One of the most popular television shows in post-Saddam Iraq is a TLC-style home make-over program for residents whose houses have been destroyed. A sexy host named Shaima Zubar (whose heavily applied make-up indicates that she is refreshingly indifferent to Islamic restraints) surprises her guests by showing up at their door and completely redecorating and refurnishing their otherwise wrecked properties.
Given the poor reviews of Martha Stewart’s new talk show--criticising her for, among other things, a lack of empathy with her guests--it occurred to me that there might be a better reality show opportunity for her in post-Katrina New Orleans.
Alas it’s too late for Martha to oversee the evacuation—undoubtedly she would have done a superior job to the local officials: Orderly numbered buses, painted in restful shades of gray, would have been lined up in advance of the hurricane to transport residents to cozily decorated and well-stocked stadiums. Pets would have been groomed, fed, and left in suitable temporary care. She might have devoted an entire episode to waterproofing one’s home.
But there’s still a chance for the sequel: Why not send Martha in to oversee the clean-up?
EPISODE ONE: Martha tours New Orleans by boat, pausing to demonstrate ways in which a simple mixture of vinegar, baking soda and water removes stains and odor from many different types of surfaces. She examines several waterlogged buildings, and with special guest Bob Vila, discusses techniques to restore the historic facades. And she reveals, amazingly, that you can rebuild a levee using paper mache.
EPISODE TWO: The New-Age concept of “sheltering” take on a whole new meaning when you’re actually living in a shelter. Martha uses techniques she learned in prison to improve the crowded-cot lifestyle. First she demonstrates how to hand-crochet blankets and throw pillows from ordinary box twine. And to pass the time, shelter residents--instead of shooting and raping each other—may divert their pent-up energies to competing in one of Martha’s many contests, such as vying for Best Embroidered Emergency Kit or helping to organize the children in traditional hoop-and- stick games across the large swatches of Astroturf.
EPISODE THREE: Just because you’re cooking for thousands doesn’t mean you have to compromise on flavor or the quality of ingredients. Martha creates several menus that are nutritious and pay tribute to regional cuisine: Bourbon Street Jambalaya with Cajun Pecan Rice and Pan-Simmered Collard Greens; Buttermilk-Battered Chicken Tenders with Creamy Grits and Chili-Dusted Zucchini; and for breakfast, Traditional Hotcakes with Spicy Merguez Sausages and Three-Pepper Homefries.
EPISODE FOUR: Alternative artists have long been using “found” objects to create sculptures and other works of art. Martha adopts these methods to more traditional craft-making activities: stringing together “found” water bottles, for example, which can then be spraypainted or appliquéd. Martha uses these “floating wreaths” to decorate still-flooded houses. Similarly, old cans can be converted into attractive candle-holders for homes without electricity. Martha shows how to punch patterns with nails into the surface of any soup or coffee can. Add an emergency candle and viola! Soft, romantic lighting for any room in the house.
EPISODE FIVE: The season’s climactic episode, in which Martha takes several shelter families to live with her at her rural estate in Bedford, New York. Hilarity ensues as these former street-savvy Southerners adjust to farm-living, Martha-style (“Remember not to let the black horses out during the day as it reddens their hair. They may only leave the barn at dusk.”). Mark Burnett spins off the episode in a new series, "The Unreal Life."