News, Apr. 2: We Were “Punk’d”! Kutcher Resurrects MTV Series; Networks Balk at Jackson TV Pitch; Stern Pulls April Fools Prank, More…

Top Story: We Were Punk’d! Kutcher Resurrects MTV Series

The joke’s on us, apparently–unless this is just Ashton Kutcher‘s April Fool’s Day stunt. Just four months after Kutcher ended his hit MTV prankster series Punk’d, the music cabler announced Thursday that Punk’d will return to its slate next month for a third season, with eight episodes already in production. Reuters reports MTV had no explanation for Kutcher‘s change of heart but said it was grateful for the return of its highest-rated series. The 25-year-old actor had announced his decision to nix a third season of Punk’d in December. “We have had an incredible time doing the show and have decided to stick with the old adage of ‘leave ’em wanting more,”‘ Kutcher had said in a statement. At the time, TV pundits suspected Kutcher‘s announcement was a ruse aimed at throwing off celebrities, who were catching on that they were being pranked too early in the game.

Stern Pulls April Fools Prank

Kutcher wasn’t the only one having fun on Apr. 1. Radio shock jock Howard Stern got in on the joke and “got” his listeners, pretending his show had been yanked off the air for good. Fans tuned in Thursday morning to hear New York’s WXRK Radio’s General Manager Tom Chiusano reading a statement saying the show was taken off the air because of government pressure, adding, “While we’re sorry to end the Howard Stern Show, we promise quality programming in the future.” After the message, two deejays played about an hour of insipid music interspersed with banal banter. Listeners nationwide immediately started calling in to complain until Stern and sidekick Robin Quivers finally announced it was a hoax. Stern‘s show has come under fire recently, with Clear Channel Communications dropping the controversial radio show from six stations for indecent content.

Jackson Not Expected at Hearing

Prosecutors and lawyers in Michael Jackson‘s child molestation case prepared for a preliminary hearing Friday to determine whether there was enough evidence to try the pop oddity. But the 45-year-old singer, who was busy promoting AIDS awareness in Washington, was not expected to show up at the proceedings in Santa Maria, Calif., where his lawyers and prosecutors and are expected to discuss procedural issues with Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville, who was invited to testify to the grand jury. According to Reuters, media lawyers will be present at the hearing to make a case for more access to court documents, including search warrants.

Nets Balk at Jackson TV Pitch

Speaking of Michael Jackson, the self-proclaimed “King of Pop” seems to be losing his allure with TV networks. According to Variety, Jackson‘s managers have approached several networks about the idea of a Jackson TV special built around videotape footage from the singer’s trip this week to Washington as well as some of Jackson‘s meetings with his inner circle of advisers, but the early responses have been less than enthusiastic. Jackson, who is charged with molesting a boy under the age of 14, would also agree to sit down for a seven- to 10-minute interview, although topics covered by the gag order in Jackson‘s criminal case would be off limits. Insiders tell Variety the asking price for a package deal: $3 million.

John Belushi Gets a Star, Posthumously

The late John Belushi, known for his comic genius on Saturday Night Live and in films such as Animal House and The Blues Brothers, was honored posthumously Thursday with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, AP reports. Those in attendance included Belushi‘s brother, actor James Belushi, his widow, Judy Belushi-Pisano; and close friend Dan Aykroyd. Belushi died in 1982 from a drug overdose. He was 33.

SAG Moves Back Awards Telecast

The 11th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards will be held three weeks earlier next year, on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2005 at the Los Angeles Shrine Exposition Center, Variety reports. After years of steady growth, ratings for this year’s SAG awards telecast dropped 31 percent when compared with 2003’s telecast, and lost more than 1.5 million overall viewers. That ratings decline was attributed to the show airing during the cutthroat Nielsen sweeps week, but by airing on a less competitive Saturday evening in 2005, the telecast is unlikely to face such stiff competition from rival networks. A complete calendar for the 11th annual SAG Awards will be released later this year.

Spears Postpones Another Concert

The hobbled Britney Spears had to postpone her concert in Cleveland, Ohio, Thursday, AP reports, her third postponement since injuring her knee while performing in Illinois. The rescheduled date is now June 29.

Cash’s Stepdaughter Jailed

Carlene Carter, stepdaughter of Johnny Cash and daughter of country singers June Carter Cash and Carl Smith, has been jailed in Tenn., authorities told AP Thursday, although it was unclear why the country singer was in custody. Carter was charged in December 2002 with identity theft to obtain prescription drugs. A court hearing in the case is set for April 12 and if convicted, she faces two to twelve years in prison, AP reports.

Role Call: 3001 Cast Gears Up

Saturday Night Live regular Maya Rudolph and Punk’d prankster Dax Shepard are in negotiations to join Luke Wilson in the comedy 3001, directed by Beavis and Butt-Head creator Mike Judge. According to the Hollywood Reporter, 3001 centers on Joe Bowers (Wilson), an average American who is selected for a top-secret hibernation program that finds him waking up and living among a society 10 centuries in the future. He finds that civilization is so dumbed-down that he is the most intelligent person alive. Rudolph would will play a prostitute, and Shepard a defense attorney with a perpetually glazed look who becomes Bowers’ court-appointed attorney.

Compiled by Guylaine Cadorette and Kit Bowen