US domestic diva and ex-con Martha Stewart needs to be nastier.

Her version of the television hit show The Apprentice debuted to less than sparkling viewer numbers, prompting broadcaster NBC to admit that ratings failed to live up to expectations.

The show pulled just 3.2 million viewers aged 18-49, the group advertisers pay a premium to reach, according to figures from Nielsen Media Research.

Reviewers said they had expected Stewart to be tough and steely, in the mould of real estate tycoon Donald Trump who made the show a ratings winner.

Instead, they complained, they were treated to "a gauzy tribute to her life's work, an evening wear version of the frilly fun loving Martha" from daytime TV.

Shares in the lifestyle guru's company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, fell after the show was aired, continuing the trend of the recent weeks.

The company's management had hoped the program would boost the company's explotation brands as well as Stewart's tarnished image. She was recently freed from five months' house arrest, following a similar jail term for lying to federal authorities about her share dealings.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff