December 15, 2003 01:00 PM

Ashton Kutcher has pulled a fast one, suddenly announcing on Friday that he’s pulling out of the MTV prank show “Punk’d” after a two-season stint.

Although some news sources are speculating this is just a publicity stunt — a theory fueled by the fact that MTV’s Web site promises a new season of “Punk’d” starting in March — the Associated Press reports the Kutcher’s representatives swear this is not a trick. But even so …

The final new “Punk’d” episode featuring Kutcher aired Sunday, with Beyonce being told she couldn’t enter her own movie premiere.

Previous victims on the show (which was a sort of homage to “Candid Camera”) included Nick Lachey, who was led to believe that wife Jessica Simpson was welcoming her hillbilly relatives to move their trailer onto his estate, and Justin Timberlake, who was told that his possessions were being seized because he owed the IRS $900,000.

“We have had an incredible time doing the show and have decided to stick with the old adage of ‘leave ’em wanting more,’ and that’s how we feel with the show,” Kutcher, 25, who not only starred but also co-produced the series, is quoted as saying by AP. (He is still expected to continue in “That ’70s Show,” and this Friday he opens in a very large, though unbilled, role in the Steve Martin comedy “Cheaper by the Dozen.”)

“Today is a sad day for MTV, but probably a happy day for Hollywood. Celebrities can rest a little easier knowing that the punkings have ceased,” Lois Curren, an MTV executive in charge of series development, said on Friday. But maybe she was just kidding.

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