NEW YORK – The daytime phase of Martha Stewart (search)'s TV comeback found the domestic diva right at home with her new syndicated show.
Premiering Monday after weeks of buildup, "Martha" (search) found Stewart in affable, informative form before a live studio audience for her hour of chat and how-to tips.
"You'll notice, we don't have any couches," she said, drawing attention to her kitchen-to-die-for set. "We're doing a show about doing things." (Check local listings for channel and time; same-day repeat at 6 p.m. EDT on cable's TLC.)
Cross presented Stewart with a couple of gag gifts — rubber gloves and apron adorned with leopard-skin fake fur — but confessed she is no Martha Stewart off-screen, then proved it as Stewart took her through a cooking lesson: scrambled eggs, served in their own egg shells.
"You're a psychotherapist?" Stewart asked, referring to Cross' graduate degree, as they whisked. "What made you go into that field?"
"The fact that I can't cook," Cross nervously replied.
Stewart also introduced what she said would be a regular taped feature: popping in on a family at home to lend assistance cooking dinner.
After pitching in on a spirited Italian feast with a New Jersey family, she then welcomed two of the sisters live in the studio, where they shared their secret for making meatballs.
At the top of the show, Stewart had arrived on stage ebullient. "I am unfettered, I am free!" she announced. "No ankle bracelets!"
She was referring, of course, to legal problems that led to her conviction, and five-month jail term, for lying to authorities about a stock sale. A subsequent period of almost six months of home confinement ended Sept. 1, but Stewart joked that she had seen certain value in a device that tracks its wearer's whereabouts. She then presented her producers and staff, all of whom were sporting ankle bracelets of their own.
The debut of "Martha" was just the first step of Stewart's dual TV revival. On Sept. 21, she hits prime time with "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart" (search), airing on NBC.
But production of the 13-week "The Apprentice" is mostly wrapped, whereas "Martha" is a daily enterprise Stewart aims to be doing, she said, "from now on."
All in all, the first installment was a breezy hour that seemed a natural fit for Stewart, who made sure you didn't have to be a cook to come away enlightened.
She wowed Cross, and surely viewers, with a technique for folding T-shirts. As simple as can be (though impossible to put into words), it could have been the most edifying 60 seconds of TV in ages.