April 16, 2004 01:00 AM

Which star is next on the “Punk’d” prince’s hit list? PEOPLE ponders the pranks, while delivering the scoop on what’s happening in the coming week:

PUNK’D ROCKS: Ashton Kutcher and his merry gang of pranksters are back, even after spreading the word that his hit MTV series “Punk’d” was ending after two seasons. The show that made Justin Timberlake practically cry, Halle Berry lose her cool and Tommy Lee steaming mad is back for its third season on Sunday, April 25. So, who’s left to punk? That’s all being kept very quiet. “It’s a tight lid that Ashton keeps on everything,” says an MTV rep.

GERE-ING UP: Richard Gere has played a sexy hustler (“American Gigolo”), a maverick soldier (“Officer and a Gentleman”) a prostitute’s Prince Charming (“Pretty Woman”) and a tap-dancing lawyer (“Chicago”) during his career. And now he’s being honored for it. The devout Buddhist will be saluted by the American Museum of the Moving Image at a black-tie benefit gala at New York City’s The Waldorf-Astoria on Tuesday, April 20. Denzel Washington, Winona Ryder, Louis Gossett Jr. and Sharon Stone will be among the celebrities on hand to fete their pal, who’ll next star with Jennifer Lopez in the comedy “Shall We Dance?” due out in August. The star-studded event will air Saturday, May 8 at 10 p.m. on the USA Network.

PLANET ROCK: It’s time to rock for the rainforest again. Sting and other environmentally conscious celebs will gather for the 12th Rainforest Foundation benefit concert at New York City’s Carnegie Hall on Wednesday, April 21. Joining Sting — who co-founded the environmental organization — are James Taylor and Elton John, as well as Billy Joel, Bette Midler, Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith. The theme of the event? “Singing in the Rain ‘Forest’: Great Songs from the Movies.” Sting’s wife, Trudie Styler, who’s producing the evening, said in a statement, “The combination of some of the greatest performers of today and classic songs from the silver screen is going to result in a truly unforgettable evening for a cause that must never be forgotten.”

ACTING, ANYONE? Serena Williams hasn’t been on the court much these days. She recently withdrew from the Family Circle Cup tennis tournament because of her sore left knee, one day after bowing out of the U.S. Fed Cup. Maybe the six-time Grand Slam winner will have better luck at acting: She’ll play a woman who’s reunited with her family after 20 years apart on the Lifetime police drama series “The Division” on Sunday, April 25. Williams has already guest-starred on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and will make her feature-film debut in the comedy “Beauty Shop,” which hits theaters Nov. 24.

AND FINALLY … Hello, Dolly — Parton, that is. The platinum country legend will host the CMT Flame Worthy Video Music Awards, which will air live from Nashville’s Gaylord Entertainment Center on Wednesday, April 21. The top contenders for the awards — country music’s answer to the MTV Video Music Awards — include Toby Keith, nominated for four honors, including best collaborative video (for his duet with Willie Nelson, “Beer for My Horses”) and Shania Twain, who’s nominated for “Forever and for Always.”

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