Mr. TV: Martha’s Moment

I don’t know how to fry an egg. I can’t bake a cake. My decorating skills are not exactly worthy of accolades, and I’m not in the target demo. But that does not mean I’m not fascinated by the ultimate survivor, Martha Stewart, who opens a new season of her self-titled talk show today on Hallmark Channel.  

Hallmark has the exclusive rights to license a portion of the Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia TV library and will begin running a daily eight-hour lifestyle programming block (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.). Included will be new hours Whatever With Alexis & Jennifer, a topical talker hosted by Sirius XM’s Alexis Stewart and Jennifer Koppelman Hutt (executive produced by David Steinberg, and food-driven Mad Hungry With Lucinda Scala Quinn as well as a variety of encore titles.

I recently had the chance to speak with Stewart regarding her new gig with Hallmark.

Is it true that you sleep with the lights on and for only four hours so you can get up and go back to work? Well, I really don’t need a lot of sleep. And I don’t like to miss anything. So, yes, you could say so. Just force of habit, I guess.  

I remember watching your weekend half-hour in the 1990s and wondering how long you could do it. How do you come up with all of this? Well, we have a flock of little elves scouting the streets for new crafts (laughs). But, really, the subject of living is limitless, and creativity is a driving force. There really is never any shortage of ideas, particularly when it comes time for the holidays. There are just so many things to tap into…It is very rewarding and very exciting.  

Your deal with Hallmark is really unprecedented. Were you looking to leave NBC Universal for so-called greener pastures? We had a good run with NBC, but I was hoping to expand our lifestyle-driven programming. And Hallmark Channel wants to morph into more of a lifestyle-branded cable network, so this is an ideal opportunity for all of us.   

You are a hands-on individual who never seems to miss a beat. Does that mean you check your ratings every day? I do because I like to know what is going on. And part of this was realizing how attuned we would be to Hallmark’s target audience. I think everyone who works on camera should want to know how the audience is responding. It’s like a daily report card.

Part of your deal with Hallmark includes an initial two prime-time interview specials, plus more on the horizon. Are you trying to become the next Barbara Walters? Barbara’s background, of course, is news, and mine is certainly different. But I admire what she has accomplished, and I am very grateful to have the platform where I can hone my interviewing skills. The first one, Martha Stewart Presents: The Women Who Dress America, debuts on Sept. 19 and will feature my conversations with Diane Von Furstenberg, Donna Karan, Tory Burch and Jenna Lyons.  

Will there be any noticeable changes on the talk show now that you are on Hallmark? There’s no reason to make changes other than total evolution of the show. We want to be the same informative show that we’ve always been with some very exciting new twists, including a segment called Date Night.

I recently saw you on the ongoing CBS special I Get That A Lot, you have appeared on Ugly Betty, and you, of course, once hosted your own season of NBC’s The Apprentice. Do you have any future plans in prime time outside of Hallmark? Right now, no. But I would never rule anything out. If I have learned anything over the years, it is to keep your options open and always consider what opportunities arise.