'Peony' Back in Bloom?: New York's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts said Thursday that its planned production next month of the 22-hour Chinese opera "The Peony Pavilion" may be back on schedule, following a week of negotiations with Chinese officials. For the past week, the Shanghai Bureau of Culture--which has criticized the production for straying from Chinese tradition and for its treatment of sexuality--had refused to allow the Shanghai Kunju Opera Company to ship its sets and costumes for the 400-year-old opera. While calling the expected shipment of the costumes "gratifying," Lincoln Center officials reiterated their displeasure with Chinese officials' apparent attempts to censor the $500,000 production, saying that revisions proposed by the Bureau of Culture will only be performed if approved by director Chen Shi-Zheng. If the bureau insists on revisions not approved by Chen, Lincoln Center said, it will not present the opera. "In all candor, if what they are doing [to the production] bears any relationship to the opinions they expressed over the past week, then there is no way we will come to agreement," Lincoln Center President Nathan Leventhal told The Times. "We are happy with this small step--but there is a long way to go."
More Ticking Likely: It's looking more likely that CBS will launch a second weekly installment of "60 Minutes." Don Hewitt, executive producer of the Sunday night institution, has backed off his initial opposition to the point where he's now working to develop a potential format for a second "60 Minutes," a show spokesman said Thursday. Hewitt and the series' veteran correspondents, particularly Mike Wallace, had objected to the idea of a second edition for fear that a glut of newsmagazines would make good stories scarce and weaken the Sunday show. But top CBS executives have continued to push for an expansion. A second "60 Minutes" would not be ready until at least next winter, CBS said.
'Springer' Drops: The controversial "Jerry Springer Show," which became a hit due to violent brawls among its guests, has not done as well with its revamped, nonviolent format. Just-released national ratings for "Springer" for the week of June 8--the first week of the new format--fell off 7% from the previous week, according to Nielsen Media Research. Don Corsini, general manager of KCAL-TV Channel 9, which airs the syndicated show locally daily at 11 p.m., said that there has been "some audience erosion" with the new format, although "Springer" remains the market's top-rated 11 p.m. show.
Back on the Beat: Riding the recent wave of nostalgia for '70s TV series, cable's TNT is bringing back "CHiPS" in a two-hour movie, scheduled to premiere this fall. Unlike updated versions of "The Love Boat" and "Fantasy Island" that feature new casts, however, "CHiPS '99" will bring back the series' original motorcycle cops, Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox.
MOVIES & VIDEO
Oh, Leo: Leonardo DiCaprio may be taking his time to pick his next film role, but the "Titanic" heartthrob wasted no time in perking up a group of seriously ill teen girls. "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh. . . . He's just so great," gasped 13-year-old Jennifer, a leukemia patient who was one of eight girls treated to lunch with DiCaprio Wednesday at Beverly Hills' Planet Hollywood restaurant. The girls, who also received lots of kisses from the object of their affection, plus shirts embroidered by his mother, met DiCaprio through the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
'Spice' Sales: Perhaps due to enthusiasm to catch the last offering including the now-departed Spice Girl Ginger, the British quintet's "Spice World" landed at No. 1 on VideoScan's weekly video sales chart in its first week in stores last week. Oscar winner "As Good as It Gets," in its fifth week on video, ranked second. The news wasn't so spicy in the rental division, however, with "As Good as It Gets" coming in at No. 1 while "Spice World" took fourth place.
Sinead O'Connor has been added to Saturday's Lilith Fair lineup at the Rose Bowl. . . . New Line Home Video will spend $20 million in its biggest video launch ever for "Lost in Space," which is scheduled to hit stores on Oct. 6. . . . The Oscars will return to the Music Center's Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in 1999, with the awards--which are moving to a Sunday for the first time next year after being a Monday night institution--set for March 21. . . . Today at 5 p.m. is the deadline to return nomination ballots for the 20th annual Primetime Emmy Awards.