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CBS slots Martha Stewart prison movie
Network schedules fall airing of 'Martha: Behind Bars' to coincide with Stewart overload this fall.
June 16, 2005: 12:22 PM EDT
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Martha's Odyssey

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - CBS announced Thursday that its on-again, off-again Martha Stewart movie is back on -- and timed to take advantage of a heavy dose of Martha planned for the fall.

CBS originally planned to air the unauthorized, made-for-television movie about Stewart's rise-and-fall during last month's crucial end-of-season ratings period.

But the network pulled "Martha: Behind Bars" in April, a month after Stewart was released from a minimum-security prison for women in West Virginia.

Stewart, 63, served five months at the Alderson prison camp following her conviction in March 2004 on criminal charges related to a personal stock sale. The founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (Research) is now confined to her Bedford, N.Y., home and until she completes her sentence in early August.

At the time that CBS yanked the Stewart film, industry observers speculated that executives at the Viacom (Research) unit decided against rushing out the Cybill Shepherd-starring movie and opted instead to wait until the fall, when Stewart is expected to become once again a center of media attention.

Stewart is scheduled to star in two new television shows starting in September. She will host a daily talk show on NBC starting Sept. 12 and will appear later in a prime time spinoff of "The Apprentice" reality program.

The two television shows are the centerpiece of an orchestrated campaign to resurrect Stewart's tarnished image and to restore Martha Stewart Living to profitability.

Ed Martin, an industry analyst and programming editor of MediaVillage.com, said that CBS made a smart strategic move. "It's really going to be total Martha Stewart saturation come this fall," Martin said earlier this spring.

In addition to a television campaign, Stewart is expected to appear on magazine covers and will host segments of an around-the-clock radio channel that Martha Stewart Living will produce for Sirius Satellite Radio (Research) later in the year.

"Martha: Behind Bars" is the second unauthorized drama about Stewart.

Shepherd, who also played the lifestyle celebrity in the first movie, will portray Stewart from the day her company went public in October 1999 to her release from prison in March.

"Prison proves to be a life-altering experience for Stewart, and when she is released, the nation embraces a new Martha ready to put the past behind her and start a fresh chapter in her intriguing, remarkable life," stated CBS in a press release announcing its coming slate of made-for-TV movies and miniseries.

Also on deck at CBS: A four-hour profile of Pope John Paul II, who died in April.

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