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Martha Stewart: No Negatives, Please

Last month, it was announced with great fanfare that reality-TV wizard Mark Burnett was teaming up with his friend Martha Stewart. The alliance promised to make the doyenne of domesticity a bigger TV star than ever, upon her release from prison in March.

But insiders at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia are scratching their heads over how, precisely (and with Stewart, the emphasis is always on “precisely”) they're going to pull it off. Burnett is overseeing the revamping of her syndicated talk show, but the plan to make it a live production, or even live-to-tape, has one higher-up in the company jittery over what will happen when the perfectionist host starts working in front of a live audience this fall.

A bigger concern is the still-unconsummated deal for a prime time reality show.

Stewart is reportedly balking at any concept that portrays her in a setting with “negative tension”—a quality that's almost a prerequisite for reality TV. One solution being discussed: having Stewart coordinate weddings for sparring spouses-to-be but remaining above the fray. Think Donald Trump on Burnett's The Apprentice. Only nicer. And with much better hair.

Cartoon Network Stays With Toonami

It seemed so clever at the time. Casting around for a way to brand a block of Japanese animation of the Dragonball Z variety a few years ago, Cartoon Network came up with a cute solution: combining “cartoon” and “tsunami” into “Toonami.”

The name was so appealing that the network now applies it to a broader slate of prime time action cartoons on Saturdays. But with the disaster in South Asia making “tsunami” a feature of American conversations for the bleakest possible reasons, the folks at Cartoon Network are understandably a little sensitive about questions regarding the name.

“It's a brand we've had out there for a long time,” says Cartoon Network General Manager Jim Samples. He understands that viewers might wonder about the name, he says, but the network isn't changing what he calls “obviously an unfortunate rhyme.”

Cartoon Network has taken other steps in response to the emergency. They yanked an episode of Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi, slated to air the week of the disaster, that featured the girl rockers surfing a tsunami. And the cable channel is prepping a campaign to tell kids what they can do, in addition to raising money, to support the survivors.

Viacom Vies For Help

Viacom knows it could use some Republican friends in Washington, and now the company has hired someone to find them. After a year that saw the media giant get in hot water with the FCC over a Super Bowl halftime show engineered by Viacom properties MTV and CBS, and with the White House over Dan Rather's bungled National Guard story about President Bush, Viacom seems intent on building bridges to the GOP.

The company's D.C. lobbying shop has hired well-connected Mehlman & Vogel as consultants. The move gives Viacom a pair of outside guns with strong ties to both the Bush administration and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). The firm is led by Bruce Mehlman, who was the Commerce Department's assistant secretary for technology policy during Bush's first term and whose brother Ken ran the President's reelection campaign. Alex Vogel is Frist's former chief counsel.

Vogel says his firm doesn't have any other media clients at the moment and he looks forward to working with “a great company.” He'll be trying to polish Viacom's image in a town where people are given to saying things like, “Cable is a bit like pharmaceutical companies or Microsoft. Everybody loves the product but feels that the industry is a big and potentially dangerous player.” The speaker? Vogel's partner, Bruce Mehlman, in 2003.