Shawconnect TV critic Brent Furdyk samples the upcoming pilots for a first look at the new fall TV season
Starring: Janet Montgomery, Kyle MacLachlan, Felix Solis, Stephanie March, Toni Trucks, Donna Murphy, Erin Cummings, Kristoffer Polaha
The gist: Montgomery (late of Human Target and Entourage) stars as Martina Garretti, a plucky young lawyer from the wrong side of the Hudson River who has just started working at prestigious NYC law firm Stark & Rowan. With her Jersey Shore pouf and Carmela Soprano accent, Martina doesn’t exactly fit in with the rest of the firm’s Ivy League attorneys, but her street-smart moxie catches the eye of head honcho Donovan Stark (Twin Peaks’ MacLachlan), who includes her in his legal team to defend a college student accused of murdering her professor.
While looking for clues that will prove the girl’s innocence, Martina bonds with her sassy legal assistant (Trucks) and the firm’s private investigator, hard-boiled ex-cop River Brody (Solis). Naturally, she uncovers a key witness who sets her on the path to finding the evidence she needs to win her case.
Meanwhile back in Jersey, Martina is the pride of her Italian-American family, which includes her pushy sister (Cummings) and doting mom (Murphy), and she’s determined to never forget where she came from as she climbs Manhattan’s legal ladder.
It’s like… Perry Mason meets Snooki & JWoww
Sample line: “If Miss Moore had used a pair of pliers in a messy murder, she would have chipped a nail — my sister’s a manicurist.”
IMHO: Think Melanie Griffith’s Working Girl recast as a TV legal drama and you pretty much have the premise. On the plus side, Montgomery exudes charm, and it’s impossible not to find yourself rooting for Martina’s scrappy underdog shtick. Take Montgomery out of the picture, though, and what remains is so generic it could have been called That Lawyer Show.
Like most TV lawyers, Martina spends less time in her office writing briefs and looking in law books for legal precedents than she does questioning bartenders and interrogating suspects — she’s both sides of Law & Order rolled into one. Martina sleuths for the evidence that will solve the crime so she can present it dramatically in court, exonerating her client and proving the guilt of the real criminal, and she manages to do it within 44 minutes (not counting commercials).
Fun Fact: Despite the thick Joisey accent, Montgomery is actually British, and studied Mira Sorvino and Working Girl while trying to perfect her Garden State dialect.
Verdict: At its core, Made in Jersey is a mediocre, by-the-book lawyer show. The only thing that distinguishes the series is the Jersey-girl gimmick, which was already starting to wear thin halfway through the pilot. There is absolutely nothing here that we haven’t seen before. Rated ‘M’ for “meh.”
Prediction: As a Friday-night time-filler, Made in Jersey might actually wind up becoming a solid performer with CBS’s crime-loving audience on what is otherwise a little-watched night of television. More importantly, it will probably serve as a launching pad for Montgomery to go onto better, more-interesting roles.
MADE IN JERSEY premieres Friday, September 28 on CBS