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Martha Stewart not invited back to 'Apprentice'

NBC hasn't told lifestyle guru Martha Stewart, "You're fired." But to borrow from her own genteel phraseology, she "just doesn't fit" into the network's future schedule, either.
/ Source: Reuters

NBC hasn't told lifestyle guru Martha Stewart, "You're fired." But to borrow from her own genteel phraseology, she "just doesn't fit" into the network's future schedule, either.

The General Electric Co.-owned broadcaster said Monday there will be no second edition of "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart," its faltering spin-off of the corporate-themed reality show starring real estate tycoon Donald Trump. But NBC also insisted it never planned to ask Stewart back anyway.

The show will leave the airwaves for good after next month's finale, capping a contest among 16 aspiring executives to win a $250,000 prize and a yearlong "apprenticeship" at Stewart's Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia company.

"The plan from the very beginning was always to produce only one cycle of 'The Apprentice: Martha Stewart,"' NBC said in a statement.

But the same could be said for virtually any new show introduced in prime time. Networks rarely if ever commit to more than one season of a program before seeing how that show performs in the ratings.

A statement from Stewart's company suggested that doing a second round of "The Apprentice" would have conflicted with ongoing production of her new daytime syndicated show "Martha," which launched Sept. 12.

"From the time we knew we would be producing a live daily TV show with Martha as the star, it was clear that we could only do one round of 'The Apprentice,"' her company said.

Asked whether NBC would have altered its original plan and invited Stewart back for a second installment if her show were a hit, a network spokeswoman said, "We're now talking hypotheticals."

NBC and "Apprentice" executive producer Mark Burnett had high hopes for a Stewart spinoff, expecting to capitalize on public interest in the domestic design diva after she served a five-month prison term for lying to federal investigators in connection with an insider-trading inquiry.

Production of the series, one of the most heavily promoted additions to NBC's schedule this fall, actually began while Stewart was still under home confinement.

But her show has floundered from the start, drawing the smallest audience yet for a season debut of the vaunted "Apprentice" franchise and averaging fewer than 6.8 million viewers for the season.

Many TV critics have suggested Stewart's success was hurt by her post-prison image makeover as a warmer, softer personality, one who gently dismisses losing contestants on her show by telling them: "You just don't fit in."

Her soft-spoken prime-time demeanor stood in sharp contrast to the tough-boss persona of Trump and his curt signature phrase, "You're fired."

Last month, Trump said Stewart's spin-off had dragged down ratings for his own show on NBC. Trump's "The Apprentice 4" currently averages about 10.3 million viewers per episode, down nearly 4 million from last season.

Reuters/VNU