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'BEHIND BARS' IS A NOT-SO-GOOD THING.

Byline: David Kronke Television Critic

NBC AIRED the snark-fest teleflick ``Martha, Inc.,'' which concluded with the beginning of notorious domestic diva Martha Stewart's legal problems. Now, however, NBC is deeply into the ``Martha business'' - Stewart's daytime talk show is seen mainly on its affiliates, and she's hosting the network's ``Apprentice'' spinoff.

Odd that Stewart would ally herself with a network that took such gratuitous potshots at her - but, hey, business is business.

Now, CBS has boldly assumed the duties of sticking it to Stewart, with ``Martha Behind Bars,'' essaying her brief incarceration for obstruction of justice. Stewart (Cybill Shepherd, who also starred in the earlier movie) was convicted for lying to the Securities and Exchange Commission about her role in insider trading involving a stock, ImClone, which she dumped after receiving an early tip that its price would soon plummet.

Stewart's sin was far less brazen than those of other corporate crooks who actually destroyed people's lives - say, Enron's brain trust - and the fury of her saga's coverage, not to mention her subsequent TV comeback, speaks volumes about the cult of personality in America. But the filmmakers have no interest in exploring anything interesting or provocative.

Instead, there's a lot of boring courtroom folderol. And though the film's title hints at a campy frolic turning the prison-chick genre on its head, Stewart's worst indignity comes when fellow inmates taunt her for being punished by being forced to rake leaves. The only remotely curious moment comes when Stewart compares herself to South African hero/martyr Nelson Mandela.

Shepherd's Stewart is far less of a harridan than she was in NBC's film; she's denatured here to the point of tedium. The filmmakers, fearful of offending Martha's cult of fans - are they or Stewart's detractors the target audience? - lack the courage to offer anything resembling perspective to their work.

It's a mediocre thing.

David Kronke, (818) 713-3638

david.kronke(at)dailynews.com

MARTHA BEHIND BARS - One and one half stars

What: Docudrama about the domestic diva's recent legal woes, starring Cybill Shepherd.

Where: CBS (Channel 2).

When: 9 tonight.

In a nutshell: It's a mediocre thing.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Cybill Shepherd plays the domestic diva serving her prison sentence for obstruction of justice in ``Martha Behind Bars.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 25, 2005
Words:375
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