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Martha Stewart's NBC show draws ho-hum ratings

(Posted September 22, 2005 by Leah Yoakum)

Martha Stewart launched her version of NBC reality hit "The Apprentice" to disappointing ratings and criticism that the domestic diva and ex-con needs to be a nastier TV boss.

Stewart, who gently fired her first corporate wannabe by saying, "Jeff, you just don't fit in," drew only 7.7 million viewers to her highly anticipated premiere on Wednesday night. She finished a distant second behind a recap of ABC's "Lost," according to Nielsen Media Research.

That marked the smallest audience, by far, for a debut episode of NBC's vaunted "Apprentice" franchise featuring real estate tycoon Donald Trump and his curt signature phrase, "You're fired."

Trump, who averaged 14 million viewers last spring, returned to the NBC schedule on Thursday to launch the fourth installment of his show.

NBC said the debut of "Apprentice: Martha Stewart," which followed her recent return to syndicated daytime television, failed to live up to expectations.

"The numbers are clearly not where we wanted them to be with the premiere," NBC spokesman Jeff DeRome told Reuters. "But the competitive landscape was an unusual one, and you've got to hang in there."

NBC hopes Stewart will do better later in the season against comedies set to air on rival networks ABC and CBS.


Her biggest first-night competition was an ABC special recapping last season's highlights from its Emmy-winning drama "Lost," which drew 14.6 million viewers. The premiere of that show's second season an hour later averaged nearly 24 million viewers, a record turnout for castaway thriller and the biggest audience of the night.

NBC, a unit General Electric Co., is desperate for a hit as it launches its fall lineup following a ratings slump last season.

But early Nielsen results suggest that Stewart's post-prison image make-over as a kinder, gentler homemaking guru might be working against her prime-time success. She was released in March from a five-month federal prison term for lying to investigators about a stock trade.

NBC promotions of her show had suggested that viewers would see a steely Martha lording over contestants vying for a job at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc.

But instead of the "brisk and exacting" Stewart many had expected, her premiere "was a gauzy tribute to her life's work, an evening-wear version of the frilly, fun-loving 'Martha"' seen on daytime TV, The New York Times said.

BusinessWeek Online said the show "misses a vital ingredient: A Stewart who bares some nails."

Her firing of the first contestant at the end of the evening was strikingly civilized, compared with Trump's abrupt boardroom demeanor.

Stewart even followed up the dismissal with a handwritten consolation note: "I'm sorry you are the first to go," she read in a voice-over. "Not to fail but, rather, not to fully succeed."

(Additional reporting by Arthur Spiegelman)

Source: Yahoo! News

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