" I am free!
"No ankle bracelets!"
Martha Stewart made her triumphant return to television yesterday morning, debuting her new syndicated series "Martha," from reality series impresario Mark Burnett.
But unlike her previous syndicated talk/home-ec show, this one stars a warmer Lamb-y Martha -- fresh and frisky after five months in jail and six months of home confinement for having lied to authorities about a stock sale.
A very different Martha from the old, pre-prison version, who inspired that perfect homemaker from Hell, Bree Van De Kamp (played by Marcia Cross), on ABC's hit series "Desperate Housewives."
Different from the Evil Martha, who, live on CBS's morning infotainment show, once sliced into destroyed an innocent head of cabbage with a large, lethal knife while hissing, "I want to focus on my salad!" -- just because that nice Jane Clayson had tried to ask her a couple of simple questions about her legal headache.
Evil Martha, for instance, would've had something to say about the clown suit jacket that executive producer Burnett wore yesterday in the opening bit of her new show, which airs locally at 10 a.m. on WJLA-Channel 7.
Come to think of it, Evil Martha wouldn't have let Burnett share the camera with her, no matter how well dressed, because there was room for only one swelled head on the old "Martha Stewart Living" show.
On the new "Martha," Burnett not only appeared in the opening bit, but Lamb-y Martha didn't even flinch at the jacket, graciously pretending not to notice. Instead, she told him Cross was going to be her very first guest on this very first show -- as if he didn't know already -- then he teased with a "Desperate Housewives" clip in which Bree opens her fur coat to reveal she's wearing nothing but a lacy red bra and thong, saying that was how he, Burnett, remembered Martha. Lamb-y Martha said something cute and looked coyly at the camera.
Cut to the show's slick title rollout featuring snaps of Martha Through the Ages.
Lamb-y Martha returns, only this time, she's Martyr Martha:
"Well, the last couple years have been, you know, a little bit trying, a little bit difficult. But I have had such support from everyone who works with me, everyone who has helped me -- my daughter, Alexis; thank you, Alexis [shot of Alexis] -- my friends.
"I don't want anybody to have to go through it, but if you have friends and family and colleagues like I have had, you can get through a lot of difficulties.
"We have all been following the destruction in the Gulf states, and our hearts go out to everyone," she continued in one of the great TV segues of this year.
Fade to a photo montage of Martha's previous visits with the white people in New Orleans, presumably for her magazine.
Back to Martha with more thoughts on New Orleans.
Then she changed the subject again.
Lamb-y Martha's Tear-Jerk Hat Trick.
Time for Marcia Cross, Lamb-y Martha's very first guest on her very first show.
"Do you really think that your character is based on me?!" Lamb-y Martha asks Cross.
"Well, um, that's how they described her," Cross answers, nervously.
"Do you think I would ask for the baskets back?" Lamb-y Martha continues, referring to a scene from the show's first episode, in which Bree attends a wake for a dead neighbor and gives the grieving widower and his son two food-filled baskets, telling them she wants the baskets back.
Cross: "Maybe that's where Bree is a little . . . "
"Actually, it depends on who they are," Martha says, interrupting her. "If it's two guys like that -- they don't want those baskets anyway."
Uh-oh, Evil Martha is coming back to life. Quick, Martha posse, repeat after me:
Every day in every way, Martha is growing Lambier and Lambier.
Whew! That was close.
"I just love how you exaggerate your character," says Lamb-y Martha. "Did you use any of those ploys on your new fiance?"
"Actually what happened was he started coming over" -- blah, blah, no food in the house, blah, blah, blah, get food delivered . . . Cross is beginning to blather, looking embarrassed.
"So you really don't play Martha Stewart at home?"
"You don't cook?"
"You don't bake?"
"You don't make scrambled eggs?"
"Oh, my gosh!"
"I make a cappuccino for him in the morning," Cross says, hopefully.
Martha changes the subject, noting that Cross took time off from acting to get a master's degree in clinical psychology.
"That must help you think about all those housewives on your street. Are you analyzing those characters all the time? Do they ask your advice -- the writers?"
"No, they don't ask my advice," Cross says, well, crossly. "I tell them a few things, but they don't ask."
Ohmygawd! Evil Martha has jumped vessels and is trying to take over the body of Cross!
"I watched only part of the segment where your husband dies, and I thought you killed him," Lamb-y Martha says. "Did you?"
Now Evil Martha is back in Lamb-y Martha! Gadzooks!
"Now, I could do a little analyzing about why you think I killed him," Cross says to Martha, who is the product of a well-documented divorce way back when.
Good grief, Evil Martha has jumped back in Cross's body!
Every day in every way, Martha grows Lambier and Lambier!
Make it stop! Aargh!!!
"A Rhodes scholar, NFL player and an inventor are among Donald Trump's 'hand-picked' cast of 18 young entrepreneurs on the fourth season of NBC's 'The Apprentice,' " the network boasted recently about the upcoming edition of its Thursday reality series.
But viewers won't be tuning in to see the Rhodes scholar, the NFL player or even the inventor. No, viewers are right now on the receiving end of media reports that another of the contestants is a former Las Vegas stripper. One of her former clients, according to thesmokinggun.com, was convicted of murdering three people in botched robbery attempts while trying to get money to continue paying her $500 to $1,500 a night to lap-dance for him.
Or is it "on him"?
The Web site yesterday broke the story of Alla Wartenberg, who NBC says in her bio is a "self-made multi-millionaire" who "owns a chain of upscale Dolphin Court Salons & Day Spas in Las Vegas." NBC says Wartenberg was "born and raised in Kishinev, Moldavia, formerly of Russia" and "moved to the U.S.A. with her parents in 1988 to fulfill the 'American Dream.' . . . At age 19, she purchased her first building, and at age 23 she was one of the youngest pioneers of the spa boom."
The Smoking Gun said Wartenberg -- whose maiden name was Kosova -- also worked at Las Vegas's Palomino Club. Robert Acremant was a regular who paid her up to $1,500 a night for lap dances, the Web site said, citing her 2002 testimony in Acremant's trial for one of the murders. According to press accounts, Acremant has been convicted of murdering the three people and is in prison in Oregon.
Efforts to locate Wartenberg yesterday were unsuccessful. NBC declined to comment about her and referred a call by The Post's John Maynard to The Donald himself.
"I just heard about it. And the fact is that we just finished shooting the show and it's phenomenal -- better than 1, 2 or 3," Trump told The TV Column.
We tried harder to get him to focus on Wartenberg.
"Alla is attractive and very, very cunning, a very smart person who is very exciting on the show," he said.
"We did not know of the extent of her past. But she's a very powerful-type woman."
The fact that she's a former stripper comes out in the course of the show when, during one of the "boardroom" sessions, Trump asks her if she used to strip.
"She's made a lot of money -- she's a rich woman; she may have been a stripper, but she's somebody that wants to make good and that's what 'The Apprentice' is all about," Trump philosophized.
Besides, he notes, "she hasn't been accused of any wrongdoing -- in the traditional sense."
I really do love Trump.