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.

Martha, Martha, Martha! 13 September,2005Stephanie Lucianovic

  • cucina testa rossa

    Good for her! I’m glad she’s back. This sounds hilarious! Will you save it for me until I’m back in town?!

  • wendygee

    I am loving the “New Martha!” Where can I get one of those Marthaanklets?? Are they available on her new website? I can’t wait to hear all of her “women in prison” stories sprinkled throughout her show. Afterall, it is one of my fave movie genres. Perhaps Pam Grier will be making a guest appearance now that she is back, uncaged, and glowing on the L-Word.

  • furlinedteacup

    I’ve been a cable hold out for a good long while…but I have to admit that I am seriously considering signing up now, just so I can awtch NBC, and thus Martha’s new shows.

  • colleen

    I watched it too (thank you, TiVo). Talk about ‘shock and awe.’ At first I was impressed by her candor about prison and self-deprecating humor. But then I began to hate it. I love Martha because she is an extraordinarily successful businesswoman who has proven that women are every bit as savvy at business as their male counterparts. I think it was a male conspiracy to bring her down for her financial shenanigans when we all know the rest of them are doing just the same behind closed doors and on their lear jets. I don’t want to see her extraordinary achievements belittled just so audiences will love her again.

    And while I applaud Martha for doing her time instead of appealing for the rest of her natural life that still doesn’t erase her crime. I don’t think doing prison time for a crime one committed is appropriate fodder for jokes. Jail is supposed to be punishment for crimes committed, not something to be dressed up and paraded around like some shiny pair of shoes.

  • Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic

    I don’t know…she did her time and that was her punishment. I don’t personally feel that she needs to go on being punished by somber self-flagellation. Maybe, for her, joking about her unfortunate incarceration is the only way she will psychologically get through it.

    I can’t think how I would handle prison and post-prison life. Maybe joking around about it would be a cure for me as well.

  • Meghan

    I watched a few minutes yesterday, but then got too uncomfortable when she introduced the daughter of the woman [in prison!] who made her now infamous poncho to her audience clad, of course, in ponchos. I felt squirmy and just wanted to know what the poncho woman is in prison for and who takes care of her teenage daughter.

  • merideth

    we’ve been tivoing as well and lordy how funny is that martha! She’s still a little stiff in front of a live audience, but we too find the prison (oh the card game book) comments hilarious. Although, nothing can beat her contraband cheese/nutmeg grater made from a sardine can.

    I LOVE that Martha-in-prison really was who we all joked she’d be.

  • Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic

    Merideth, I lust for that nutmeg/cheese grater!

  • wendygee

    Only Martha could start a new prison-style fashion trend — replacing the orange jumpsuit with crocheted ponchos. Making the whole audience wear those ponchos was a bit scary — and turning this touching gift from an inmate into a marketing scheme — although for charity… is so Martha! Has prison humbled Martha — hell no! She’s back with a vengence and monopolizing on her misfortune. I feel like she has been resurrected in a similar fashion to Ellen Degeneres — give her a daytime interview show, make it funny, light and self-deprecating and people will love her again.
    And yes, I too was very curious about what the poncho-making inmate was “in” for…is she going to get royalties?


Stephanie Lucianovic

A former picky eater, Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic is a writer, editor, and lapsed cheesemonger in the San Francisco Bay Area. A culinary school grad with an English lit degree, she has written for CNN.com, MSNBC.com, Popular Science, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. Additionally, she has been writing for KQED’s Bay Area Bites since its inception and is the website editor for KQED’s Emmy-award winning show “Check, Please! Bay Area.”

Stephanie was an original recapper at Television Without Pity and worked on a line of cookbooks for William-Sonoma as well as in the back kitchen of a Jacques Pépin cooking show. Her first book, SUFFERING SUCCOTASH: A Picky Eater’s Quest To Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate (Perigee Books, 2012) is a non-fiction narrative and a heartfelt and humorous exposé on the inner lives of picky eaters that Scientific American called “hilarious” and “the perfect popular science book for a reader that doesn’t think he or she wants to read a popular science book.”

Stephanie lives in Menlo Park with her husband, three-year-old son, assorted cats, and has been blogging at The Grub Report for over a decade.

Follow her on Twitter at @grubreport

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor