Stewart Previews ‘Martha,’ ‘Apprentice’ for Press

Aug 25, 2005  •  Post A Comment

With her electronic monitoring bracelet hidden underneath her right pants leg and her microphone pack strapped under here left pants leg, Martha Stewart invited the press to her country-in-the-city kitchen-studio in Manhattan Thursday morning and gave away tidbits of information but no secrets about her daytime “Martha” show and “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart.”

Annie Lennox’s “Sweet Dreams” will be the theme song for “The Apprentice,” which debuts at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21. Ms. Stewart and executive producer Mark Burnett indicated Ms. Stewart had come up with a “commonality” but no catchphrase with which to dismiss the firees at the end of each show.

“It is something you will remember,” said Mr. Burnett, who noted that he is the king of the catchphrase, starting with “The tribe has spoken” for “Survivor.”

“I invented ‘It’s a good thing’ before you were even born,” Ms. Stewart joked.

Ms. Stewart said she didn’t think she had said “You’re fired” to anyone. “Even when you should have,” interjected daughter Alexis, a Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia consultant who, along with MSLO Board Chairman Charles Koppelman, will be an adviser to Ms. Stewart on “Apprentice” challenges and rejects.

Mr. Burnett said the first challenge requires each team to modernize a classic fairy tale — “Jack and the Beanstalk” for one team, “Hansel and Gretel” for the other — and test each on children.

Ms. Stewart said her “Apprentice” will be lighter than Mr. Trump’s because she does not have his affection for staying in the office well into the night. Mr. Trump will put in a cameo appearance when he visits the Stewart apprentices’ housing area carved out of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia loft space on the Hudson River.

The weekday hour known as “Martha,” which will debut Sept. 12 in 98 percent of the country (airing live in 40 markets), is in rehearsal — cooks worked in the glassed-in kitchen at one end of the stage throughout the press conference.

There will be themes for many shows. For one installment, some 160 children, adults and pets named Martha Stewart will fill the studio, in which minimalist blond wood chairs are interspersed with simple wood tables on which the studio members can set the projects they have brought.

“Martha’s” second day on the air will be “Poncho Day,” in honor of the gray poncho crocheted for Ms. Stewart by an inmate at the Alderson, W.Va., federal prison in which she served five months after being convicted of lying to investigators probing insider trading of stock in a friend’s company.

She was released in early March and was to be confined to her home in Bedford, N.Y., until Aug. 10, except for being allowed to leave for 48 hours per week for such things as work, grocery shopping and medical visits. But her house arrest was extended through midnight Aug. 31 when she apparently violated the conditions of her confinement this summer.

In a “Martha” segment for which Ms. Stewart worked in a popular shake-burger-hot dog restaurant in a New York park, Ms. Stewart joked to a stunned customer that it was her “community service.”

More seriously, she declined Thursday to say how or where she might celebrate the end of her house arrest, noting that she then will begin her year and a half on probation.

As for that “Poncho Day” for which everyone in the studio — including Mr. Burnett — is supposed to wear a homemade poncho, MSLO President Susan Lyne promised “a very special guest.” It doesn’t appear the guest will be the inmate who made the going-away poncho for Ms. Stewart, a project whose instructions reportedly were downloaded by more than 1 million people.

But Francesca, the black French bulldog that is one of the newest members of the Stewart menagerie, is expected to wander through the studio and audience during most tapings.

“Martha” co-executive producer Rob Dauber said a friend of Ms. Stewart crocheted a matching poncho for Francesca.

“Martha” viewers will see the domestic diva and the dog in their matching toppers in the opening titles.

It’s a cute thing.