Martha Inc, The Movie
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Before they mess this thing up any more, we decided to let you decide who should be cast in the leading roles. Vote for who you think should play Martha, Christopher Byron, Billy Tauzin and Sam Waksal. Candice Bergin is the early favorite to play Martha... Vote Now!

Martha Stewart The Movie
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Martha Stinc.
Why this movie reeks of bad taste
By Andrew Ritchie

If there was any doubt that Martha Stewart is the victim of a media feeding frenzy, NBC's "Martha Inc." puts that doubt to rest.

Not only did the producers rush the film into production to capitalize on the attention the investigation into her infamous stock sale is receiving, but they also portray Martha as a carnivorous man-eater who screams, throws pots and pans and has emotional meltdowns at 3 a.m. surrounded by piles of scattered vegetables.

With scenes of Martha berating Kmart shoppers or verbally abusing her staff, it's obvious that the film is intended to make fun of Martha and cash in on all the gossip, all the rumor, all the speculation about her "difficult" personality.

Cybill Shepherd's comedic roots are blatantly obvious in this made-for-TV tabloid drama. In some scenes she seems incapable of keeping a straight face as she recites poorly-scripted dialogue intended to take the film to a new level of tackiness, all in the name of big ratings.

And, unfortunately, it worked. "Martha Inc." was the #1 TV movie so far this year with millions of people all over North America tuning in to watch. Its high ratings, however, should not be mistaken for high quality.

Recipe for Disaster

The film follows the perfect recipe for disaster: a poorly written script based on a tabloid, unauthorized biography, a crude performance by Cybill Shepherd and poor production quality.

Christopher Byron’s unflattering biography of Martha, which became an instant bestseller, was the basis for the film. In the biography Byron makes every attempt possible to undermine Martha’s rise to fame, injecting his own unfounded psychological theories about why Martha is Martha. Thematically, it is the deprived little girl who would amass huge wealth at any cost that seems to be the crux of the biography and, hence, the film.

The film takes liberties with the poisonous atmosphere of Byron’s bio and then takes it to a new level of monstrosity by portraying Martha as an unhinged, vindictive woman who bulldozes over friends and family to get what she wants. Even as a child, Martha is portrayed as a fame-focused girl whose ambition hangs over her like a dark cloud.

The segments that deal with Martha’s early years are dreadfully dull, meandering through over 30 years of Martha’s formative development. She is portrayed as a spiteful child who has no friends and an unpopular teenager who is suspected of being a lesbian by fellow classmates. Her father is portrayed as a bully who runs a household sweatshop in his basement, with each of his children vigorously chopping vegetables under his critical gaze. That he wasn’t dressed in an SS uniform was truly surprising, since his character is essentially a Nazi in a cardigan.

Martha the young woman, who is played by a Reece Witherspoon look-alike, complains about Andy’s lack of money and dreads becoming pregnant.

It’s sleep-inducing stuff.

Shepherd of No Hope

But it is Cybill Shepherd’s portrayal of the modern-day Martha that makes the film so totally unappealing. She overacts to the point of parody, often smirking or sneering as she yells at employees or shouts her way through the lousy script. She has none of the poise or grace that Martha has, and comes off as silly most of the time.

It’s also obvious that Cybill has no facility with culinary or design tools, given her random wielding of a sledgehammer on some poor wall at Turkey Hill, or the aimless chopping of a cabbage. She seems ill-at-ease with all the elements Martha naturally enjoys, reducing her portrayal to a crude caricature.

In the opening scene, for instance, she throws her coat and suit jacket on the floor as she storms into the office in a fury (Martha’s mantra, "Everything has its place," seems to have been lost on Cybill), and proceeds to demand to see recipes and fire limo drivers in an endless barrage of commands. (It should be noted that Martha has had the same chauffeur for the last 21 years.)

As a sign of the trouble to come, Cybill began damage control soon after production wrapped, whitewashing her cruel portrayal of Martha with comments about how much she respects her, how much she wishes she could be like her and how similar they are. Cybill insists she played Martha "sympathetically" and that she found the human side of a woman who has so often been the victim of media gossip.

Cybill’s attempt at redemption failed in the eyes of quite a few notable media personalities such as Katie Couric, Barbara Walters and Liz Smith, who openly criticized the film’s lack of class and Cybill’s over-the-top portrayal.

Despite her vociferous protests to the contrary, Cybill has merely contributed to the pile of negative press Martha has received over the years by essentially making her out to be a horrible person.

Finally, underlying the bad script and the poor performances is a cheap production quality, which firmly relegates this film to lower-rung status among made-for-TV bio-dramas. The diminutive Halifax setting has nothing on the glamour and style of Westport or the orderly grit of New Jersey. While Halifax is a charming town, the sea-weathered shingles of what was supposed to be Martha’s Nutley, New Jersey childhood home seem out of place and inaccurate.

The slip-shod production also failed to notice a rather prominent Canadian flag in the market square at the end of the film, when Martha is hailed as a folk hero by farmers and pie bakers who surround her, cheering and chanting her name. It is the film’s only attempt at counteracting its otherwise nasty portrayal of the woman.

Long on Drama, Short on Taste

In short, the film is everything one would expect from a low-budget television production about a woman who is consistently beaten up by the press for her supposed reputation as a man-eating bitch.

The producer did say that he was looking for "good drama" and I guess he found it in Byron’s gossip-laden opus, "Martha Inc." Unfortunately for Cybill Shepherd, she will likely have a hard time living this one down. Starring in a tasteless movie that seeks to capitalize on a living human being’s woes is never a good thing, nor is it wise to portray that person as an over-the-top monstrosity.

Even the film "Mommie Dearest" about Joan Crawford’s bad behavior as a mom (based on a similarly vindictive book, written by Crawford’s adopted daughter, Christina) had more taste than "Martha Inc." and it has since become a cult classic, even if Faye Dunaway’s shrewd portrayal dealt her reputation as an actress a serious blow.

Cybill’s career might suffer a similar fate as a result of this film, but there is little chance that "Martha Inc." will become a cult classic, not only because of the poor performances but also because so much of its content is based on a book written by a man who knows so little of his subject.

The Ten Worst Scenes in "Martha Inc."

Consider the following excerpts from film as examples of its absurdity and nasty intent:

1. The young Martha sabotages a friend's plans to make birthday cakes for neighborhood parties by giving her botched recipes. When the friend's cake deflates in front of a client, the young Martha swoops in for the kill with a perfect cake. The friend leaves in a huff and little Martha screams after her: "I'm going to be famous one day! Someday everyone in the world will know the name Martha Kostyra!"

2. The teenage Martha, who is portrayed as an unpopular poor girl, is mocked by two popular girls, one of whom hisses, "I knew it! She's a lesbian!"

3. Martha wakes up in the middle of the night, desperate to fix-up Turkey Hill. She grabs a sledge hammer and begins to hack her way through the dining room wall. When Andy comes in, barely awake, and asks what she's doing, she replies:

"I'm not going to sit around on my ass and wait for you to get a promotion! I'm going to turn this place into a palace! And I'm starting with this wall!"

4. Martha meets with Kmart consultants in the housewares section of the store and arrogantly dismisses their products:

"Just because Kmart sells inexpensive products does not mean they can't be beautiful. That's why I'm here. Not to sink to YOUR level, but to raise you to MINE."

5. Further to this, Martha is giving a demonstration on lemon tartlets in the Kmart store and is told by a shopper that the recipe did not work when she tried it. Martha snaps at her and tells her she is a terrible cook. When a Kmart executive takes her aside to tell her to calm down, Martha replies:

"I generate millions of dollars for your company; I can talk to the customers anyway I want to! And there is nothing wrong with my TARTLETS! Oh, I have a meeting..."

6. Martha tracks down Robin Fairclough, her former assistant and her husband's new lover. She pulls up beside her in her SUV as Robin is jogging and hisses through the window:

"Hey, slut! I'm sending a letter to your parents telling them you're a whore! Don't give me that innocent look... After all I've done for you... Well, if you think you're getting him you are very much MISTAKEN!" And then she screeches away.

7. When a staff member forgets to place lima beans on the set of her show she screams, "I'm doing a segment on lima beans and there are no damn lima beans! Why is everyone here so stupid?!"

8. Martha has two child guests on the show helping her make a birthday cake. When one of the girls interrupts her, Martha sneers, "If you'll let me finish, Lily, I was just getting to that!"

9. Following a tense meeting with the men at Time Warner, Martha gives instructions on how to use a nut-cracker, a not-so-subtle dose of irony, inferring that Martha has the men at Time "by the balls" and intends to crush them.

10. During a dream sequence Martha imagines herself in jail, reciting her new philosophies about being a good person. A fellow inmate yells, "Shut up, bitch!" Martha then wakes up and stumbles downstairs, frantically empties the fridge of its contents and then collapses in tears surrounded by squashed vegetables and overturned frying pans.

Candice and Cybil take Halifax by storm
by Andrew Ritchie

Save Martha readers may recall that five-time Emmy winner Candice Bergen received the most votes in our poll about who should play Martha Stewart in the upcoming film, Martha Inc.

In a strange twist of irony, Bergen was in Halifax at the same time the shoot for Martha Inc. was going on, starring in a much more prestigious project.

She was cast in a TV film called Footsteps, a suspense drama directed by John Badham, who directed such screen favorites as Saturday Night Fever, Stakeout, Incognito and Point of No Return.

The film is based on Ira Levin’s unproduced play of the same name. Bergen will star as best-selling suspense novelist Daisy Lowendahl, who becomes the subject of a real-life crime story when two men – one trying to kill her, the other trying to save her – show up at her isolated beachfront house. The filming was funded by Fox Television and will air on CBS this spring.

Meanwhile, across town in Burnside at the Tour Tech East soundstage, Cybil Shepherd was doing her best to “channel” Martha Stewart in the hasty NBC adaptation of Chris Byron’s unauthorized bio, Martha Inc. The film debuts in May.

Reports that Candice and Cybill got together for a succulent lobster dinner only to end up in a fist fight knee deep in clam shells are unconfirmed!

"Martha Inc" The Movie Will Be Hastily Forgotten
But damage will be done
By Andrew Ritchie

When the executive producer of the upcoming NBC TV movie about Martha Stewart says that the 21-day shoot won't result in a hatchet job of her life story, his nose likely grew a few inches longer.

In what universe could a film produced in 21 days not end up as some ludicrous TV chapter play? Certainly not this one. Howard Braunstein's comments, which aired on CNBC, revealed so much about the intent of the film and the driving force behind its production.

The movie's executive producer Howard Braunstein said: “What interests me are people and getting inside a person and understanding the good and bad and what drove her to become Martha Stewart worth a billion dollars. That’s really interesting drama and complex drama."

Howard Braunstein assures us that it is the balance of the good and bad in Martha and her drive to become a billionaire that will motivate the story. And yet in the same breath he says that it is "drama" that he has been seeking all along. "Interesting drama. Complex drama." How complex can a TV film get without reducing all or most of the key elements in Martha's personal and business life to mere platitudes?

He is correct in saying that Martha's life has been extremely interesting and very complex. All the more reason to devote as much time as possible to making the film accurate, thorough and balanced. A 21 day shoot on the east coast of Canada (where production costs are dirt cheap) just won't do it. But this is television - a universe where 15 minutes of fame is the name of the game, and where bad news means good news for the big networks.

Even more telling is this tidbit of information from the CNBC website:

"... when the trading allegations surfaced, the project became even more interesting to NBC, which quickly ordered the film be ready for this May’s ratings period."

Ah yes, the hungry men at the top so eager to chomp down on the misery and strife of a successful business woman as controversial as Martha Stewart. I can almost hear some overweight big-wig at NBC now, conference calling to some other overweight big-wigs across town: "Well, now that she's in a real mess and the media is in a foaming frenzy over the story, let's capitalize on it! To hell with Martha's feelings and her reputation! This is television! This means ratings!"

And all this drivel about Cybil Shepherd "channeling Martha" to make her performance more accurate, to give it balance and fairness, is all a white-wash attempt to mask the real intention of the film, which is to make money off another person's problems. At least NBC knew where to turn for its source: Chris Byron's reptilian bio of Martha has just the right mix of misogyny and hack psycho-babble to make for that "complex drama" the producers must have been looking for.

What the people at CNBC maybe don't realize is that once the movie airs it will be hastily forgotten by just about everyone...except Martha, and the hundreds of people who work for her, who will be scrambling to undertake the damage control after the fallout from the film's broadcast.

The film will be a shameless display of marketing madness, if only because of the reason it was so quickly snapped up by the network in the first place: to capitalize on Martha's woes.

Movie to air in

Cybill Shepherd to play Martha Stewart in NBC TV Movie

Remember last August when NBC announced that Christopher Byron's unbearable book Martha Inc. was being made into a TV movie? We did a poll back then to determine who should play Martha and the other major parts. You picked Candice Bergen to play Martha by an overwhelming margin. But now NBC has picked Cybill Shepherd to play the lead role, from Martha Kostyra, smalltime caterer, to Martha Stewart, the richest self-made businesswoman in the United States. Cybill starred in Moonlighting with Bruce Willis, The Last Picture Show, and Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. This casting decision is a Big mistake, Cybill tends to come off tense and jittery. Martha is anything but. In other roles:

John Malkovich leads in the voting to play author Chris Byron--he's so good at playing the twisted villain.

Tommy Lee Jones leads in the voting to play Rep. Billy Tauzin, the Congressman that once appeared on Martha's show cooking up a cajun storm, then told reporters during his investigation of her that he wanted to "put Martha's head" on the wall along with his other hunting trophies. How Nice.

Finally, David Letterman leads the voting to play ImClone CEO Sam Waksal. Sweet revenge.

A 20-day shoot begins Feb. 15 for the film, produced by Halifax’s Magic Rock Productions. The movie has an airdate in May on NBC. Additional roles are still in casting, so it's not too late to lay back on our...

Shepherd Herding Her Career into the Chasm with "Martha Inc."
by Andrew Ritchie

Cybill Shepherd must be desperate indeed if she's playing Martha Stewart in a low-budget television movie of the week. Shepherd has been playing the good Samaritan lately, raising awareness about women's health issues like menopause and breast cancer, but has not been seen on screen since CBS cancelled her self-titled television show in 1998.

Choosing to play Martha Stewart as her comeback is a mistake she won't soon live down, no matter how well she portrays her.

First of all, playing a real-life character as complex as Martha Stewart is likely out of Shepherd's depth as an actress, whose most notable contribution to entertainment was her starring comedic role on the hit '80s series Moonlighting. Imagining Cybill Shepherd whipping up a bowl of cream in an ultra-organized kitchen while narrating recipe instructions is, at best, a challenge. She also looks nothing like Martha. Viewers may find her performance distracting rather than believable, verging on parody.

Secondly, there is the issue of Byron's credibility as a biographer. Basing a film on an unflattering and unauthorized biography is never a wise decision. Remember that TV movie about Madonna that was based on an unauthorized biography, starring some unknown actress? Neither do I. It met with horrendous reviews and was quickly swept under the rug for permanent exile. Such is the destiny of ill-fated TV movies based on tabloid biographies - they are ripped to shreds by the critics and never again see the light of day. The credibility of the television executives who sponsored the production of "Martha Inc." are put into question here, as is Cybill Shepherd's reputation as a serious actress.

If we look at it from another angle, it's probably encouraging to fans of Martha Stewart that the film is going to be a low-budget production starring a television actress who hasn't been in the scene for years. It would be more worrisome if the film was to be a major motion picture directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Meryl Streep as the lead.

In the end, the cheap production and poor acting will probably do Byron's "Martha Inc." justice, bringing all of its biographical drivel to light right before our eyes. I am confident that critics will be appropriately merciless and that audiences will be intelligent enough to change the channel the moment they hear Cybill Shepherd say, "It's a good thing," because, frankly, it's not.

Tell Cybill Shepherd why you think playing Martha in the TV movie is a big mistake
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Reader Mail

Dear John Small:

Thanks very much for continuing to supply Martha Stewart fans with readable and scholarly news reports that we can depend upon! In my opinion, your analyses and critiques are rationally and factually sound. I will have to agree with Andrew Ritchie as he brilliantly observes the logic concerning the upcoming movie "Martha Inc.: The Martha Stewart
"Choosing to play Martha Stewart as her comeback is a mistake she [Cybill Shepherd] won't soon live down, no matter how well she portrays her. In the end, the cheap production and poor acting will probably do Byron's "Martha Inc." justice, bringing all of its biographical drivel to light right before our eyes. I am confident that critics will be appropriately merciless and that audiences will be intelligent enough to change the channel the moment they hear Cybill Sheppard say, "It's a good thing,"because, frankly, it's

Excellent! Also, has NBC lost its mind?? Have they even considered the timing of the May airing of the movie? I mean, let's suppose Martha and Edd Townsend just happen to get married on this upcoming Valentine's Day, or thereabouts. Wow! What a monkey-wrench this would throw into their "Martha Stewart Story"!! This would no doubt cause the filmmaker's aberrant efforts to stumble since the media would apparently cover the wedding like "a dog on a bone".

Keep up the good job, Mr. Small.

Brian Burleson

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