Martha Stewart: Mary Altaffer/AP
Gary Susman
May 03, 2005 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Watch for a kinder, gentler Martha Stewart when her syndicated daytime show, simply called Martha, debuts on Sept. 12. Yes, she’ll still be showing off her eerily perfect homemaking skills, but the program won’t resemble the tightly scripted , controlled-environment show she produced and starred in before she served time. Rather, Martha, which is being produced by reality guru Mark Burnett (Survivor, The Apprentice), will be taped in front of a live audience, and it’ll include lots of reality-style stunts, surprises, and gimmicks that Stewart says she hopes will show off her softer, funnier side. (Who even knew she had a soft and funny side?)

”There is a hope on the part of Mark Burnett, my executive producer, that my sense of humor will come out a little bit more,” Stewart said at a Manhattan press conference Monday, where she and Burnett previewed their ideas for Martha for reporters and ad buyers. ”I am looking forward to it so much because I really like people a tremendous amount, and I like talking to them. I am very curious what they’re all about.”

Some of Stewart’s ideas for segments: She might drop in unannounced at someone’s home and make dinner or give the living room a quickie makeover. She imagines herself flipping burgers at a drive-thru. She dreams of cycling in Central Park with Robin Williams and sharing family recipes with Tom Hanks. She wants to give scholarships to needy students and help housewives who dream of starting their own businesses.

An example of that previously suppressed sense of humor: Stewart coyly lifted a pant leg to show off her lucky shoes — gold clogs — but not her electronic monitoring ankle bracelet. (Still under house arrest through August, Stewart is allowed to leave her upstate New York home for 48 hours a week for work purposes, though she may have stretched the limits when she appeared at a recent Time magazine reception for its ”100 Most Influential People” issue.) ”There is something under here which I am not going to show you,” she told her audience, ”but you can be guaranteed that whoever is watching that thing on my ankle knows exactly where I am. This is an approved event.” Folks laughed, according to USA Today, but if she’d clicked the heels of her glittering slip-ons together three times and said, ”There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home,” THAT would have been funny.

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