BEDFORD, N.Y. — Martha Stewart is inviting everybody over. The 67-year-old lifestyles guru (whose 153-acre Cantitoe Corners has become a topic of high interest and curiosity among her fans) is welcoming them, and the rest of the world, for an unprecedented visit on Monday's "The Martha Stewart Show" (syndicated; check local time and station).
"So many people ask me, `What's the farm like? What do you grow? What animals do you have?'" she explained to a reporter. "I decided it would be fun to kick off the fourth season at the farm _ fun for the crew, too."
Any other weekday, "Martha Stewart" would be originating from Manhattan, often live, in front of a studio audience. But this taped premiere called for mobilizing a staff and crew of 100 (and enough equipment to shoot a feature film) at Stewart's estate, a spread she bought eight years ago in tony, leafy Bedford, about 30 miles north of the city.
Stewart also convened an audience of some 50 friends, neighbors and members of a local garden club. Shortly after 9 a.m. Thursday, they were in place in matching wicker chairs, which were painted in what's known as Traditional Martha Green and arranged in front of the immaculate, stone-and-slate-roofed stable. With the stable as backdrop, her three guest chefs would be preparing lunch for the crowd during the episode's cooking segments.
The job of making sure "Martha Stewart" stays true to the signature style of Martha Stewart _ that's art director Anduin Havens' responsibility. (It could hardly have been by chance that those wicker chairs matched the green-striped shirt Stewart wore.)
But Havens said the on-location show had been less demanding for her than the typical in-studio episode.
"This property is gorgeous," she declared. "The best thing I can do is not cover it up."
"It's nice to get out of the studio," said executive producer Bernie Young as he watched Stewart grill molasses-and-chile-glazed pork with chef Chris Schlesinger.
Everything was going smoothly. On the other hand, the day was young. The variables of this shoot _ people and food out in nature _ meant something could still go awry and rattle Young.
Young, whose first career was as an NYPD detective, shook his head.
"Calm is better," he said with a smile.
Around noon, the program's concluding segment was taped: lunch for all the guests served at a long, beautifully arranged table on a grassy lane.
The out-of-sequence shooting schedule listed more segments, including a gardening scene, for the afternoon.
But before then, Stewart headed back to her house, beyond a manicured pasture and the paddock with several miniature donkeys, to chat with a reporter.
Her French bulldogs, Francesca and Sharkey, rested at her feet as she sized up the first three seasons of "Martha Stewart."
"We started off the show with a lot of celebrity guests, and we still have celebrities," she said. "But we also have incorporated more of our artisans, craftspeople, gardening experts. Viewers really want to learn. Everybody wants to learn something!"
As the economy sours and the buying power of many viewers is threatened, Stewart noted, "You can do many of our recipes or projects on a budget. We're very conscious of that, and always have been."
But there was more to "The Martha Stewart Show" when it began in fall 2005. Besides moving her past the five-month jail term for lying about a stock sale, the show was aimed at redefining its host as more than the starchy perfectionist she seemed to be on her first TV series, "Martha Stewart Living."
It worked. From the start on "Martha Stewart," she came across as friendly and funny _ the person her acquaintances had always said she was.
Now she certifies her playful quality in a new series co-hosted by her daughter, Alexis, and Jennifer Koppelman Hutt.
On "Whatever, Martha!" those sassy chums screen clips from "Martha Stewart Living" and lodge wisecracks about what Stewart says, does and wears. Airing weekly, it premieres 9 p.m. EDT Tuesday on the Fine Living Network.
Tellingly, the series was created by its target. Stewart was inspired by the 1990s cult classic "Mystery Science Theater 3000," where cheesy movies were subjected to ridicule.
Recalling certain moments in "Whatever, Martha!" sent Stewart into a gale of laughter.
"I take myself very seriously, but I also have a sense of humor," she said, adding that each segment in its original form will be available online: "If you really WANT to make that Barbie Doll Cake, you can watch how to do it uninterrupted."
Befitting a communications magnate who named her company Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Stewart is a gung-ho participant in the digital age.
"I'm an early adopter," she said. "I got my first IBM computer in 1982!"
She raved about her Kindle, Amazon's newfangled "wireless reading device."
She is a devoted blogger, documenting her day-to-day whirl in words and photos.
But even as talks up the importance of learning new things and evolving, she draws the line at certain new developments.
"I don't text," she said, her disapproval obvious. "'R U here.' Six letters!"
Cutting corners isn't Martha Stewart's style.
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