And the viewers weigh in: Martha Stewart's version of "The Apprentice" is having a hard time getting started -- despite weeks of media hype over her silly catchphrase, the show's debut got just over 7 million viewers. How bad is that? "I Want to Be a Hilton," featuring Paris' mom, got 6.8 million viewers for its debut in June, and it didn't feature a recently incarcerated celebrity or built-in franchise. It seems unlikely that NBC will drop the show, though obviously if ratings don't improve, a second season is out of the question. Thankfully, Stewart has her company to fall back on if being a reality-show host doesn't work out. Her magazine, "Martha Stewart Living," announced it will carry 48 percent more ads in the third quarter than it did a year ago, thanks mainly to Martha's return from jail. The company's stock has improved 93 percent in the past 12 months, though it slipped $1.81, to $27.05 a share, yesterday -- possibly because "The Apprentice" was so boring? (Washington Post, N.Y. Daily News)
Faith-based marketing? In a new twist in the culture wars, Hollywood has begun specialized marketing against one of its staunchest traditional foes: the Christian Church. Churches are increasingly becoming the sites of sneak previews for upcoming movies with even the most tenuous connection to Christian values -- for instance, "The Greatest Game Ever Played," about the 1913 U.S. Open. The head of publicity for Disney says the movie is "about family, about not giving up on your dreams, courage," secular values that "could potentially be Christian virtues." Ever since the success of "The Passion of the Christ," studios have been trying to figure how best to tap into the Christian market. Fox even launched a special Web site devoted to marketing family-friendly films to religious audiences. It's difficult to say exactly how big the demographic is, but one analyst says Hollywood would only go to these lengths if it expected it could get an additional $25 million to $50 million at the box office for its efforts. (Associated Press)
Will she start living out "Fearless"? Among the passengers aboard the JetBlue airplane that made a dramatic emergency landing on Wednesday in Los Angeles was "Hustle & Flow" star Taryn Manning, who said, "Yesterday was a life-changing day." On her way to New York with her publicist, Manning said she played out the worst-case scenario (no explanation as to why she was on the budget airline). "You never think it is going to happen to you," she said. "I wrote little notes to my boyfriend and to my mom and brother ... I was not wanting to be writing what I was writing. Everybody was putting their IDs on them. It was scary." (E! Online)
In a P.R. move that comes about a week too late, Kate Moss has made an apology for getting caught snorting cocaine. In typically vague public-apology language, her statement says, "I take full responsibility for my actions. I also accept that there are various personal issues that I need to address and have started taking the difficult, yet necessary, steps to resolve them." While her career has been decimated this week as H&M, Chanel and Burberry dropped her from their ads, it may be too soon to write her off. As one expert notes, "British survivors of rock 'n' roll living have an uncanny knack of becoming national treasures" He may have a bestselling album out in the U.S., but Kanye West got no VIP treatment when he tried to go out after a recent performance in London. He was turned away at the door of a West End club when the bouncers said they didn't recognize him. "Kanye held his head down in shame and looked so embarrassed," says a witness. "His people said they were happy to pay to get in but the adamant door staff then added it was too late. Kanye was gracious but he was fuming. His big night had been ruined" Steven Soderbergh thinks the studio system is behind the times and is putting his money where his mouth is with his newest film, "Bubble." Calling the current distribution system "out of whack," the low-fi movie, shot for $1.6 million, will simultaneously open in theaters, be available on DVD and air on a high-definition cable channel. "I want them to sell 'Bubble' DVDs in the theater lobby," Soderbergh says The merger of music giants Sony and Bertelsmann (BMG) is being challenged in court in Europe. The European Union approved the deal in July, but now an independent music association has brought a case to the E.U. court charging that the consolidation will ultimately be bad for consumers. The merger created the world's second-largest record label after Universal Music -- meaning 80 percent of the world's music is now owned by four record companies It was just a few weeks ago that the Dutch version of "Big Brother" announced it was going to broadcast a live birth on the show. (Authorities have since prevented it.) Now, for a show called "Shoot Up and Swallow," which looks at drug use and sex, a TV presenter plans to take heroin and LSD and conduct in-the-field experiments with sex. "It's not our intention to create an outcry. We just want to talk about subjects that are part of young people's lives," a spokesperson for the show said.
Christopher Lawford Kennedy, in his new memoir, "Symptoms of Withdrawal," on his family's addictions: "I was given a good dose of alcoholism and the massive dysfunction that exists in a family dynamic where alcoholism doesn't just run, it gallops ... I've heard it said that God invented alcohol to keep the Irish from ruling the world. My family almost proved Him wrong." (Page Six)
It's a new season for Jennifer Love Hewitt in the supernatural drama "Ghost Whisperer" (CBS, 8 p.m. EDT), while Alicia Keys kicks off a new "Unplugged" on MTV (10 p.m. EDT). Two big season premieres on Sunday night: "Desperate Housewives" (ABC, 9 p.m. EDT) and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (HBO, 10 p.m. EDT), plus the CBS special movie starring Cybill Shepherd, "Martha: Behind Bars" (9 p.m. EDT).
-- Scott Lamb