Martha Stewart to host new homemaking show

December 08, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) - Martha Stewart will revive her daily homemaking show next September, this time with a live audience, celebrity guests and the help of "The Apprentice" producer Mark Burnett, it was announced Wednesday.

Stewart, in prison and not allowed to conduct business, was not involved in the deal with NBC Universal to syndicate the show but is "very pleased," said Susan Lyne, president of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.

NBC-owned stations in 14 major cities have already agreed to air the daytime show, and deals will be sought in other cities.

"Millions of people feel that Martha got a raw deal," Burnett said. "America loves comeback stories."

Stewart and her former stockbroker were convicted in March of lying to investigators about why she sold ImClone Systems Inc. stock in 2001. Stewart, who's appealing her conviction, is serving a five-month sentence at a minimum-security federal prison for women in Alderson, W.Va. She'll be released next March.


For five months after that, she will be fitted with an ankle bracelet and confined to her Bedford, N.Y., estate, but allowed to conduct business for 48 hours a week.

Her old show, "Martha Stewart Living," was put on hiatus last summer after its 11th season. The domestic diva will tread familiar territory on the yet-to-be-titled new show, including cooking, entertaining, decorating and home renovation.

Burnett said he watched several hours of outtakes from "Martha Stewart Living" and often found them more entertaining and reflective of her personality than the show itself. Interaction with a studio audience and guests will add a new element to what she does, he said.

Judging by celebrities who turned out at Stewart's trial to offer support - Rosie O'Donnell, Bill Cosby and Brian Dennehy - Burnett said he expected many to be willing to appear as guests.

Stewart went into prison promising to learn something new every day, Lyne said. "Knowing her, I am convinced that much of it will end up on the show," she said.

Burnett and NBC Universal Television Group chief Jeff Zucker would not comment on whether they have any prime-time plans for Stewart, including whether she might someday be a candidate to replace Donald Trump on "The Apprentice."

At a news conference at Martha Stewart Living headquarters in Manhattan, the executives took pains to say they had not talked business with Stewart since her sentence started. Burnett said he and Zucker first met with her last spring.

"I cannot wait until she gets out of jail and we can start to work together," he said.

Her old show had been slowly fading in the ratings before being put on hold.

Still, her return "has a pretty good shot," said Bill Carroll, an expert on television syndication for Katz Television.

"You're talking about somebody who has a core following," Carroll said. "You're also talking about someone about whom there is a curiosity and a sympathy for. All of those play in her favor."

The deal may be bad news for Jane Pauley, whose NBC Universal talk show has delivered mediocre ratings despite high expectations for its freshman season. Stations may be tempted to give some of Pauley's plum time slots to Stewart.

Shortly before she went to prison, Stewart gave Burnett a cerrated ruler that could also be used as a fruit peeler. He said he thought she was giving him a file to bake into a cake and deliver to prison.

"Of course, Martha didn't think it was funny," he said.

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