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Martha: Mind Your Manners!

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We're not ashamed to admit that we considered Martha Stewart getting out of jail a "good thing." And, yes, that's a stack of her Living magazine over there--we subscribe! So it should come as no surprise that the debut of her new daytime syndicated show was something we were looking forward to. In this new television enterprise, Martha hosts a sort of household variety hour--cooking, crafting, and gardening, all in the spirit of prettying life up a bit. The show is done in front of a studio audience, and is broadcast live in some regions (not ours, alas). And of course her celebrity friends are scheduled to drop by to provide her with someone to chat with while making, oh, let's say hand painted wrapping paper, like she did with buddy Diddy last week: Rapping whilst wrapping. It's a good thing, dammit!

Since her whole prison debaucle, Martha has reemerged as a media giant, but this time she's back to holding the reins--a position we sense she's comfortable with. Martha certainly looks comfortable hostessing the show, and she's no stranger when it comes to live television, having appeared on many live talk shows herself as expert, demonstrator, and interviewee. But here the weight is squarely set on her shoulders (and noticeably missing from her midsection; the prison diet worked wonders on her!) and that means that her sometimes socially awkward and smugly superior demeanor take center stage. We witnessed a deliciously uncomfortable twenty minute segment on dumpling making (a big chunk with her on the scene in a Manhattan dumpling eatery's kitchen, by no coincidence, was pre-filmed), as Martha tried to prod her guests for lively banter, and when none insued she simply answered their questions for them. She seemed a bit more at ease (w)rapping with Diddy, although his slyly delivered pun about rolling joints went sailing way over Marth's head--doubful that cannabis grows in her well-tended garden. Her need to be perfect shone through as she tried to wrap a gift following a Japanese folding pro, and her lopsided product ruffled her feathers a bit too much. But Martha is all about grace under pressure, so even the boldest slight is delivered with a smile and a wink, and tempers don't flare. Much like any of her broadcasts in the past, or, heck, let's be real, the stuff in her magazine, what she's hawking isn't anything we're likely to try at home. We think it's almost better that way; we're not trying to figure out the recipe for chicken basil thai dumplings, we're too intent on watching Martha wrestle the spotlight! Will Martha's daytime regime last? It's hard to say. Her show isn't necessarily good television, and audiences will only be so forgiving for so long. But she's got her own powerful media backing (no surprise that the Martha Stewart line at K-Mart is an advertiser) and friends in high places. We're happy to just sit back and watch this one play out.

Martha airs weekdays at 3:00 p.m. on NBC-4.