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The Apprenticeship of Martha Stewart?

Martha Stewart may be a guest of the government all winter long, but just because the Supreme Stickler is absent doesn’t mean standards are being allowed to slip at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. An amazed source at the company tells us that painters still dutifully make their weekly rounds, endlessly repainting the New York offices to keep MSLO looking pristine, in what seems like an eerie rehearsal for Stewart’s return to work.

Then again, it’s not as if the only thing Stewart does right now is by orders of a warden. She’s actively engaged in plotting her comeback, including planning her new television vehicles. Last week, we told you that development of a new series with reality-TV guru Mark Burnett hit rough waters when Stewart balked at concepts that put her in settings with “negative tension.” Ways were being explored to put her above the reality fray and play the benevolent overseer. “Think Donald Trump,” we said, “only nicer.”

If some folks inside NBC have their way, forget about the “nicer.” The buzz from Burbank is that NBC wants to launch two weekly editions of The Apprentice: one with Trump and another with the Diva of Domesticity. The network officially denies that’s the plan. But we’re dying to hear Stewart utter the negative-tension-reducing phrase, “You’re fired. And it’s a good thing.”

'Girls Gone Wired’

G4techTV is changing its name to G4 Video Game Television on Feb. 15, which helps explain its new show: Girls Gone Wired, which the network is touting as the first beauty contest involving two-dimensional video-game characters. Categories include “hottest video-game newcomer,” “character with the sexiest voice,” and “most likely to kick enemy ass.”

To promote the show, G4techTV gave critics attending its Jan. 11 TCA press tour event a Girls Gone Wired calendar, featuring scantily clad characters from video games. But some 50 TV critics—many of whom were a tad beyond G4’s teens’n’20s demographic—seemed confounded by the show’s premise.

“What’s the point?” one critic asked, after viewing clips of the show. Others questioned whether GGW encouraged young men to develop unrealistic expectations about the way women should look. The tone of the Q&A session surprised G4techTV CEO Charles Hirschhorn. “Attractive women,” Hirschhorn told B&C, “are the No. 1 TV attraction, so I didn’t really understand those questions.” A G4 flack points out that, for people who play video games, the characters “are just as real” as Cameron Diaz. “So let’s give them some time in the sun.” Or at least some time under the glowing eyes of slack-jawed American youth.

Washington Telecomedy

Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, the new Commerce Committee chairman, is starting the new Congress by getting under the skin of his counterpart in the House, Rep. Joe Barton of Texas.

Stevens is maddening Barton by starting off the session’s biggest legislation battle at a snail’s pace, also known as the power-consolidating, rival-frustrating bureaucratic pace. Barton is eager to start a massive rewrite of the country’s telecom laws, which include not only attempts to change media regulations but also comprehensive retooling of telephone rules. But unless the Senate is similarly motivated, his efforts will be mostly for show.

As of last week, Stevens hadn’t even named a telecom aide to oversee the legislation.

Why is Stevens moving so slowly? Fresh from the Appropriations Committee, where he kept tight control over pork-barrel spending, Stevens knows the advantages of clamping onto legislation and the political favors he can negotiate by making people guess his intentions. Ah, Washington.

Winging It

We called ESPN SportsCenteranchorTrey Wingo to find out how they’ll be handling the renamed Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim this baseball season: “Graphically, it may be the longest team name we’ve ever tried to produce on the screen. I’d go for initials: L.A.A.O.A. We’ll pronounce it like it’s spelled: 'Laaaaaoooooaaaaa.’”