Martha Stewart Opens the Books –On TV Program

Insider-trading allegations haven’t stopped the embattled Martha Stewart from jumping, gardening clogs first , into television’s widening post- Oprah book bonanza.

This fall, Ms. Stewart-who has denied any wrongdoing with regard to her decision to sell ImClone stock in December 2001-intends to launch “Martha’s Favorite Books,” a weekly author segment on her syndicated daytime show, Martha Stewart Living.

Ms. Stewart joins Today and Live with Regis and Kelly as programs that have pounced on the book beat after Ms. Winfrey’s surprise decision this spring to euthanize her hyper-popular “Oprah’s Book Club.”

Though Ms. Stewart has featured many authors on her program in the past, “Martha’s Favorite Books” represents the first time books have been a structured part of Martha Stewart Living , a spokesperson for the show said.

And whereas Ms. Stewart once focused on children’s, gardening and cooking books, her picks this fall will branch out into literary fiction and beyond.

“Martha has always been a supporter of authors throughout the nine seasons of Martha Stewart Living ,” the spokesperson said. “For the 10th season, we will incorporate a regular weekly segment, which will feature authors of a wide variety of books.”

And if you’re looking for the Martha-does-books segment to produce strange TV bedfellows-like when Ms. Stewart appeared at the MTV Video Music Awards alongside hip-hopper Busta Rhymes-Ms. Stewart’s first guest is none other than Jonathan Safran Foer, the quirky author of the acclaimed outré yarn Everything is Illuminated .

The bespectacled literary love-child taped a segment last week, confirmed Lori Glazer, a vice president at Mr. Foer’s publisher, Houghton Mifflin. Ms. Glazer said she was told the segment will run sometime in mid-September.

“It went great,” Ms. Glazer said. “Martha did a great interview about the book.”

And though some companies-like CBS News-have lately been steering clear of hangin’ with Martha, Ms. Glazer said that Ms. Stewart’s current travails were not a consideration before or after Mr. Foer taped his appearance on Martha Stewart Living.

“We thought we should do it,” Ms. Glazer said.

The Martha Stewart Living spokesperson said that, to date, there have not been any issues with regard to authors appearing on the show.

“It’s business as usual,” said the spokesperson. “There haven’t been any problems.”

Though Ms. Stewart’s book segment is not a club, similar segments on competing shows have proven to be extremely effective in moving books. “Oprah’s Book Club,” of course, resulted in scads of best-sellers; recently, Today’s first pick, The Emperor of Ocean Park , and Live with Regis and Kelly’s choice, If Looks Could Kill, both rocketed up the sales charts.

Besides Mr. Foer’s tome, the Martha Stewart Living spokesperson said that other titles coming up on “Martha’s Favorite Books” this fall include Oliver Sacks ( Oaxaca Journal ), Amy Goldman ( Melons for the Passionate Grower) and Linda Greenlaw ( The Lobster Chronicles ).

O.K., so melons and lobsters-we’re not getting sooooo carried away here. Today on Martha Stewart Living , Ms. Stewart announces she’s in the mood for “a little duck confit and a little Tess of the D’Urbervilles .” [WCBS, 2, 9 a.m.]

Thursday, July 18

More Martha, Martha, Martha! Even as she preps her book party, television’s knife-wielding mistress of controversy remains on a bed of ice at the CBS Early Show , where they’re waiting to see how the ImClone fuss settles before allowing Ms. Stewart back in the kitchen after her thoroughly surreal June 25 appearance.

“We’re monitoring the story and watching the news developments-as she is, of course,” said CBS Early Show executive producer Michael Bass.

Mr. Bass said that Ms. Stewart’s post–June 25 hiatus was agreed upon by both CBS people and Ms. Stewart herself. “It’s a wait-and-see approach to see what is happening,” he said.

Ms. Stewart’s troubles did have a silver lining for the Early Show. Her uncomfortable kitchen interview on the June 25 E-Show -where she deflected host Jane Clayson’s pesky questions about ImClone between tense chops at a cabbage, telling Ms. Clayson, “I want to focus on my salad”-brought barrels of attention to the morning program, which is still searching for a replacement for Bryant Gumbel.

“I have to say, I thought Jane did a terrific job in a difficult situation,” Mr. Bass said. “Difficult for a lot of reasons-the setting that it was in, and also because of our relationship with Martha. Martha has been partners with CBS for a long time, and because she is part of our team, that created an awkward situation.”

In other morning-show news, CNN just hired Wil Surratt to spruce up Paula Zahn’s American Morning . We know we’re not supposed to use the S-word- sexy -as it applies to CNN, but Mr. Surratt, of course, is the man behind WPIX’s, um, rather S-word a.m. newscast, the WB11 “Hello, Sail- or !” Morning News.

This morning on the Early Show , Ira Joe Fisher eschews the S-word and focuses on his salad. [WCBS, 2, 7 a.m.]

Friday, July 19

Man, those pranksters at the Fox News Channel can’t get enough of themselves-and a lot of times, their competition-baiting antics are funny-but the other day, one of their smart-assed taunts pretty much backfired.

Last week, the morning gang at FNC’s Fox and Friends -Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade and E.D. Hill-were filming live outside their Sixth Avenue cave, talking about MSNBC’s Phil Donahue, when a pesky kid poked his face into view.

After asking the kid if he knew who Phil Donahue was-and, God bless him, he didn’t-Mr. Doocy challenged the tyke:

“For $100,” Mr. Doocy said, “name one person who works on MSNBC.”

The kid thought for a moment.

“Oh … ah,” the boy wonder said. “That Abrams guy.” As in Dan Abrams, MSNBC’s stern-faced legal eagle.

“I was shocked,” Mr. Kilmeade said the other day, recalling the kid’s answer.

Mr. Abrams, naturally, had a little fun with the Fox foible, playing the clip on his MSNBC show and offering to help his young fan collect the C-note (Mr. Doocy, who was on vacation this week, didn’t pay up on the air, claiming the young ‘un had run out of time.)

“In effect, I was offering him pro bono counsel on the air,” Mr. Abrams told NYTV.

But Mr. Kilmeade thinks his colleague should just pay up. “I think it should come out of Doocy’s pocket,” he said.

And though Fox and Friends is currently the No. 1 morning show on cable news, Mr. Kilmeade had no illusions about his or his colleagues’ notoriety.

“I have trouble getting into the building every day,” he said.

Mr. Kilmeade wasn’t joking: He said that after he goes upstairs to his desk during a break, security personnel ask him to show ID before they allow him to return to the studio.

“I have no illusions that I am some internationally famous talk-show host,” Mr. Kilmeade said. “Even though the show is doing well.”

What was that? We were focusing on our salad. Today on Fox and Friends , Mr. Kilmeade offers $100 to anyone who can tell him “which one is Holmes.” [FNC, 46, 7 a.m.]

Saturday, July 20

Every time we think the news business has gone stern and serious post–Sept. 11, there comes along an deliciously goofy-ass story like that walking, talking (wait-did it talk ?), toothy Asian fish, and the media can’t keep their little mitts off of it.

Granted, there was admittedly a mild environmental/ichthyology angle to the Great Maryland–Chinese northern snakehead fish caper, but some of the coverage skidded off into Roger Corman land (what was with that loony Daily News THE FISH FROM HELL front page?). It started to feel like Shark Attack Summer 2001 all over again.

For the cable-news folks, it was just a fun story, nothing more or less. “We are not so heads-under-our-desks that when something comes along like that,” said Fox News programming vice president Kevin Magee, “we just find it a little bit irresistible.

“It just think it’s a fascinating story,” Mr. Magee continued, “but I don’t think it has-pardon the expression-legs.”

Wa-waaaa. MSNBC vice president and editor in chief Jerry Nachman, meanwhile, cracked that his network was “putting the killer fish story on heavy rotation.”

“But we have ichthyological questions we want answered,” Mr. Nachman said. “Since the origin of the so-called killer fish is China, why haven’t these monsters in their natural habitat eliminated all Sino-nautical wildlife, such as crispy sea bass, shrimp and lobster sauce of lobster Cantonese?

“We will cover the story,” Mr. Nachman added, “but try not to go overboard.”

This thing is turning into open-mike night at Stand Up New York! What’s CNN’s take?

“As the world’s news leader,” a CNN spokesperson said, “we’re always angling for the best stories, but this one doesn’t have legs.”

Ay yi yi. Today on CNN, Howard Kurtz wonders if there’s something “fishy” about the snakehead coverage. Reliable Sources . [CNN, 10, 6:30 p.m.]

Sunday, July 21

Sex and the City ‘s latest season premieres on HBO this evening, preggers Ms. Parker and all.

Among the guest stars on this season’s Sex is Amy Sedaris, whom, in an inspired bit of double-casting that will warm the hearts of every gamy Amis-reading, Elvis-Costello-concert-attending, Mr. Show –taping single hetero white guy in New York City, will star alongside ex- SNL muse Molly Shannon as Ms. Parker’s two-headed book publicity team.

Ms. Sedaris said that Ms. Parker is, you know, showin’ , but the SATC gang is “hiding it pretty well.”

“You know, they are putting a plant in front of her, or a book or something, to try and cover her stomach,” Ms. Sedaris said. “But she is definitely showing. So cute!”

In other Amy Sedaris news, Ms. Sedaris was intrigued to learn that the Museum of Television and Radio was running the pilot of her cultishly popular Comedy Central series Strangers with Candy July 31 for its 12:45 p.m. lunchtime screening series. The unaired pilot , that is.

” Ewww, ” Ms. Sedaris said. “I look like Mike Dukakis in that.”

But Ms. Sedaris, who knows her way around a baking tin, really lost it when she was told that all attendees of the M.T.R. series get a coupon for a free cookie (with sandwich and beverage purchase!) at Au Bon Pain.

“Oh my God!” she said. “They should give you a coupon for a cupcake and have me make them-I make them on the side! I got to call them. This is ridiculous !” [WNYW, 5, 9 p.m.; HBO, 32, 9 p.m.]

Monday, July 22

Tonight, NBC debuts something called Meet My Folks , a reality dating show in which polygraph-strapped prospective suitors get the third-degree from Pops. NYTV likes Meet My Folks immediately, because it’s the title his pretends-to-be-out-of-the-culture-stream boss uses to refer to the Ben Stiller movie Meet the Parents , when his Variety- reading brain knows perfectly damn well it’s called Meet the Parents .

But the real fun is that Meet My Folks producer Scott Satin-who’s working on this project with ex– When Good Pets Go Bad 2 producer Bruce Nash-used to run a show called Extreme Gong , which NYTV could have used two items ago, amid all those killer fish jokes.

“You could actually gong people from your living room!” Mr. Satin said of Extreme Gong , which had an uninspiring run on the Game Show Network.

Tonight, see if you can resist pulling the drumstick on NBC entertainment chief Jeff Zucker’s latest fit of whimsy. [WNBC, 4, 8 p.m.]

Tuesday, July 23

The Best Show You’re Not Watching:

“Where are we? Where are we in America? This is a damn joke. Other than that, I’m feeling fine. If somebody in the audience has a cough drop, I’d appreciate it. My throat is sore. I’m having some rectal disorders, as a matter of fact, as a result of this. My stomach is upset. And I am hard to live with.”

-disgraced Ohio Democrat, and fine dresser, James Traficant, testifying before the House Ethics Committee, Monday, July 15, on C-Span.

Today on C-Span, Mr. Traficant asks for a pardon, “some of that Anusol stuff,” and finally, focuses on his salad. [C-Span, 64, all day.]