’s “Family Feud” sank 31% to a 2.5 from a 3.6, Warner Bros.’ “Love Connection” crashed 29% to a 3.4 from a 4. 8 and Twentieth’s “Studs,” which may be headed for cable (Daily Variety, June 3) , tumbled a whopping 37% to a 1.9 from a 3.0.

Other big losers included Par’s “The Arsenio Hall Show,” which continued its downward slide. The talker lost 30% of its audience from last May, falling to a 2.3 from a 3.3.

Multimedia Entertainment’s newcomer “Rush Limbaugh” finished with a conservative but respectable 3.5 rating over four weeks, while Genesis Entertainment’s “Whoopi” met her demise with a 1.3.

In the ever-growing list of daytime and early-fringe talkshows, the programs showing the most growth were Warner Bros.’ “Jenny Jones” (up 26% to a 2.4 from a 1.9) and Buena Vista Television’s “Live With Regis & Kathie Lee” (up 17% to a 4. 1 from a 3.5).

Tribune’s “Geraldo” managed to tie its year-ago four-week mark of a 4.5, with the show coming on strong during the final full week of the sweeps. Its 19% surge to a 5.0 from a 4.2 from the previous week was the biggest of any major strip and put it ahead of Multimedia’s “Sally Jessy Raphael” (4.6) for the first time this season.

The going proved rougher for other chat shows.

Multimedia’s “Donahue” slid 21% to a 5.4 from a 6.8 a year ago, while Tribune’s “Joan Rivers” fell 20% to a 1.6 from a 2.0.

“Sally” lost 9%, slipping to a 5.0 from a 5.5, while Par’s “Maury Povich” dropped 5% to a 4.1 from a 4.3.

Even KW talk champ “Oprah” shrank 4% to a 10.0 from a 10.4, but was still a mile ahead of the competition.

Among the frosh crop, Viacom’s “Montel Williams” finished flat with a 2.9, Group W’s “Vicki!” clocked a 2.6, Multimedia’s “Jerry Springer” sprung to a 1.8 and Warner Bros.’ “Jane Whitney” captured a 1.5.

Other syndie off-net vets were weak, with Viacom’s aging “Cosby Show” falling 28% to a 4.7 from a 6.5 a year ago, while Columbia’s “Married … With Children” dropped 5% to a 7.1 from a 7.5.

Among this season’s new crop of off-net barter sitcoms, Viacom’s “Roseanne” grabbed a decent 6.1 and Col’s “Designing Women” drew up a 5.7.

In the weekly arena, All American TV’s “Baywatch” (5.5) crested 22% above last year’s four-week May average of a 4.5.

Par’s “Star Trek: The Next Generation” dipped 3% to a 10.8 from an 11.1. Among the new arrivals, Par’s “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” averaged a 9.4, followed by WB’s “Kung Fu: The Legend Continues” (5.2), WB’s “Time Trax” (5.0) and Par’s “The Untouchables” (4.8).