Martha Stewart movie no blue-light special

Monday, May 19, 2003

Is Martha Stewart a witch, a crook or a business genius? Based on a best-selling business profile by Christopher Byron, the TV movie "Martha Inc.: The Story of Martha Stewart" (8 p.m., NBC) has the ripped-from-the-tabloids feel of a hatchet job. But the film ultimately lacks the nerve to turn "Martha" into an over-the-top howler. Sure, we get to see Martha (Cybill Shepherd) scream at her employees, throw pots at her friends and use her husband, Andy (Tim Matheson), and family as props, but even these Joan Crawford moments seem half-baked.

The makers of "Martha" really want to tell the story of a young, ambitious Nutley, N.J., gal who created herself as a business icon long before business majors turned the word "branding" into a cliche. But Martha the caterer-author-magazine publisher-TV personality-Kmart spokeswoman-daughter-wife-mother-Wall Street wizard has too many facets and chapters to cram into this two-hour film. So instead, "Martha" unfolds as a series of frosty vignettes that never fully explore the complexity and contradictions of its subject. Viewers in search of an in-depth character study will be disappointed. But so will those looking for a dishy dose of "Martha Dearest." This "Martha" is not a good thing.

As everybody knows, Robert is getting married on tonight's expanded 45-minute seventh-season finale of "Everybody Loves Raymond" (8 p.m., CBS). Anyone who has ever visited the "Jump the Shark" Web site ( knows that this is a potentially lethal turn for any sitcom. If you don't believe me, just ask yourself how many times you've watched "Frasier" since Niles and Daphne tied the knot.

In other finales: Nikki tries to save the professor from a gold-digger on "The Parkers" (7 p.m., UPN) ... Eric has to deceive Chandler's father, and Simon takes Christine (Tara Lipinski) to the prom on "7th Heaven" (7 p.m., WB) ... Jimmy flashes back to the 1980s on "Yes, Dear" (7:30 p.m., CBS) ... Flex's engagement plans are foiled by a previous commitment on "One on One" (7:30 p.m. UPN) ... "Girlfriends" (8 p.m., UPN) wraps up its second season with Toni taking some nervous steps down the aisle ... A man Horatio put behind bars escapes in a spectacular jailbreak on the first-season finale of "CSI: Miami" (9 p.m., CBS).

Tonight's other highlights