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The Apprentice: Martha Stewart, Episode 1: Fairy Tales Can Come Trueby Betsy Wasser -- 09/22/2005
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Welcome to the first episode of The Apprentice: Martha Stewart. We kick things off with some beautiful footage of one of Martha’s homes. Martha tells us that her home has been the “inspiration for my entire business empire.” She loves homemaking and homekeeping and built those loves into a prestigious brand. It started in 1982 when she wrote the bestseller Entertaining. Several other books followed, and in 1987, she started her own line with K-Mart. In 1990 she launched her first magazine with Time-Warner, Martha Stewart Living. The magazine was a smash hit, selling 2.3 million copies a month. She expanded to TV and soon became a household name.
But, Martha says, she lost her identity “in the shadow of… Time-Warner.” So, she took a big risk and borrowed 85 million dollars to buy back her magazine. When Martha Stewart Omnimedia had its initial public offering, she became “the first female self-made billionaire.” In an understatement, Martha says it felt “good.” Later on, she alludes to “incredible challenges” and we see shots of her outside the courthouse before going to prison for insider trading. All she has to say is that she learned from those difficult times.
So, dear readers (you gorgeous people, you), let’s get this out of the way: Yes, Martha Stewart went to prison. It’s a pretty easy source for jokes, which is why you probably won’t be reading too many of them here. I prefer a challenge. Like creating beautiful hand-carvings on the handle of my shiv. Okay, that’s the last one for a while, I swear.
In a moment of classic Mark Burnett product placement, Martha climbs into her Chevy Suburban and drives to work. In a voiceover, she says that she’s looking for someone with big ideas, or perhaps just one big idea, who can be a team player. A few beauty shots of the car later, and Martha is at work, strolling among the cubicles. I find it hard to believe that I could be sitting in my cubicle at Martha Stewart Living and she could just drop by to admire the fabric swatches, but hey, maybe I’m wrong. Martha explains that the candidates will live in a loft in the building. Over 13 weeks, the candidates, divided into two teams, will perform tasks. The losers will be sent to the conference room and “someone will be asked to leave.” It’s a tad more gentle than “You’re fired,” but it has the same effect. I doubt Martha will ever say, "Would you please leave," only to hear, "No, thank you."
The candidates begin to arrive, starting with Shawn. In an interview, Shawn says she knows it’s “dorky cheesy,” but she’s got tears in her eyes at the prospect of working with her idol Martha Stewart. Looks like Shawn’s going to be a tad on the emotional side. More candidates file in, including Howie, who says he believes he can learn a lot from her. He thinks they have a lot in common, though he has yet to achieve her level of success, of course. We also meet Bethenny, who thinks she’d really fit in with the company.
The credits roll, and since this is the first episode, I guess it’s inevitable that I’m comparing this show to the Donald Trump version. Whereas Trump’s credits feature stock ticker tape, Martha’s candidates are shown next to fabric swatches. Trump gives us tall buildings; Martha shows us horses and country homes. Also, whereas I think of Donald Trump as “Trump,” I think of Martha Stewart as… well, as “Martha Stewart,” but since I’m not going to type that over and over again, I think of her more as Martha. I hope you all don’t find it offensive that I use her first name and his last, but I do think she has branded herself in a more friendly and approachable way, thus suggesting use of her first name. Or maybe none of you care, in which case, let’s move on.
Martha joins the candidates and leads them to the conference room. Several of them look positively giddy to meet her, and I notice that Shawn makes a point of shaking her hand. Martha introduces Alexis and Charles, who will be her “eyes and ears” on the tasks. However, Martha tells them, she will make the ultimate decisions as to who stays and who goes. Alexis introduces herself as “the original apprentice” and says she hasn’t been fired yet, and the candidates laugh. Charles tells them that he has experience in the music business and has been working with Martha for a year.
Then Charles says that it’s a small world, because he and candidate Bethenny already know each other. Well, that’s potentially awkward. He assures everyone that he didn’t even know she was applying for the show. It turns out that Bethenny is a friend of Charles’s daughter and has known him for fifteen years. I’m really not loving this particular twist., though Charles promises he’ll be fair.
Martha tells the candidates that they have the opportunity to learn a lot while on the job. She says that at the end, she hopes to find a person with whom she can work closely to create something new. The conference room where they’ve gathered is a pleasant place, but she tells the candidates they might not find it so pleasant the next time they’re there. That’s because after the task, the losing team will gather there and “one of you will be asked to leave.” I notice that Charles is holding an unlit cigar. Look for it in the rest of the episode – surely a drinking game will soon be spanned involving that cigar. Martha, Alexis, and Charles wish everyone good luck.
In an interview, Carrie says that meeting Martha Stewart was “a dream come true.” She and the other candidates head to the loft which is, as you might expect, beautiful. They find the obligatory bottles of champagne and toast “to good things.” They find a message from Martha, and Shawn starts to well up again as it’s read aloud. Calm down, Shawn! The candidates are to divide themselves into two teams based on some kind of common ground. Short people and tall people? Northerners and Southerners? What will it be? Carrie laments that they don’t have much time to enjoy the loft- it’s down to business.
Over an absolutely stunning plate of cheese, Bethenny tells the team that she lived with Charles’s daughter in Paris for several years. Also, she dated his son. So yeah, I’d say Bethenny and Charles know each other. Howie thinks that her familiarity with Charles might actually work against her – Charles will be so wrapped up in trying to prove that he’s not giving her an advantage that he might judge her more harshly. Here’s hoping that this is the last we hear about this development, because if they’re not going to disqualify Bethenny, it’s really enough said at this point.1 2 3 4 Next-->
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