Martha Stewart's 'The Apprentice' Is No Perennial

Martha Stewart with Mark Burnett, producer of her talk show as well as
Martha Stewart with Mark Burnett, producer of her talk show as well as "The Apprentice," the Martha version of which is just about done. (By Anders Krusberg)

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By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Reporters Who Cover Television have got NBC's undies in a very big bunch by writing, five weeks before the final episode of "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart," that the network will not do a second edition of the reality series starring the ice queen domestic diva.

Really, did anybody think this show would be back for a second season? It's averaging only 6.7 million viewers a week. It's third from the bottom on the list of NBC shows this season when it comes to audience size, ahead only of "Inconceivable" -- which already has been canceled -- and the Saturday movie, which is just another way of saying "burn off that movie inventory."

Martha was quoted recently in Fortune magazine as saying she thought the numbers on her Wednesday edition of the reality series franchise were a Good Thing. (Actually, she said "damn good.")

Which, once again, just goes to show you how very different the parameters are for success in various businesses.

Nearly 7 million people is huge for a woman whose Martha Stewart Living had a paid circulation of 1.93 million in the six months ending June 30; however, an average of nearly 7 million viewers for a prime-time series on a major broadcast network generally spells cancellation.

But NBC insists that "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart" was not canceled and that the plan from the get-go was to produce just one round starring the queen of domesticity. In fact the NBC rep was very aggressive about that yesterday.

This would seem to fly in the face of Stewart's quote to Fortune in which she said that when she was offered a starring role in "The Apprentice," "I thought I was replacing The Donald," and that it was only shortly before she "got home" from her five months in the pen that she learned Trump's version of the NBC reality show would stay on the air.

"The plan from the very beginning was always to produce only one cycle of 'The Apprentice: Martha Stewart,' " the network rep said. "We look forward to the remaining five episodes and Martha's choice for her apprentice during the December 21 finale," the rep said, reading a prepared statement in a shameless attempt to turn a response to a serious journalistic inquiry into a free plug for the finale in this newspaper. Wait a minute -- it worked. Hate when that happens.

Then NBC put "Apprentice" executive producer Mark Burnett on the phone. Love when that happens.

"They're wrong," Burnett told The TV Column regarding news reports that NBC had decided not to bring back Martha and her Finishing School Smile.

He, Jeff Gaspin, president of NBC Universal Cable Entertainment, Digital Content & Cross-Network, and NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly "sat down before the first episode and jokingly talked about how . . . if it did 'Desperate Housewives' numbers it would be a little embarrassing because there won't be a Season 2," Burnett said.

When he first talked to Stewart about headlining "The Apprentice," he said, there was talk about doing more than one edition, but once he and NBC Universal signed her to a daytime syndicated talk show there was no way she could do both on an ongoing basis.


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