December 06, 2004 09:00 AM

SCHEDULED: Along with Evanescence, Keith Urban and Sheryl Crow, Britney Spears will appear at the Billboard Music Awards, slated to air live Wednesday on FOX. This will mark her first public appearance since her wedding in September and will take place just as rumors about her being pregnant seem to be reaching fever pitch. Yet as her spokeswoman Leslie Sloane Zelnick told New York’s Daily News last week: “It is absolutely not true. I can tell you she is not pregnant. You’ll see her next week at the Billboard Awards.” Last month, Spears, 23, won the best female artist prize at the MTV Europe Awards in Rome but was unable to accept the award in person.

CAST: Ryan O’Neal will make a guest appearance on ABC’s top-rated nighttime soap, Desperate Housewives, playing the father-in-law of the show’s frazzled pill-popping mom Lynette Scavo, played by Felicity Huffman. O’Neal, who got his start on the daytime soap Peyton Place, will appear in an episode set to air next year.

YANKED: Tennis star John McEnroe’s ratings-challenged chat show has been canceled by CNBC, reports Variety. It will be replaced by advertising expert Donny Deutsch’s The Big Idea With Donny Deutsch. McEnroe, which premiered in July with an appearance by Sting, drew an average audience of 75,000 a night, the network said, but the show often failed to attract enough viewers to register in the Nielsen count. Other stars with failed talk shows now include Sharon Osbourne, Martin Short, Queen Latifah, Chevy Chase and Magic Johnson.

HONORED: Music men Sir Elton John and John Williams, soprano Joan Sutherland, and actors Warren Beatty and husband-and-wife Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee were honored by President and Mrs. Bush at Sunday night’s Kennedy Center Honors for their lifetime achievements in the arts. Beatty, 67, an ardent Democrat, is quoted in Monday’s Washington Post as saying during one of many celebratory weekend gatherings: “The election is over, and that has to be respected. The honor of being here is not diminished.”

SELECTED: Jon Stewart’s mock look at a political science college textbook, America (the Book), a Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction, was named the book of the year on Sunday by Publishers Weekly, the trade publication of the book industry, reports Reuters. The magazine says that, “in a year defined by political polemics, it seems fitting that PW’s Book of the Year be one in which the authors survey the entire political system and laugh.”

RATED: Brian Williams held tight to Tom Brokaw’s numbers, with Thursday night’s premiere of NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams averaging 11.7 million viewers – down from Brokaw’s finale Wednesday but still well ahead of ABC and CBS, according to Nielsen Media Research. ABC’s World News Tonight, anchored by Peter Jennings, averaged 9.3 million viewers, and the Dan Rather CBS Evening News averaged 7.4 million viewers.

NOMINATED: Shrek 2 leads the field of film nominees for the People’s Choice Awards, selected by the public. Other favorite-film nominees were Fahrenheit 9/11, The Incredibles, Spider-Man 2 and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Unlike the Oscars (whose nominations will be announced Jan. 25) and other entertainment awards, in which nominees and winners are selected by industry peers, the People’s Choice Awards are determined by the public. Winners will be announced Jan. 9 in a ceremony televised on CBS.

STORED: SpongeBob Squarepants, 62′ high, 38′ wide and 28′ long, has been deflated and put into storage in Hoboken, N.J., to await next year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, reports The New York Times. He sits in the parade studio with fellow balloons Chicken Little and others. Macy’s is careful not to let the air out of its balloons in front of impressionable young children, a store rep tells the paper: “You don’t want to break kids’ hearts.”

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