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'N Sync respond to the lawsuit against them

Plus, Kate Winslet, ”NYPD Blue,” Dustin Hoffman, ”The Real World,” Robert De Niro, the Who, and more

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PLOT THICKENS The battle over ‘N Sync is heating up like a placard-waving ”Total Request Live” fan when Carson Daly comes down to the street. In response to the $150 million breach-of-contract lawsuit filed against the band by their former mentor, Louis J. Pearlman, and owner of their old label, RCA (which ‘N Sync abruptly left to join Jive Records), the group sent a statement to MTV saying, ”Trans Continental’s conduct with regard to ‘N Sync is the most glaring, overt, and callous example of artist exploitation that the music industry has seen in a long time. We look forward to the opportunity to air the full facts and will do so in the weeks to come.”

Meanwhile, Pearlman responded by saying that his company created and groomed the band, got them the lucrative record contract that made them stars, and always followed its end of the contract. ”Jive Records’ scheme to violate Mr. Pearlman’s and Trans Continental’s exclusive rights with ‘N Sync should sound a sour note throughout the music industry. It is absurd to think that now that the members of ‘N Sync have been made rich and famous, they can just turn their backs on Mr. Pearlman and Trans Continental and go someplace else.”

CASTING And you thought the ”Titanic” love story ended badly: Kate Winslet will both star in and executive produce ”Therese Raquin,” an adaptation of Emile Zola’s novel about a woman driven to suicide by the ghost of the husband that she and her lover murdered.

NETWORK SHUFFLE Stephen Bochco has done everything but moon ABC to express his rage after learning that the network may delay the debut of ”NYPD Blue” to allow ”Once and Again” to thrive in the cop show’s old time slot. ”It’s cynical and it’s disrespectful and it’s amazing to me,” Bochco told Variety. ”We were a hit show in a solid time slot with a loyal audience, and to just cynically jack us out of there and essentially kiss us off is outrageous.”

Originally, ABC planned to air ”Once and Again” in the Tuesday (10 p.m.) time slot until the Nov. 9 premiere of ”NYPD Blue.” After that, ”Once” would go off the air for many weeks, ultimately taking a Monday night slot at the end of the football season. But after the Sela Ward drama proved to be one of ABC’s only new hits, the network decided it might not want to risk losing the show’s momentum by putting it on hiatus, especially since ”Blue”’s ratings were dropping last year. (Actually, ”Once and Again”’s numbers have also been dropping since its impressive premiere.)

Though ABC cochairman Stu Bloomberg told Bochco that there may be no change, there’s still a chance that ”Blue” may have to wait until December for a debut — and it might be at a different time. Bochco was especially enraged that ABC had no plan for ”Blue” if it gets bounced from Tuesdays. He said that — if he doesn’t get the right time slot — he wants ABC to cancel the show so he can bring it to another network. Somewhere, David Caruso is snickering.

BACK TO THE HOUSE If you missed a moment of backstabbing over the last eight seasons of MTV’s ”The Real World”, you may be in luck. The show will be one of only a handful of cable shows to be sold into syndication, and reruns will likely begin appearing on local stations next fall. Watching shows dating back to 1992 should provide the sociological insight that while hairstyles and fashions may change, self-centeredness and camera hogging is timeless.

ALUMNI PRIDE Dustin Hoffman only lasted a year at Santa Monica College, but the one introductory acting class he took there in 1955 has certainly paid off. Enough so that he’s now heading a campaign to raise $24.8 million for improvements to the campus. ”I was flunking out,” he recalled to Variety about his introduction to performing. ”I only took acting because my friends said there’s this class, it’s only three credits, and nobody flunks acting.” The money will go to building a new performing-arts center, a screening room, and a child-care center. Fortunately, none will go toward a ”Mad City” Memorial Museum.

ACED OUT New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani has nixed Robert De Niro‘s plan with Miramax to build a $150 million studio complex at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Instead, Giuliani signed the lot over to two companies — Steiner Equities and New York Studios — who will build a similar complex, except it will cost only $120 million and won’t require a $25 million city loan, according to the mayor.

BACK TO TV The perennial brink-of-cancellation roller coaster that was ”NewsRadio” hasn’t scared Dave Foley away from TV for good. He’s been signed by NBC to develop his own sitcom…. Bruce Campbell (”Hercules: The Legendary Journeys”) will star in a new syndicated adventure hour, ”Jack of All Trades,” playing an 18th-century British spy in the French East Indies. ”Jack” will take over ”Hercules”’ time slot when it goes off the air in January.

JOIN TOGETHER The Who will reunite to perform live in Las Vegas on Oct. 29, but you don’t have to get off your quadrophenic butt to see them. The concert, iBash ’99, will kick off the launch of pixelon.com (a new online broadcast network) and will be cybercast live.

OPTIONED Miramax has bought the film rights to the late Mario Puzo‘s last novel, ”Omerta.” Puzo finished the book, about a man who is harassed by drug lords while running the Mafia’s legitimate businesses, shortly before his death last July, but it won’t be in stores until next summer.