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Arts and entertainment reports from The Times, national and international news services and the nation’s press.

TELEVISION

‘Asteroid’ Hits Hard: Despite mixed-to-negative reviews, NBC’s “Asteroid” blew away the competition Sunday night when an estimated 28% share of U.S. viewing homes chose special effects over Oscar winner Meryl Streep’s much heralded return to television. According to overnight ratings from the nation’s biggest markets, Streep drew about 18% of the audience to her ABC movie " . . . first do no harm,” which aired directly opposite “Asteroid” from 9-11 p.m. CBS, which carried the big-screen movie “Dave” in the time period, drew an estimated 16% of households. Fox’s staple “The X-Files,” meanwhile, earned a 17% audience share from 9-10 p.m. NBC noted that “Asteroid,” which was to conclude Monday night, “dethroned” ABC’s November broadcast of Disney’s “The Lion King” to become the highest-rated movie of the season, according to overnight ratings. Because of Monday’s holiday, final national ratings won’t be available until Wednesday.

A Bronx Cheer: A script from the final episode of NBC’s “Cheers” that had been autographed by the show’s entire cast was stolen from a Boston charity auction over the weekend. Series star George Wendt had donated the script to the Handel & Haydn Society, a classical orchestra and chorus, which had already received a $1,000 bid for the item. Because many auction attendees were masked in keeping with the evening’s “Carnival in Venice” theme, no suspects were apparent, although security videotape was being studied.

RADIO

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Returning to Broadcasting: Pioneering radio psychologist Toni Grant, who has been off the air for seven years for a self-imposed “creative hiatus” that included a stint in corporate America, will return to radio in mid-March. Although specific stations are still being lined up, Grant will broadcast “The Dr. Toni Grant Show” for three hours each weekday afternoon for syndicator Radio Shows Limited. The new show will be based in Dallas, where Grant moved with her husband, industrialist John Bell, after leaving broadcasting in 1990. The new show’s call-in format will be similar to that of her former program (she was on Los Angeles’ KABC-AM for 10 years before moving to syndicator Westwood One/Mutual Broadcasting System from 1985-90) but will have “new creative elements” to reflect “the end of the ‘90s,” Grant said. “Apparently I’ve been missed,” the psychologist said Monday from her Dallas office, noting that what she has missed most about radio work is “the connection with the people.”

DANCE

Coming to Universal: Los Angeles missed Michael Flatley when “Riverdance” came to town without him, but he’s bringing his follow-up vehicle, “Lord of the Dance,” to the Universal Amphitheatre for four performances, March 27-30. Tickets are on sale now. Based on Irish folklore, the show has been a hit in London, despite wildly mixed reviews, with the London Daily Mail saying that “Flatley is poised on the edge of another worldwide conquest” and the Financial Times commenting “the show looked like a Nuremberg rally staged in Blarney.” Although Flatley did not appear in American “Riverdance” performances, he is well known through a home video version and PBS telecasts. PolyGram video has just issued a “Lord of the Dance” videotape, which is reportedly Britain’s third largest-selling video.

POP/ROCK

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Expanding the Rock: The Hard Rock Cafe restaurant chain has formed its own record label, Hard Rock Records. A joint venture with Rhino Records, the label will initially focus on compilation albums; releases will be sold at all Hard Rock Cafes, along with other music outlets. Meanwhile, “Hard Rock Live,” a new one-hour music series, is set to debut on cable’s VH1 in March, and the company is planning two live music theaters--to be called Hard Rock Live Performance Venues--in Mexico City and Orlando, Fla. The Mexico City venue is expected to open later this year, while the Orlando theater should open in 1998.

STAGE

San Diego Summer: Old Globe Theatre in San Diego will present Mark Harelik’s “The Legacy"--a sequel to “The Immigrant"--from July 19 to Aug. 30, followed by Hugh Leonard’s “The Mask of Moriarty,” from Sept. 20 to Oct. 25, both on the main stage. Also on Old Globe’s schedule: “Othello” (July 5-Aug. 9) and “The Comedy of Errors” (Aug. 30-Oct. 4), in the outdoor Lowell Davies Festival Theatre; and Benn W. Levy’s “Springtime for Henry” (July 12-Aug. 16) in the Cassius Carter Centre Stage.

QUICK TAKES

Pianist David Helfgott--subject of the Oscar-nominated film “Shine"--has added a fourth local concert date, April 28 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. Tickets for the solo recital go on sale at 10 a.m. today. . . . The Village People’s “cop” has been jailed on robbery and drug charges. Victor Edward Willis, 45, the ‘70s group’s original lead singer, was arrested in a Reno hotel room Saturday, where police said they found about 45 grams of rock cocaine. Willis was with the Village People from 1977 to 1979, recording such hits as “Macho Man,” “Y.M.C.A.” and “In the Navy.” . . . Songstress Mariah Carey has founded her own record company, called Crave. It will be distributed by Sony Music, which is headed by Carey’s husband, Tommy Mottola. . . . NBC’s “Wings” will take its final flights in a later hour. The series moves from 8 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays starting March 5, before closing out its seven-year run with an hourlong finale on May 21. “NewsRadio” will move up to the 8 p.m. slot on March 12.

Presidents Day Cheer: “Make a note of it, write it down in your calendar: Right now, there are no accidents anywhere in the Los Angeles area."--KFWB-FM (980) news radio, at 8:50 a.m. Monday.


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