For Fine Living, a fast-growing but small channel available in about 50 million homes, the endeavor comes with a built-in punch line that doubles as an insurance policy. The co-hosts of “Whatever, Martha!” are Ms. Stewart’s daughter, Alexis Stewart, and Jennifer Koppelman Hutt, who is the daughter of the chairman of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia , Charles Koppelman.
Martha Stewart is not widely known for her sense of humor. But she is in on this particular joke. In fact, she created it, dreaming up the premise after watching reruns of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” during a sleepless night. That series, produced from 1988 to 1999, delivered sarcastic commentary about old horror movies, and had blossomed into a cable cult hit.
“They promised not to be mean, and I had to trust them,” Ms. Stewart said in an interview. “I’m not going to have a heart attack.”
The same may not be true for her publicist, Sheila Feren, who is responsible for protecting Ms. Stewart’s public image. During the preparation of this article, Ms. Feren repeatedly said, “Oh, my God. Please tell me this is not happening.”
Alexis Stewart said in an interview that the sometimes harsh opinions — nothing is off limits, including her mother’s clothes, fastidiousness and habit of mixing sexual innuendo with her household hints — is simply the truth.
“She would say it herself,” she said. “Given a drink or two.”
That’s debatable, said Martha Stewart. “I take what I do very seriously, and I think there is a lesson to be learned in every segment. But contrary to popular opinion, I do have a sense of humor.”
The laughs flow easily because of carefully selected clips from the old syndicated show. “Knitting With Children” is the name of one segment. “Painting the Porch” is a favorite of Alexis Stewart’s: in it, her mother wears a “hideous” outfit. “Collecting Twine,” in the words of Ms. Koppelman Hutt, is “an absolute hoot.”
More is at stake with “Whatever, Martha!” than a bruised ego. Martha Stewart, above all a shrewd judge of her audience, hopes that allowing herself to be roasted will woo a new generation of younger fans: people interested in household advice but who might find her meticulousness comical.
“I think that 20-somethings and 30-somethings will watch this show and laugh along but still come away learning something,” Martha Stewart said.
And what if her core audience members don’t find it funny? “My die-hard fans might get upset,” Martha Stewart said. “If they do, then they just shouldn’t watch it.”
Reaching younger people has been a puzzle that Martha Stewart Living has had difficulty solving. In 2006, the company started Blueprint, a glossy magazine aimed at young women. The expensive venture failed within a year.
“The Martha Stewart Show,” the company’s current television series and its primary sales tool, shows on daytime television — not exactly a key time slot for younger viewers. (Reruns of the show do play on Fine Living during prime time.)