Martha Stewart is back. Only someone reawakening from a coma would question what all the fuss is about. All the rest of us know she has just finished serving five months of house arrest following a stint at a woman’s prison for lying to a grand jury. The sheer number of words and images this woman has generated before, during, and after her incarceration is mind-boggling. Stand-up comics, columnists, TV critics, and cartoonists have had a field day with the trials and tribulations, the rise and fall of Martha Stewart. Everyone from legal experts to homemakers have an opinion on her guilt or innocence, her role as rich entrepreneur, and her over-the-top perfectionism.
September 12th marked the launch of one of her two new television shows. Martha is a live, daily talk show. The goal is to humanize and warm-up a woman who comes across as icy, tyrannical, and aloof.
The first episode was filled with humour. Watching Marcia Cross (aka Bree from the television show Desperate Housewives) try to fold a t-shirt and make scrambled eggs with Martha Stewart was funny and sad. Who among us hasn’t felt klutzy trying to follow someone’s directions? Add a live studio audience and millions of viewers and you’ve got the jitters. At times Martha herself appeared nervous and a bit tongue-tied, sometimes talking too much and trying too hard.
She opened the show with a spoof on the ankle bracelet she wore during her house arrest and announced that all of her staff are now wearing them.
A video montage of past trips to New Orleans and Mississippi highlighting the food and architecture was shown. She expressed her belief that the area and the people will triumph as she promised to announce an initiative soon.
As someone who regards cooking and baking a necessary chore, and often does it under duress, I found there was a little too much cooking and kitchen action. An unannounced visit to Italian sisters Gerry and Nina’s kitchen was full of laughter and good food. These tiny cooks gushed and giggled and appeared in studio to recreate their meatballs and spaghetti sauce recipes.
We saw a behind-the-scenes look at the design and construction of the 10,000 square foot studio. It replicates the look of Martha’s homes. There is a huge kitchen, a craft room and a greenhouse. Martha insists there is no couch, because guests will always be doing something.
In another departure from the old way of always taking credit herself, Martha assembled all the carpenters and trades people who were responsible for creating the set so they could receive credit.
Martha Stewart has proven yet again just how resilient and savvy she is. How much is genuine and how much is orchestrated remains to be seen. I do think there is a lesson here for each of us. We can pick ourselves up after any sort of setback. We can ignore our critics and naysayers. We can re-invent ourselves as long as we’re willing to. Not bad, from where I sit.