Comedy Central also happy over record-setting ratings

Celebs beware: Ashton Kutcher will live to punk another day on MTV.

The music net announced Thursday that Kutcher’s hit hidden-camera skein “Punk’d” will be back for a third season beginning April 25.

News comes after Kutcher had seemingly pulled the plug on more episodes last December, even though MTV had already ordered second and third seasons in June (Daily Variety, Dec. 15).

When “Punk’d” was pulled last winter, insiders blamed it on Kutcher’s lack of interest in continuing the show: The show’s hit status made the celebrity pranks increasingly difficult to pull off. At the time, MTV said it was still interested in teaming with Kutcher on future projects — and rejected the idea that the announcement was designed to lull celebs into thinking Kutcher and his “Punk’d” gang had gone off-duty.

Nonetheless, insiders now say plans to relaunch “Punk’d” have been circulating for months.

MTV declined comment.

Whatever the true story behind the “Punk’d” revival, this much is certain: Skein had ranked among the highest-rated originals in MTV’s core 12-34 demo. Series features Kutcher’s team of undercover pranksters playing tricks on unsuspecting celebs including Justin Timberlake and Tommy Lee.

“Punk’d” will rejoin the Sunday Night Stew at 10 p.m. when it relaunches at the end of the month. Stew lineup will consist of the male-targeted half-hours “Viva La Bam” at 9 p.m., rookie ratings smash “Pimp My Ride” at 9:30 p.m. and new episodes of “Wildboyz” at 10:30 p.m.

Kutcher’s “My New Best Friend” — a hidden-camera skein sans celebs in development at MTV– is awaiting word on a series pickup .

“Punk’d” was created and exec produced by Kutcher and Jason Goldberg through their Katalyst Prods.

Meanwhile, MTV sister net Comedy Central also has reason to cheer: Wednesday’s hour of “South Park” and “Chappelle’s Show” won the night in cable and was the most-watched hour among 18-49 and 18-34 men in the channel’s history. Shows took in 4.4 million and 4.1 million overall viewers, respectively.

Tuesday’s MTV election spec “Choose or Lose: 20 Million Questions for John Kerry” won its timeslot among its key 12-34 demo, delivering 3.5 million overall viewers.

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