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— DIANE CLEHANE

Between the heinous weather that has us nursing what must be walking pneumonia, a deadly dull award season (Does anybody really care about the Oscars without the parties?) and some mind-numbingly bad television we’ve been forced to endure (What the hell happened to Nip/Tuck?), we were yearning for some excitement today at 55th & Fifth. Alas, there was nary a bold-face name in sight. Except for a delightfully random celebrity sighting — Patrick Stewart, looking quite collegiate in a grey crewneck sweater — we loved you in A Christmas Carol! — things were pretty much business as usual in the dining room. The staff, though, was abuzz that none other than Captain Picard had landed in the dining room.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Showtime’s Stu Zakim hosting his “bi-monthly guy’s lunch.” In attendance: ABC’s Jeff Schneider, recruiter Arnie Huberman, SIRIUS’ Patrick Riley and Portfolio‘s Jeff Bercovici. I congratulated Jeff on tapping into the zeitgeist in yesterday’s Mixed Media column where he reported on the tipping point that seems to indicate some — but clearly not all — in the media seem to be having a (slight) attack of conscience when it comes to reporting 24/7 on the sad spectacle of Britney Spears’ alleged mental illness. Jeff emailed the editors of the celebrity weeklies to weigh in on the subject but only People‘s managing editor Larry Hackett responded. Larrys take: the whole thing has Day of The Locust feel to it, but in the unlikely event the media did back off, it’s “presumptuous” to assume the fallen pop star would finally start to get well. I agree. (Full disclosure: I am a People contributor). Interestingly, there’s also a piece in today’s USA Today that reports — duh! — “Britney’s collapse: Media not helping.” The collective sense among journos that cover celebrities and the business of celebrity that this story is going to end badly is palpable. The question is: how will those that have been the beneficiaries of the Britney media bonanza cover the final chapter of this tale? Us Weekly reported last month that AP has already written Spears’ obit. Remember when Princess Diana died and George Clooney held a press conference to blame the tabloid media for her death? Is there anyone besides Heidi Klum, who has said that Brit can come and live with her and Seal until she gets her life together, that can actually do anything to alter Spears’ collision course with tabloid infamy before its too late? George, are you busy?

2. Producer Jon Hart, who predicts a “low key” Oscars on Sunday, with two business-types we didn’t recognize …

3. Katherine Oliver celebrating her birthday with a table full of pals including Lisa Dallos and Chris Taylor.

4. Gerald Schoenfeld & Candia Fisher.

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