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‘Apprentice’ to Martha: You’re hired

Domestic diva to lead new version of reality hit

NBC has a second edition of “The Apprentice” in the oven, tapping domestic diva Martha Stewart to front the new version.

Stewart’s participation in the Mark Burnett reality skein had been rumored for months. But rather than replace current “Apprentice” leader Donald Trump, the new “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart” may run concurrently with the original edition.

Trump and Burnett, who exec produce “The Apprentice,” are on board to exec produce the new edition as well. Work on the show will begin soon after Stewart is released from prison next month.

Stewart, Burnett and NBC Universal are already teamed on a new hourlong weekday syndie strip that’s been cleared in 70% of the country (including NBC-owned outlets) so far and launches this September.

Once her prison sentence ends, Stewart will be under house arrest for five months. In a conference call, producers said the house arrest won’t prevent Stewart from participating in her “Apprentice” edition.

“Legally, under house arrest Martha is entitled to make a living,” Burnett said. “She’s entitled to work over 40 hours a week. While on house arrest there’s no problem whatsoever with Martha working.”

She’s scheduled to start shooting the daily talkshow after the house arrest expires. The strip and the primetime series will be shot simultaneously and will be used to promote one another.

“It makes perfect sense being able to utilize the strip syndicated show to aid in our promotion, through ‘Apprentice’ (candidates) who have been fired that week,” Burnett said.

“The Apprentice: Martha Stewart” will be produced in a manner similar to the Trump edition but will focus on the domestic diva’s trademark areas, such as entertaining, design and style. Winner will be handed a job at Martha Stewart Omnimedia, although the exact position hasn’t been determined.

“While both Donald and Martha are incredible business icons, they’re in very different businesses,” Burnett said. “Each version of ‘The Apprentice’ will have a very different look and feel while operating in the same format.”

Trump said he and Burnett began considering an expansion of the “Apprentice” franchise while Stewart was still battling her legal problems.

“She’s a very brave woman,” Trump said. “Very few people could have withstood what she withstood.”

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