WHY BARBRA STREISAND DIDN'T SAY GOODBYE

Who says Johnny Carson doesn't forgive? Although the now former king of late-night TV seemingly never forgave Joan Rivers for vacating her spot as permanent guest host of NBC's The Tonight Show for a chance to host a competing program on the upstart Fox network, Carson did turn the other cheek in the waning days of his show in hopes of getting Barbra Streisand to appear.

Streisand had never gone on air with Carson. In the mid-'70s, she was booked to appear one night but had a panic attack en route and canceled at the last minute. Carson made light of her nonappearance on the air that night, but a source close to the show says, "Privately he was very angry."

Carson's tune changed in recent months, though, when his producers attempted to book Streisand. Her longtime manager, Marty Erlichman, confirms Streisand turned down the request "because she is totally uncomfortable doing talk shows. It was nothing against Johnny, but it's not like she's out there doing Arsenio and Oprah. It's the talk show format that scares her."

JIMMY SMITS, BEYOND THE LAW

Jimmy Smits wants to play a bad guy. After six seasons as straight-arrow attorney Victor Sifuentes on L.A. Law, Smits has been set to portray a convicted murderer in Blood and Justice, a made-for-TV movie. In a neat reversal, comedian Paul Rodriguez will costar as Smits's brother—an attorney.

"Two brothers—one goes to Yale, the other goes to jail," is how Rodriguez describes the NBC project, due to air sometime next year. The telefilm will be based on the true story of a young Mexican-American from San Jose, Calif., who went to Harvard (not Yale) and became a lawyer so that he could represent his brother, whom he felt had been wrongly convicted.

How did the two actors choose the roles? "The [criminal's] part intrigued Jimmy," says Rodriguez, "because it goes against his L.A. Law type. For me, its an opportunity to do drama, which also runs counter to what people expect of me."

BELEAGUERED LEAGUE?

We're hearing from a number of sources that audiences attending recent test screenings of A League of Their Own, the movie about an all-female baseball team in the 1940s, have not reacted well to the film despite its powerhouse roster (Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Madonna) and big-name director (Penny Marshall).

One source tells us that, as a result, Columbia's marketing department "is all in a tizzy" over the possibility that the film may get buried under the weight of other studios' summer releases.

A Columbia spokesman laughed when asked about all the bad-mouthing we had been hearing. "Let people say what they want," he says. "The movie is in excellent shape, and if it doesn't do $100 million, I'll eat my hat."

Would that include a batting helmet?