About a year ago, I wrote an article for MSNBC musing who would be the next Martha Stewart. Alton baby, as much as I love you, I must retract my conclusions. Martha doesn't need a replacement. Martha, in her shiny gold clogs, is back.
As I begin my sixth year writing for Television Without Pity, released from my Star Trek Enterprise bonds, I have been assigned to recap The Apprentice: Martha Stewart. In the spirit of research, I TiVo'd Martha's new talk show, Martha, and settled down to watch the premiere episode yesterday.
Despite the media blitz Martha has received in recent days, weeks, months, hours, as of 2:59 PM this afternoon, I still had no idea what to expect from this show. Whatever predictions I could have made, I certainly didn't anticipate laughing as much as I did.
After the first few segments, it becomes very clear that Martha intends to show the viewership that she has a sense of humor. Not just a sense of humor, mind you, a sense of humor about herself. Hell, that much was clear just from the show's opening! Following Martha's old baby, modeling, and Miss America photographs, the opening sequence additionally flashes the now-famous photos of her being led away to prison, as well as one of her ponchoed prison release.
The first guest segment with Desperate Housewives star Marcia Cross (formerly the wig-ripping Kimberly on Melrose Place) had me rolling the most. Not only is her character, Bree Van De Kamp, supposed to be a psychotic-Martha-Stewart-Stepford-wife knock off, but Martha and her producer Mark Burnett (the man behind far too many reality shows) open the segment with a famously risqué clip from the nouveau nighttime soap. Before airing the clip, Burnett makes a comment about Bree being modeled after Martha. Then we view the clip of Bree tossing off a fur coat to expose her perfectly toned body clad only in a matching set of scarlet bra and panties. After the clip, Martha snorts over Burnett's previous statement before looking straight into the camera, a lock of blond bangs sassily shading one eye, to say, "You know what? You're right. That's totally me."
After muffing a Martha Lesson on how to expertly fold a tee-shirt (something I intend to master, by the way), Marcia Cross shows just how unlike her character she is when Martha attempts to teach her how to make scrambled eggs in the huge studio kitchen. Instead of dropping it in her hot and waiting skillet, Marcia adds a pat of butter to a bowl of raw eggs. Both ladies dissolve into unrehearsed laughter and Marcia gasps, "I wasn't kidding!"
Later in the show, in her "What's Really for Dinner?" segment, Martha makes a surprise visit to a few of her fans -- two Italian sisters -- to help them cook and serve dinner to their families. Listening to their conversation, Vintage Martha comes out as she tells one of the sisters she noticed the weeds in the garden and offers to help pull them up. The New Martha also makes an appearance when she plays cards with the husbands and announces, "I know every card game -- I got Hoyle's Book of Card Games in prison." Doesn't that "in prison" just make you sit up and take notice though? Think of all the other statements that Martha can make in coming shows that will suddenly become interesting, "When I was picking dandelion greens in prison..."; "Last time I heard that, I was in prison."; "Doing yoga is very meditative in prison." I think I'll start a drinking game. In prison.
That's not the only prison mention, either. In her opening monologue, Martha shows off her now-bare ankle, but notes that she was so taken with the method of keeping track of people that she decided to fasten one on every member of her staff. On that cue, her prep cooks, Mark Burnett, and even her producers, all stick out their legs to show their new Marthanklets.
Today's show features David Spade -- he of the famous Saturday Night Live Martha-Poncho skit -- as a guest star. I'm going to keep this show on my TiVo schedule because I anticipate more laughter and even more folding tee-shirt wisdom. Plus, there are rumors Sean "Please remove the 'P' from the Diddy" Combs is going to teach Martha how to rap and Martha's going to teach him how to wrap...presents.
In San Francisco, Martha airs weekdays at 3:00 PM on NBC. It's a syndicated show, so check your local listings.