This season of The Apprentice could be the longest ten years of my life


Or it might just feel like ten years. For those of you that are new here, I’ll be recapping “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart”…it’s what I do; it’s expected of me (right, Julie?). It’s painful but sometime a petit syrah dulls the pain just enough to make it through. Before I jump into the premiere, let me say a few words about Martha. I admire her business acumen. I used to buy her magazine but gave up on trying to be “that woman”. I’m fabulous, but a different kind of fabulous ; ) I think Martha’s stern-ness, control and drive are the main reasons she has been so successful. Her publicist has done a great job of softening her image up to this point. But…if you try to make her warm and cuddly, you will fail. I can say that because I’m not warm and cuddly myself (more “sassy” and “fun”). It’s a fact. So before I dive into my dissection of this fiasco, I just want to say that there’s a difference between Martha and the Martha they are trying to portray on TV. I guess I’m just trying to justify the snark, what the heck…


Season premiere of “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart” (uh, catchy name guys…will be called “TAMS” for short). According to my Tivo, the epi is called “Once Upon a Time” and my sense of dread reaches a climax as I press the play button (why did I agree to do this?). Once upon a time I was filled with self-loathing for even watching this show.


Camera pans over lush green land. We are going to Turkey Hill? Jaunty music plays, of course. Horses, geese, chickens. This is definitely taking place somewhere beautiful and fabulous! Martha voices: “There’s a wonderful ole saying, ‘there’s no place like home'”. I kid you not, she said “ole” without the “d”. We see Martha in her (?) kitchen and everything is shiny and silver including Martha’s suit (we were supposed to be going for warm, guys!). She’s talking about how she turned “home-making” into a bajillion dollar business.


Now we see Martha greeted by a crowd in NYC. She recounts her start in 1982, when her image may have personified domestic sweetness; big blonde hair, fluffy sleeves, warm smile: everything is happy. I hate the 80s. Books…K-Mart. On the phone she tells someone “making a good impression is critical so remember that”. Wow, I am uncomfortable with scripted dialog that’s so obviously orchestrated to appear unscripted. Are you kidding me? It’s like she’s giving instructions to her publicist, not business advice (now make me look good on TV so we can put all this other stuff behind us, OK?). Now more voice-over…magazine…TV show. “Martha Stewart has become a household name.” Ew, what is it like to say that about yourself?


IPO and voilà she’s the “first female, self-made billionaire…it felt really good”. OK, first, what’s it like to say that about yourself? And also, I bet it felt damn good. I’d like to find out.


Rut-roh, it’s the part of the show that we like to call “fun with euphemisms”. Can you tell what Martha is talking about when she says “incredible challenges” and “difficult times”? Hint: it has nothing to do with her soufflé falling or scaly build-up on her kitchen tile. I wish she had actually just come out and talked about it, but whatever. We’ll see if my hope that this show is something more than a publicist’s shallow tool pans out.


Speaking of publicists, we see Martha driving a Chevy. I imagine someone having to explain why it’s not wise to pull a Hummer out of the garage (‘the public needs to see you in a Chevy, Martha’) or else it’s just more product placement…ugh. Then she says something that confuses me: She wants someone with ideas, or at least one. Or something like that. Someone with just one idea in their big-‘ole’ head? That’s all it takes? Martha is standing in front of what looks like the paint section at Home Depot, just like she did on the day that launched a thousand ponchos. She says she wants a “team player”, because “that’s the way we work here” ( I want to be convinced…she delivers this with such stern resolve that it’s kind of hard to believe…I want to believe!). Can they give Martha some real, believable dialog please? Wait a minute, what am I asking? This is The Apprentice. Of course not. Let’s all just be happy that we aren’t talking about meatball pizza. Says M-Diddy: “I’m looking for The Apprentice”.


Martha walks through some airy, lofty office space greeting the help, I mean the employees. She looks at some creative work and mentions that she wants the text bearing her name to be bigger, which is awesome, except they make her laugh like it’s a joke. Please, someone release the real Martha! Please let her tell someone that she wants to go back to her salad! Or, better yet,  not to look her in the eye (though I think another celebrity invented that one)! Please! I don’t want to be toyed with for another season!


So Martha talks about her company and explains that the “candidates” will live and work on the same floor. This immediately made me think of a sweatshop scenario. I know it wasn’t intended but could we get them some digs somewhere else? I hear “the Bachelor” house is available…Real World Back to New York, even. Then Martha talks about the basic premise of the game (yes it is a game, kids), which we all know: 2 teams, losers to a conference room and someone gets the boot (oooh, boots, I want to go shopping!).


Martha’s Rona, who we will later find out is Julia, greets the first sassy apprentae, Shawn Killinger. Shawn’s coat matches her red suitcase (again with the red suitcases!). Julia is ever so slightly bossy and British and I love her already. Shawn is a TV Newscaster that looks like Princess Diana (and I’d bet money that she tries to…pretty). She uses the hyphenate “dorky-cheesy”, which the Peoples’ Princess would never do.Decorum, please! As much as I love Princess Di, I already don’t want Shawn to win. I don’t know, maybe that’s me being “snarky-crabby”. She talks about tearing-up at the wonder that is the Martha Stewart empire and I want her to stop talking now! More future apprentae victims fill the room. Some guy: “I feel that Martha Stewart can teach me alotta things”. It will be hard not to make fun of him this season. He camera talks about how he and Martha are pretty much cut from the same cloth. Whatever dude. At this point, I am looking for someone to like. Just one person.


And it isn’t going to be Bethenny, whose name I will have the pleasure of misspelling this season. Martha tells her “George and Carolyn” that the candidates are ready and picks up a camera (oh no! what’s that for?).


Cue the theme song: “Sweet dreams..hold your head up…moving on”. OK, we get it.


Martha walks into the waiting rooms and tolerates the personal greetings from the overly-eager and soon to be voted off. MSO, blah blah blah. Martha introduces her daughter, Alexis (someone soften her up too please! She seems a little sitff…maybe nerves?) and Charles Koppelman, chairman of the bored (hah!). Too bad they don’t have anything better to do than this…seriously! I like Martha when she lets her bad-a** self hang out. She next explains that she’s the boss, which is a relief because her name is in the title of the show and the company.


Alexis introduces herself and explains that she is the “original apprentice”…hm, scripted much? I hope I warm up to her. Charles says he knows Bethenny, who is friends with his daughter and everyone forces themselves to act like it’s a coincidence (producers: we are not stupid!). Martha talks about craftsmanship and apprenticehood. Charles holds an unlit cigar (why?) as Martha explains the premise of the show, which, again, we already know. Then she explains that they have multiple conference rooms rather than a bored room but that they will be using just one conference room, this one, for their meetings and people should be afraid of this room. Why so much explanation? Enough.  Just tell them that this is where dreams of building a domestic empire come to die and get it over with. We don’t care what you call the room.


Carrie, a “creative director” explains that meeting Martha is “the culmination of everything I am”. How sad.


Shots of NYC and we see the candidates leaving an elevator which would make sense if they didn’t already tell us that the office and the homestead are on the same floor. Everyone’s all giddy and they propose a toast to “good things”. They must be taking some of Martha’s advice to serve cheese with your toast (like that one?). There’s a letter from Martha and they are told to divide up into 2 teams based on something that members of each team have in common and here’s where we get to see them make their first big mistake (whee!). I was hoping that one of the teams had members that all know how to make origami swans, but no. Carrie is disappointed that she doesn’t get to party down and instead has to work. Others quiz that Bethenny girl who reveals that she also used to date Charles’ son. Everyone acts like they don’t care and then someone pets her hair.


Now, let me say this. As someone who knows a thing or 2 about building teams, I would recommend that the teams divide up based on something trivial that they have in common. That way, the skill sets on the teams are somewhat balanced. Instead the teams divide up into “creative” and “corporate”. Immediately, everyone tries to boss everyone else around, only everyone isn’t listening. Hair gel guy wants to kick some “creative a**” and I’m pretty sure he said the same exact thing in high school as he took his frustration out on the art club and then jumped into his iroc (anyone else witness something like that in high school?).


Jeff is a “creative director” and he’s on the creative team. Quel surprise! He’s unsure of his team (hello, remember where you are…you should be unsure of everyone). The teams have to come up with names. Jeff: “flair makes me think of some limp-wristed sissy-boy”. Someone already tells him to shut up and I suspect it’s not the first time and it won’t be the last. Now he talks aggressively to the camera. Yay! Someone to seriously dislike so early.Isn’t that just like a hot frittata on a cold winter day?  It’s no fun sharing the dislike among all the contestants. Jeff comes up with “The Mamas and the Papas” because he’s “had it in <his> head for years”. That’s because it’s the name of a band, dude.


Martha calls the shiny silver phone and gives them stern, motherly instructions. We next find out that children’s’ books have, get this, words AND pictures. The creatives introduce themselves as “Matchstick and we are the start of something big”. Like a forest fire? You heard Smoky and you should know better.This team is led by Jeff and Martha over-enunciates her vision of their logo.


Dawna is the leader of the corporate team, which didn’t learn from the naming mistakes of previous teams and most start-up companies and they call themselves “Primarius”. Martha doesn’t over-enunciate the vision of their logo. M-Diddy explains that they are at Random House and introduced Ann and Chip. The task is to produce a book on a fairy tale for today’s kid. They’ll read the final product to first graders and the winner will be judged from their feedback. Martha lays the theme of the mission right out on the table: customer connection.


Primarius goes to the Rudyard Kipling Room. Yet again, everyone talking at once. Half the team will find kids on the street to test their book on, the other half will make a book. Hah…anyone there work at a company with a huge market research budget?


At Matchstick, Jeff proposes Hansel and Gretel in the big city, just for the fun of freaking out a bunch of first graders. Dawn is a writer and asked to be left alone while she is composing which I think is pretty reasonable,except her attitude is sour. When I write, I need quiet too (sans sourness). But yet, I’m not as scary as Dawn. Jeff decides he wants to work around Dawn. What a great manager..cut the difficult people out.


Some members of Primarius hit the street and when they get two kids that will listen to their book, all the adults say “Yay!”. Please let there be no baby-talk in this episode. Sarah is wrapped in a blanket as she camera-talks. Then Carrie explains that the kids like having a man tell the story and that was important. And by kids she means herself. They ask the kids some questions (cute kids which makes me think they auditioned for this). Some day there will be reality shows about these kids.


Back at Matchstick, Jeff reads the story in rhyme. The team basically thinks that Hansel and Gretel is bad advice for kids. Then Jeff tells them to “shut up”…nice.  Yay, a commercial. Oops.


Matchstick has a mock-up of their book. Dawn, who will be the reader really wants a banana before she reads. I mean really! She’s willing to fight for that banana. She also wants to sit on the floor; Jeff wants her to stand and though the compromise seems obvious to me, Jeff power trips and wants Princess Di to read to the kids. He continues to argue with Dawn because he’s going to go take a shower and she is outraged. Best line of the show spoken by dead man walking: “If you would like to join me in the bathroom you may, but I am going to be naked”. Whee! He’s, at once, infuriating and hilarious. Oh yeah, and harsh.


Matchstick: baby-faced, long haired David is an “Internet Co. Owner”. You don’t say. At least his suit isn’t corduroy. In the focus group, Princess Di reads to the kids and we have baby talk! Chuck feels they aren’t connecting with the kids. What’s your first clue, the scary book or the pretty, scary lady reading it?


Primarius: Howie walks in and the kids love-love-love him instantly (I don’t understand kids). I mean they love everything about him. One even compliments him on his sweater (I suspect that they are hoping he’s got some candy under there to share with them). They love the book too. Chip reports back to Martha that they have a winner and really, it’s impossible to even fake any suspense because we know who it is. Ann didn’t like Matchstick’s rhymes. Chip love-love-loved Jack and his freaky underwater beanstalk. Primarius wins. Prize is dinner “cooked” by the chef of Matsuri in Martha’s test kitchens. How intimate.


Martha introduces Ohno-san. Then she talks about the beauty of fresh wasabi farms. No, I am not kidding. Howie gets some Martha love for his reading and camera talks that he could be “falling in love with Martha Stewart”. Shut up!


Matchstick is in the loft about to set the place up in flames. Jeff starts coalition building against Dawn. Jim tells Bethenny not to endorse sending Dawn to the conference room because they need to knock off Jeff first since he’s low hanging fruit (but definitely not a banana). He feels they can take Dawn out later. Ah, strategery! Bethenny wants to be honest and Jim calls her “babe” and says “you are either with me or against me”. Let’s just say I am not a big Jim fan. He bugs. Can he go next?


In the conference room, Martha is distressed by the name changing and running away glamorized in Matchstick’s version of Hansel and Gretel. I hear that name changing is the new teenage vice…all the cool kids are doing it. She asks Dawn about her Masters in writing. Alexis then repeats what Marcella just said about the story confusing the kids. Here’s what the team-mates share:


Marcella says Dawn is negative


Per David, Jeff didn’t give Dawn enough direction


Chuck doesn’t like Jim and that’s pretty much all he’s going to say about that. (I hope he continues this “not liking” trend)


Bethenny jumps in abruptly and also doesn’t like Dawn (yay, more disliking!)


They all argue about who slept and the banana incident.


Per Jim, Jeff took on too much


Jeff takes Dawn and Jim into the conference room (sorry, “conference room” just isn’t as scary as “bored room”). This show is feeling like a watered-down yet uncomfortable knock off of the original and thought I am not surprised, I hope they can turn it around. Just wanted to say that.


Next we see a preview of Donald’s show. Then we are back and hear Jeff describe Jim as a “dynamo” and a “whirling dervish” and so next time, if there is a next time, Jeff is in charge of redundancy. Dawn sticks up for Jim who was responsible for the illustrations (hi, how’s that alliance treating you?).


Martha: “Jeffrey, you just don’t fit in”. What a horrible version of “You’re fired!”. I was hoping for something like “See ya later…much later”. Or “don’t let my beautifully polished antique doorknob hit you in the butt on the way out!”. Well, at least she shakes his hand. He is going to go take a shower…naked…in the bathroom. His own bathroom.


Then Martha does something so kitschy that I can’t believe it…it’s too horrible and good to be true, yet it is. She writes him a condescending “Dear Jeffrey” letter, justifying her decision and wishing him well. I miss Donald! I fantasize that she writes” “I know you stole a bathrobe from the loft. Please leave your key under the doormat. You may take one fresh bagel with you upon your departure. Your access credentials are now null and void. Thanks for playing”


Next week, we find someone to like (please). OK, no seriously, they appear to be selling tulips, Martha says no whining, Chuck says he’s bolting (bolt, Chuck, bolt!) and Charles refers to something as revolting. Gee, there’s so much potential for revolting…it’s anyone’s guess!


 


Comments (15)

  1. Mark Tookey says:

    Heather,

    Let me be the first to congratulate you – you’re back and better than ever!! Does it feel good to be kicking off another season of recaps? I’m glad to see that nary a hint of cynicism will be found in your recaps this year…

    Cheers,

    Mark

  2. WOW!!! Heather has started with the whip!! Great review and passion. I think I might have gotten the better of the 2 seasons. I liked Martha’s show more than you but I do see a lot of bozo’s in the teams. Great work and keep it.

  3. Kate Thorne says:

    but I’m right there with you on many points. What was up with Charles’ unlit cigar? Is Alexis nervous or a hard@ss? Jim is a crazy, homophobic, timebomb–should make for some explosive episodal moments!

    Carrie, Dawna and Shawn seemed to "stand out" as the other women didn’t really differentiate themselves. Except for Dawn, who is quite the "sourpuss."

    David is just one step up from Danny in last season’s Apprentice. Can someone get him a decent haircut? And we already know that Chuck quits next week. No great loss there. Ryan kept a low profile, probably a smart thing.

    Creative vs. Corporate? With all of that talent and business accumen in one room how come no one yelled, "Fire!" They obviously weren’t thinking clearly. Maybe it was a "Super Bowl" jitters kind of thing? Smart leaders will create heterogenous teams knowing that there’s greater strength in "expertise diversity." We’ll see how it plays out.

    I think the kids were legit, most 6 year olds are that cute! Shawn should have followed her instincts on how to better reach them. After "hair gel" Howie read (I think they said they liked his hair, not his sweater), the kids roared and the connection seemed real. Looked like he sealed the victory for Team Primarius (what is up with that name?!), along with good leadership from PM Dawna.

    Next week’s clips show Martha’s "truer" colors, "Ladies, there’s no crying in business," which I think is directed at Chuck!

    On to Task #2!

  4. media guy says:

    Great work Heather! I think Martha and her daughter need to both soften up. One thing people complained about on the original Apprentice was the use of voice overs in the board room. Martha did it too. Notice that alot of the camera time in the board room was focused on the players or used reaction shots? We dont see Martha speak the words. I think this is was done because Martha was under house arrest still and could only tape so many hours a week. So they used a bit of trickery here. However it comes off a bit choppy for my taste. And the reward for winning, wasnt that grand or exciting.

  5. Lourdes says:

    yay! Fun review – I have to admit, I loved the show (the same way I love greasy, bad-for-you food — you feel slightly sick afterwards.) Weird watching moment: I used to work at Oxygen media, which is also in Chelsea and pretty close to MSLO, and have been in their offices before… I also interviewed for a job at Bertlesmann, so the whole episode was weirdly sort of deja-vu-ish… The gleeful joy here for me is that I HATE THEM ALL! I am looking forward to Dawn "I want a banana and to sit on the floor and I MUST WORK IN ABSOLUTE QUIET" to go completely off her nut in the next episode or two…

    I can’t wait to read your next recap…

    L

  6. media guy says:

    Yeah whats up with Dawn and her need for quiet? Couldnt they have found a room for her to work in or something? Or get her some earplugs? Im the opposite, I enjoy some noise when I am working. Maybe it interferes with her creative process. Hmmm lets see if it happens again. It may be cheesy but Im a bit hooked.

  7. HeatherLeigh says:

    you guys are going to be fun to discuss the episodes with! Mark-you know me too well! Chris-thanks. Gotta try and work "bozos" into a recap I guess! Kate-wow..you must have watched closely as well! GOod comments! Lourdes-yes, I felt a little sick before and after media-guy-yes, it’s clear that they are matching reactions with words, just not the words that elicit the reaction. Just another season of the producers thinking we are stoopid.

  8. JobsBlog says:

    Awesome review, as usual. I really missed this!

  9. Well after watching both episodes I do have to say that Donald has the stronger group. But I also think that the diversity of Martha’s group will lend itself to having better dynamics. I believe that true innovation and great ideas come from groups of differents and not from sames. That is the problem with Donald’s group… they are all the same types with somewhat similar backgrounds. The one that might have a great impact in Donald’s group is Randal and the one in Martha’s could be… we will have to see since I have not seen a glimmer of uniqueness from any of the Martha crowd. I do think that someone will separate themselves in the Martha group.

    But in case anyone is interested I post my Donald Episode 1 here –> http://www.techquik.com/archives/2005/09/trump_episode_1.html

  10. aubrey1 says:

    Heather: Jim was the one who made the Mama’s and Papa’s suggestion which I think was meant to be a joke.

    As far as the show goes, I loved it! The cast is quite diverse and this makes for interesting viewing. I look forward to next week’s episode as tensions run high between the Matchstick team. Chuck wants to leave the loft? Why would you bother going through the audition process just to quit on the second episode. Jim looks like a demon on fire. The others better watch out for him. He looks as though he will do anything to make it to the top even if that means stepping on everyone else. Can’t wait!

  11. Lourdes says:

    Oh – and as for The Donald’s version — HOW annoying was that "I’m A LATINA, I KNOW THESE PEOPLE" woman? Even I wanted to kill her after five minutes (and :: cute the music:: I’m a LATINA!) Aghhh!

    God I love bad television.

    L

  12. HeatherLeigh says:

    L-I know, that really got me too. So aggressive. But since she is so beautiful and intimidating…oh yeah, and so not self aware!

  13. Patblue says:

    I love the recap. I also love the fact that Jeffrey is forever going to have to ‘hold his head down in shame’ for losing. This season is going to be good! As for catch phrases, I was hoping she would have used ‘your goose is cooked’.

    pat

  14. David Yang says:

    Heather – just to echo other people’s sentiments, your review is hilarious!!

    I like the new Apprentice but mostly because I like the premise of the show and was tiring of the cult of personality around Trump. I was surprised at the lack of unconventional thinking by the "creatives" – didn’t any of them study fairy tales in one of the thousands of combined English classes they must have sat through? It seems to me that fairy tales resonate with cultures for certain reasons, none of which the H&G story captured. I do empathize with their attempt to put it into a rhyming structure though, that’s definitely a stunt I would have tried (with probably a similar fate).

    My prediction is that the creatives get clobbered the next two weeks, they just seem totally unprofessional and unwilling to compromise. My hope is that Jim and Dawna get the silk boot, I haven’t had time to develop any distaste for the other ones.

    What is up with that unlit cigar? Maybe he’s coming off an addiction and this is a remnant of it or maybe he’s just CRAZY. It’s almost like those hotshot exec-types want to develop strange quirks to cover up the fact that they are entirely devoid of personality.

    Looking forward to more!!

  15. amanda says:

    Hey – I thought this was a blog about marketing and finance!!! Just kidding! I’ve caught a few episodes of Martha’s morning show because I’m in grad school so I have some mornings without class. The strangest part was when she told Donald Trump and his wife that she was sorry that she missed their wedding but she saw the pictures in Vogue, etc. and she thought it was beautiful. That’s one I bet they didn’t hear much – "sorry I missed your wedding because I was in jail!" I’m sure she still sent them a gift though!

    – Amanda (a grad student who may be contacting you about mktg job related stuff)

    P.S. Thanks for the break from thinking about my own job stuff 🙂