×

Though Roseanne Arnold got to kiss Mariel Hemingway in an episode of “Roseanne” early this past season, don’t expect that gay kissing is going to become a primetime staple. The producers of the hit Fox series “Melrose Place” are currently in a tug of war with the network over a plot development in the season finale which features two men kissing.

In that season-ender, Billy (Andrew Shue) is marrying Allison (Courtney Thorne-Smith), and one of his friends falls for Matt Fielding (Doug Savant), the show’s openly gay character. According to the show’s creator and exec producer, Darren Star, they shot a scene in which Fielding kisses the other man. The hard part is getting Fox to air the episode.

“Whether it airs is up to the network, and right now, they’re coming down and saying it’s something they don’t want to air,” Star said Wednesday. “We would never censor ourselves, but I understand their position; they don’t want to lose affiliates. … The letters we get from straight and gay viewers are overwhelmingly that we should let this guy have a real life. The viewers are more sophisticated than advertisers, or than advertisers … give them credit for.”

Though the season finale airs during the sweeps on May 18, Star said the aim was not to create a ratings-grabbing event: “The intention isn’t just to have this character kissing guys onscreen. That’s not ground-breaking; I saw it on PBS. What’s important is that he’s part of the ensemble cast, a gay man who has a pretty well-rounded life. If that’s all we’re able to do, we’ve done a lot. I’d just like to be able to do a little more.”

Such bold programming can have a price. ABC lost an estimated $ 1 million in ad revenues when an episode of “thirtysomething” depicted two gay men in bed together, talking. They were unclothed, but were shown in a tight shot.

UNIVERSAL, WHICH HAS long been trying to mount the fantasy “Dragonheart,” has finally found its knight in shining armor. Dish hears the studio’s negotiating with Dennis Quaid to play a knight, who topples an evil despot with the help of the last dragon. The film’s large budget has made it a difficult endeavor, as Richard Donner tried to put it together with Harrison Ford, to no avail.

Since “Dragon” director Rob Cohen stepped in, the project, based on Charles Edward Pogue’s script, has been coming together quickly. Sean Connery is ready to furnish the voice for the dragon. Quaid’s star should be on the rise, after playing the ailing Doc Holliday alongside Kevin Costner in Lawrence Kasdan’s “Wyatt Earp.” Quaid lost an alarming amount of weight for the role.

UNSUITABLE ATTORNEY: The most surprising news about Helen Kushnick’s lawsuit against Bill Carter and his latenight book from Hyperion, “Late Shift,” is that Ron Berg, her usual attorney, isn’t pressing the case. Dish hears that when Kushnick told Berg she wanted to sue for libel over the author’s claim that she planted a N.Y. Post report that Leno would replace Johnny Carson, Berg told her he couldn’t make the case. It seems he was under the impression she told him it did happen.

She then fired him and got attorney Barry Langberg to rep her.

Berg declined to comment, while Langberg said because Berg isn’t a libel lawyer he wouldn’t represent Kushnick in this case anyway.

Langberg also claims Kushnick has a solid case, saying that while Carter spoke to her, he “didn’t try to get her side, and didn’t even bring up these issues. When she read the book, she was shocked.”

Carter, who has watched days of press coverage about the lawsuit but still hasn’t been served, said: “I have complete confidence in the reporting I did in this book.”

WOMEN’S SALARIES RIVAL MEN: New Line knew that it wouldn’t be cheap to graduate from being the home of Freddy Krueger and the Ninja Turtles to becoming a haven for Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan. Though it’s gotten a major shot of credibility for signing those actresses to develop a remake of “The Women,” it will also establish a record for a female salary in the process.

Dish hears that when the movie gets made, Roberts will be paid a record $ 12 million, with Ryan getting $ 8 million. Roberts, sources said, is around $ 10 million now, with Ryan at about $ 6 million. Neither the studio, nor ICM, the agency for the actresses, would comment.