Martha Stewart built an empire on the notion of propriety, of putting the right things in the right place at the right time, of making sure that everything is just so. With her emphasis on doing “good things,” she’s become a sort of modern-day Confucius, encouraging us all to observe traditional rituals and relationships in order to ensure a harmonious, tastefully-decorated world. Which kind of begs the question: why would she hire any of the obnoxious, backbiting louts who are competing for a job with her on The Apprentice: Martha Stewart?

The Formula:
The Apprentice: Martha Stewart = The Apprentice + Martha

Like every competitive reality show, the cast of Martha’s Apprentice is chosen to provide the standard mix of characters and conflict: the Pushy Loudmouth picks on the Hard-Nosed Professional, and sparks fly, or perhaps the Designated Villain tries to make friends with the Quiet Wallflower, only to betray her later. It’s got the same basic problem as every other reality show, as well: if it were a half hour long, it would be a fun time, but to stretch it into an hour, the producers are forced to drag the action out, making it more an irritating bore than a guilty pleasure.

There’s some schadenfreudey enjoyment in seeing this dysfunctional band of jerks get called on the carpet by Martha in the conference room; she’s got about as little patience for their whining and fighting as the audience does, and being in the position of absolute power that she is, she feels no need to mince words with the contestants. But it’s disappointing to see this pack of would-be alpha dogs so clearly miss the lessons that Martha has taught us over the years: it’s not just about shrewd business decisions and choosing the right tablecloth, it’s about showing the right face to the world and projecting an aura of warm sincerity — no matter how you actually feel or what you actually do.