NBC to Martha: You just don’t fit in
Axes the return of 'Apprentice: Martha Stewart'
November 14, 2005
Martha Stewart was widely savaged leading up to and during her criminal trial as the uber-bitch, and the bitch the media then portrayed might have made a wonderful host for the spinoff of NBC’s “Apprentice.”
Certainly, the network was looking for someone with Donald Trump’s power to galvanize.
What NBC got was a nice lady.
The nice lady, Stewart, lacked Trump’s bristle, and viewers were far less interested, with ratings weak from the first and never really climbing, despite early signs that viewers might be warming to the domestic divia.
Result: NBC won’t pick up Apprentice: Martha Stewart for a second season.
An NBC Universal spokeswoman tells Media Life this morning that the show always had been scheduled to run for only one season and will not return next year. That’s of course contrary to what the network led the world to believe when the show was first announced. Stewart was being groomed, it appeared, to step in for Trump as his show began to fade.
“Stewart” will continue through its Dec. 21 finale.
Stewart has struggled since its Sept. 21 debut. It is averaging a 2.5 rating among adults 18-49 on Wednesdays, well below NBC’s overall season average of 3.3.
The show premiered at 8 p.m., and the first episode garnered a disappointing 2.5. On Oct. 5, it moved to 9 p.m., and since then ratings have improved slightly, despite the fact that the show airs against one of the top primetime shows, ABC’s Lost.
Season-to-date, the show has averaged 6.8 million viewers, barely a third of what Trump averaged in his first year.
Stewart’s version of the show is similar to Trump’s, with 16 contestants vying to win a $250,000 prize and a yearlong apprenticeship job at Stewart’s Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia company. Stewart’s weekly panel of judges include Charles Koppelman, chairman of the board at MSLO, and her daughter, MSLO consultant Alexis Stewart.
Media people expected much more from Martha. One agency predicted that NBC would win Wednesday nights on the strength of her show, and others expected her to at least be on par with The Donald’s third-season ratings.
NBC seems determined to downplay the cancellation by saying the show was only supposed to last one season, but many thought Stewart would supplant Trump if her show became popular.
While Donald Trump’s “Apprentice” was a wild success in its early days, thanks largely to the Donald’s gruff and blustery demeanor, Stewart was reluctant to play the heavy. After a stint in jail for lying to investigators about suspicious stock trades, the domestic doyenne was eager to rehabilitate her image.
So instead of the You’re fired line that losing contestants received on Trump’s “Apprentice,” departing participants on Stewart’s show were told You just don’t fit in. And she wrote thank-you notes to the losers as opposed to Trump, who just glared at his losers as they slinked out of his conference room. That made for very dull television, and not at all what NBC was expecting from a woman known for her often ruthless business style.
NBC and “Apprentice” executive producer Mark Burnett planned a show around Stewart to capitalize on public curiosity about the domestic diva after her release earlier this year from a five-month prison term. Plans for the show were made in February, while Stewart was still incarcerated in West Virginia.
Yet the public was not as fascinated by Stewart as the media. While the press publicized all things Martha from her release to the start of her new syndicated daily talk show, regular folks didn’t care. They either liked Stewart, and happily bought her Kmart wares, or were disgusted by her and paid no attention to her new life. Neither group was obsessed.
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