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 V.14 No.46 | November 17 - 23, 2005 

Idiot Box

“The Apprentice: Martha Stewart” on NBC

Martha's catchphrase bites her on the ass

I hate to be the one to say it, Martha, but you just don't fit in. Not on NBC, anyway.

It seems that, after a season of steadily slipping ratings, “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart” is being phased out. NBC has apparently decided not to bring back domestic diva Martha Stewart to host another season of her poorly received “Apprentice” spin-off. NBC executives said that it had always been their intention to air only a single season of “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart”--which is probably news to Martha who, only a few weeks ago, was bragging to Fortune magazine that producers of “The Apprentice” were thinking of kicking Donald Trump off his own show and replacing him with her.

At the same time, The Donald was complaining to everyone who would listen that NBC's decision to produce a second “Apprentice” was a mistake and that his original program has suffered for it. “I think there was a confusion between Martha's ’Apprentice' and mine,” he told ABC radio. “Mine continues to do well, and as you know, the other one has struggled severely.”

In point of fact, Trump's version of “The Apprentice” is down some 40 percent from last year. Trump's “Apprentice” logged around 14 million viewers last spring. This season, it's barely pulling 10 million in its Thursday night timeslot. By way of comparison, Martha's “Apprentice” is averaging about 6.5 million viewers--often landing it in fourth place for its Wednesday night timeslot.

The reasons for Martha's downfall are many. Perhaps people weren't that interested in business advice from a convicted felon who drove her company into bankruptcy. Perhaps show producer Mark Burnett overestimated the street smart cachet a prison sentence would give Martha. Perhaps “The Apprentice” wasn't a sturdy enough concept to warrant a spin-off. Perhaps TV viewers are simply growing weary of the whole reality show genre. Me, I'm guessing it's a lethal combination of all of these factors.

Not that you can count Martha down and out just yet. Martha and her ponchos still have their daytime talk show, “Martha.” The show has been sliding in the ratings ever since its debut in September, but it still pulls in more viewers than her last syndicated show “Martha Stewart Living.” Plus, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (man, is that a creepy name for a company) is currently developing a home improvement show in which Martha will supervise six women (all coming off welfare, bankruptcy or rehab) who will work together to renovate a 125-year-old house. It doesn't have a title yet, but may I suggest “Extreme Makeover: Martha Stewart Edition”?

How Martha's flower-arranging and tart-baking empire will fare in the future remains to be seen. For now, anyway, there are only two words for Ms. Stewart: “You're fired.”

The final episode of “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart” will air on December 21 on KOAT-7.

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