16 November 2005 | don-lockwood
You just don't fit in
Before going any further, I have to admit that I only saw the first episode of this show. If I had the time, I might have considered watching it every week, if only to see how the season played out. However, it was very clear to me from the beginning that Martha Stewart's version of "The Apprentice" just doesn't "fit in." Martha Stewart made a career of being a happy homemaker, a domestic diva of the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Julia Child. It was only since her scandalous legal troubles and subsequent incarceration that her public image began to reflect the true roughness of her character. Sure, she was compelling for a while, and this entire series poses the interesting question of what it means to be a woman in business. Does she have to come off as cold and tough? Shouldn't she?
But the truth was, by the time Stewart came out of prison, her attempts for a public comeback, though certainly warranted, were never going to seize viewers' interest for very long. Perhaps a true comeback would have worked had she returned home peacefully and waited a year or so after her often mocked ankle bracelet was removed. Instead, she frantically dove into overkill with 2 series at once, the other being her syndicated daytime series Martha, much like her old show, but more mainstream, with famous guests like Bette Midler. Of course, even at her peak Stewart was never mainstream, so it's too much to ask that American audiences immediately accept her foray into reality TV. Maybe America wants Stewart to make a comeback on her own rather than be the basis for it.
The show was basically a tired retread of Trump's "Apprentice," which still holds my interest, depending on the tasks, the cast, and Trump's firing decisions (often controversial - likely for that reason). The letter bit was certainly not cliché but obnoxious in the least. The fact that Stewart never says, "You're fired!" - mentioned in the message board on this site - is particularly distressing. Producer Mark Burnett should be admired for dealing with Stewart's jail time honestly while trying to make her a hero, but the truth is that anyone watching can tell that she's basically trying to put on a show of being this nice businesswoman. Again never mainstream, Stewart lacks the agreeability and identifiability of Oprah Winfrey and the admirable, charismatic "toughness" of Donald Trump. Yes, this can be a gender-biased assessment of her character, but I mean it to be more about the nature of her business.
It comes as no shock that Stewart has been fired, but I wonder if they really always intended it to only last for one season?