It's Official: New Martha Show This Fall
With deals now being negotiated, NBC-owned stations in 14 major cities have already agreed to air the daytime show starting in September, and the program will feature a live audience, celebrity guests and the help of The Apprentice and Survivor producer Mark Burnett.
Stewart, 63, who is currently serving a five-month prison stretch on obstruction of justice charges, is not allowed to conduct business and was not involved in the deal to syndicate the show – but is "very pleased," said Susan Lyne, president of Stewart's company.
At the news conference, Lyne acknowledged the absence of the star of the show. "I know Martha would have loved to be here," she said. "But she wants to wish everyone a joyful holiday. She's doing extremely well. She vowed to learn something new every day she was in West Virginia. And knowing her, I am convinced much of it will end up on the show."
Lyne added that the show will be taped live in Manhattan.
Said Burnett in a statement: "Millions of people feel that Martha got a raw deal. America loves comeback stories."
Stewart is due to be released from her West Virginia prison in March. From then until August, she will be forced to wear an ankle bracelet while confined to her Bedford, N.Y., estate. The stipulations of her sentence will permit her at that point to conduct business for 48 hours a week.
The new show is already fueling speculation in many quarters. The New York Post views the NBC deal as Lyne's revenge on Disney for firing her as head of ABC Entertainment before the shows she picked, Desperate Housewives and Lost, became hits.
The Wall Street Journal is also playing the Martha Game, reporting that some people are suggesting that among NBC's prime-time plans is to have Stewart eventually take over The Apprentice from Donald Trump.
The financial paper also reports on how TV could help redeem Stewart's image, just as it helped Trump shift "focus away from his often-ridiculed persona and restored him to prominence as a savvy, if still oddly coiffed, businessman."