The trouble with Martha


You probably heard by now that Martha Stewart’s version of “The Apprentice” will not be coming back for another season. I’m neither surprised nor saddened by the news (just being honest). I’ve been watching both Martha’s and Donald’s versions and to say that Martha’s show unraveled would imply that it was raveled to begin with (and I don’t think it was). Anyway, easy for me to say what went wrong but here’s what I think:


1) People have heard rumors of Martha being tough on her employees. I believe that many people tuned in hoping to see some fireworks or uncover that Martha is horribly misunderstood. Unfortunately, the show gave us neither of these. We really didn’t get to see much of Martha’s real personality. Martha was the big draw here…people are curious about her and they got nothing.


2) The novelty of her appearance on the show in light of recent legal troubles kind of wore off after the first few episodes. She mentioned her troubles briefly, but seeing that she wasn’t going into much more detail, the curious may have changed the channel.


3) People tuning in to Martha’s show were likely already fans of the Donald version. Having both shows run at the same time was just confusing. Way too many people…I still don’t know all of their names and I stopped caring.


4) Feels like they made things up as they went along. Everything from the tag line (“You just don’t fit in” to “I’ll say goodbye” to whatever else she said) to the team alignment. It seemed off the cuff and not too interesting. Doesn’t pack nearly the punch of “You’re fired!” and the formal letter at the end added nothing.


5) I’m sure the sidekicks (Alexis and Charles is it?) are really nice people (OK, well I am just assuming…I don’t know them, but chances are they are nice), but they did not make for interesting TV. Alexis isn’t nearly as cutting as Carolyn (love it when Carolyn calls someone out) and Charles seems to be a more buttoned up version of George. One significant personality sitting on that side of the conference room table would have made a big difference. They may have them, but they certainly did not come across on screen.


6) At some point, it became ridiculous that Jim was still there. Conflict makes for good TV, but annoying the audience does not. Where’s Supernanny? Someone needs to sit on the naughty spot.


7) I don’t know about anyone else, but it’s been really hard for me to find someone on the show that I want to win. Nobody I particularly identify with, no interesting back story. So at the end of the day, I don’t really care who wins (as opposed to Donald’s…go, Randall, go!).


Interesting experiment, timely too. Let’s not do this again. ; )


Comments (9)

  1. Scott Magoon says:

    I’m going to defend Martha for a moment for two reasons. First, I am a little sick of the Martha-bashing bandwagon. I’m not really sure why she is singled out for so much scorn when there are plenty of celebrities much more deserving. And second I have tremendous admiration for her ability to make herself into a powerful brand and turn that into an empire. She has an impressive track record of market expansion for a brand based on an individual (Trump Ice anyone?).

    That said, I think the Martha Stewart Apprentice was a colossal disappointment. I think you nailed it on the primary reasons why. I’ll add that I thought from the beginning that the show should have been deliberately very different rather than risk being a pale imitation (which it achieved). It should have taken place at least partially at her country house with the suck-ups, er, candidates planting her Rhode Island-sized garden. Or building gift baskets out of pine cones. You know, Martha stuff. Does Martha Steward make you think of Manhattan and corporate conference rooms? The Martha brand makes me think of impossibly labor-intensive home entertaining.

    The structure of the show made her look like the Trump wannabe instead of the sycophants, er, contestants. Again, plus everything you already said.

  2. Heather — These are some of the reasons why I stopped watching Donald’s version. There was one person who stands out. I think they actually should stop the show and just hire Randal. He might be the best player that has ever been on the show.

    Apprentice has jumped the shark. Being good at business is not the same as being good in front of the camera. Ask most people if they would want to take a place on the show and I bet you would get a 70-80% No. So Donald hand picked all this season’s contestants? Did he do a better job than season 1 or 2 (definitely better than 3)? I don’t think so. He just continued to pick the young and attractive. I would love to see a large size unattractive person on the show that is very strong at business. Or maybe a person over 40 that actually can win (Markus was a filler for the show to add drama).

  3. HeatherLeigh says:

    Scott-totally agree…great business person, not great show.

    Chris- a couple more years until I can apply for the "over 40" spot, I guess. OK, just kidding. You literally could not pay me enough to subject myself to that folly.

  4. I have to agree with #7 the most. I just don’t care about anyone, but seeing Jim skewerd and roasted on a spit with an apple in his mouth might make for good TV.

    One thing you forgot is that the challenges are boring. The first season was awesome–all these hopped up MBAs and JDs having to sell lemonade. Blew their minds. But week in and week out, it’s some form of marketing presentation to higher-ups in a prominant company. Like they didn’t go to school to learn how to do that, and I went anouther route because that’s boring to me. Welcome to the box (not shoebox, don’t get too psyched). Such a striking contrast to Somasegar’s post today(http://blogs.msdn.com/somasegar/archive/2005/11/16/493753.aspx).

    I do like the way Martha sometimes dictates who comes back to the boardroom. The Donald just complains the team leader made a lousy choice, but Martha actually called one team back and fired someone else, and on a couple other locations actually said who was coming back.

  5. HeatherLeigh says:

    Richard-yeah, I think the challenges are boring too. The wedding cake one just about did me in. I know there are plenty of people that care about that kind of stuff but I’m not one of them. The thought that they may have been trying to pull in a sterotypical female demogroahic makes my stomach churn a little (I’m not into flower arrangements and don’t derive any affirmation from my superior stain fighting expertise either, so there producers!). I thought about this as one of my "reasons", but when I thought through each exercise, they all had a point and were fairly consistent with the subject matter of Martha’s magazine, though didn’t really represent the real business side which is what has made Martha successful. Plus, I think some of Donald’s challenges are boring too. Chris was right about the Apprentice jumping the shark.

    As far as Martha dictating who comes back to the conference room, I like it and I don’t. I think she’s more objective (or maybe controlling?)and the right people end up in the conference room. But on the other hand, you don’t have the possibility of someone getting blasted for making a stupid decision on who they should bring in. Ah, either way, it’s just not as much fun anymore.

  6. You’re right–the challenges are more consistent with Martha’s business. But really, what’s all the focus on gross sales? Even last night’s episode–the team with the greatest gross sales wins. My answer–the team with actual profit eats. Or stays in business.

  7. HeatherLeigh says:

    Seriously. I was wondering what was up with that too. Given the task, higher priced (and sellable) products would have been more attractive (yet nobody mentioned that) but profit margin accounted for nothing (?). Do you think they were dumbing it down? Ugh, those producers…I’m really not liking them right now.

  8. The teams has what–$40,000–for the last challebge? And the winner sold a couple grand in merchandise? It’s taking more and more cash for the teams to do anything decent, for no real return. I don’t think it’s being dumbed down, just dumb.

  9. Paloma says:

    Martha is a well rounded educated woman but what troubles me is that why can’t people like Martha think of a unique show to put on instead of copying some one else’s show. She is so creative in other things and what would have made it more interesting was to titled the show diferently. I love the song that she selected in The Apprentice and her ideas to try to get their people compete with each other to improve her business. I would like to see more of Martha in the show. Watching her observing her people in what they do and say.  A lot of corrections need to be done in this program to make it more exciting and fun and for people to laugh and really get into it more.

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