In her post-incarceration bid for image rehab, domestic diva Martha Stewart hops on the reality-TV bandwagon with her version of “The Apprentice.” However, unlike Donald Trump’s original, “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart” falls flat because of its lack of originality and overly contrived drama.

TV/New Media Reviews
“I find that a shiny pair of handcuffs stands out against an orange jumpsuit.” (Courtesy of NBC)

The debut episode begins with Stewart rattling off her many past successes, conveniently omitting her recent five months of jail time for insider trading. The show is close to an exact copy of the original “Apprentice’s” premise: 16 contestants are split into two groups, competing weekly in various challenges. One member of the losing team is voted off each week by Martha and her two sidekicks, daughter Alexis Stewart and former music executive Charles Koppelman. The winner gets a job working closely with Martha “to create something new or something different,” as she explains.

The contestants collectively decide to split into two groups, one being the “corporate” types, called the Primarius, the other the “creative” types, Matchstick. The teams then take on a set on the task of adapting a classic children’s story. Overall, the teams feature more females and artistically inclined characters than their Trump predecessors. Most of the characters blend in with the rest, but a few do stand out: Loudmouth Jim may prove to be the new Omarosa, while Dawn seems to play the role of the constant complainer.

What is shocking about Stewart’s version of the show is how much it blatantly borrows from the first “Apprentice.” Every aspect, from the faux-suspenseful background music to the mildly attractive British secretary, is a copy of Trump’s original formula. This would be all well and good if Martha were able to effectively adapt this blueprint to her own style.

Stewart, however, is neither as intimidating nor as charismatic as Trump. She comes across as cold, lifeless and restrained. Her fellow judges, both inferior knockoffs of Trump’s, do little to help the situation.

When Stewart does add personal touches to the show, they only hamper the competitive suspense that made Trump’s series so successful. Instead of a dramatically lit boardroom, Stewart holds court in a well-lit, airy conference room. The tasks, more geared toward arts and crafts than business, feel pointless and without consequence. Even Annie Lennox’s “Sweet Dreams” theme song is no match for The O’Jay’s “For the Love of Money.”

However, Stewart does succeed in one regard. Her method of firing in polite, handwritten letters is a salaciously fantastic addition to the show, almost topping Trump’s famous “You’re fired” catchphrase. This creative change could have made the show the new guilty pleasure this season.

In the end, “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart” is a victim of lazy writers and a sloppy concept. The overwhelming similarities between Stewart and Trump’s shows lead to unavoidable comparisons, and it is apparent that the better of the two comes with a combover.

 

Rating: 1 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

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