One year later, Ashlee Simpson may return to "Saturday Night Live" to host -- and perform. Get ready for a hoedown -- Yee haw!

The gig on the NBC late-night show would coincide with the October release of her new album, "I Am Me, Except When I'm Singing Live and Then I'm Actually the Voice on the Backup Tape."

Okay, it's just called "I Am Me."

"It's not confirmed yet, but I want to do it," she told music trade publication Billboard.

"I've battled those demons," she added, referring to the Acid Reflux Demons who forced her to lip-sync her "live" performance on "SNL" last October.

At least, that was her story: Acute indigestion had robbed her of her vocal talent, necessitating the cheat recording -- about which the world might never have known if not for a tape mix-up. The prerecorded song she had "performed" earlier in the live show began to play again as she started her second song. Recovering quickly, Simpson performed a brief hoedown, and then walked offstage.

In a desperate attempt to salvagze their ratings-starved "Friends" spinoff, as it prepares to face the most-talked-about new comedy of the fall -- Chris Rock's "Everybody Hates Chris" -- the producers of "Joey" have given Matt LeBlanc's character an actual friend of color.

Miguel Nunez Jr. has been allowed into the exclusive, all-white "Friends" club, playing an actor who becomes Joey Tribbiani's new . . . well, friend.

"We missed that camaraderie he had with Chandler and Ross. . . . We needed a best friend for him," executive producer Kevin Bright told trade papers, referring to the white guys Joey palled around with on "Friends."

The first season's focus on Joey's family -- specifically, his skanky sister and her smothering and borderline-obsessive relationship with her young-adult son -- were "too narrow," Bright said.

Not to mention creepy.

Also gone is the apartment Joey shared with this nephew. This season, Joey becomes a big acting success, gets a lead role in a summer flick, ditches the apartment (and, hopefully, the nephew) and buys a house.

The role of the show's most talented thespian (Jennifer Coolidge, who plays Joey's agent) is being beefed up; Coolidge will appear in every episode this season.

Drea de Matteo's sister-of-Joey character begins working at the agency, which hopefully means fewer of those Oedipal scenes where she coos over her son.

And Nunez, who starred in the 2002 flick "Juwanna Mann," will be added to the cast, playing an actor who thinks he's better than he is.

ABC News last night dropped Peter Jennings's name from its evening newscast. Instead of "ABC's World News Tonight With Peter Jennings," it's now just "ABC's World News Tonight."

Jennings's last appearance on the show was April 5. He died of lung cancer on Aug. 7 at age 67, but ABC kept his name on the broadcast all last week.

"After consulting with [Jennings's wife] and the family, we concluded that leaving the broadcast's title as it was through last Friday was an appropriate tribute to Peter," ABC News President David Westin said yesterday in a memo to staffers.

"But, of all people, Peter insisted on accuracy. As much as we would have it otherwise, from now on 'World News Tonight With Peter Jennings' will be known simply as 'World News Tonight.' "

Because, so far as we can tell, everything he's created for TV has failed -- except, of course, the interesting pregnancy story line on ABC's "Alias" -- Ben Affleck is "in talks" to write a new drama series about a second American Revolution.

"Resistance," which might be produced by Disney's in-house TV production division Touchstone TV, would be set in a near future in which the United States has been cut up into separate countries after terrorist attacks, the trades report.

Affleck was co-creator of ABC's drama-cum-reality series "Push, Nevada," in which a viewer could win more than a million dollars by watching each episode and collecting clues to a mystery. And yet, no one watched. And it was canceled after just seven episodes.

Affleck is also one of the partners on the let's-make-a-low-budget-flick reality series "Project Greenlight," which used to run on HBO until even that network couldn't pretend it was working. After that, it went to Bravo network where, according to Web site Zap2it.com, producing partner Matt Damon said recently it's on a respirator.

Miguel Nunez Jr. will be Matt LeBlanc's new friend in the second season of "Joey."