Made in Jersey

6:00 AM PST 09/25/2012 by Tim Goodman

Cliche-ridden and predictable, this CBS drama about a lawyer from the Garden State is as simplistic as it sounds.

Some shows come out flat and lifeless no matter what the actors bring to their characters. Often this is reflective of a premise that just doesn't have a lot of meat. That seems to be the problem with CBS' tepid new drama Made in Jersey, though there probably are a lot more underlying reasons.

But let's get back to that premise: Jersey-girl lawyer lacks Ivy League credentials but totally puts it in their stuck-up faces as she makes it against all odds at a tony Manhattan law firm.

Yep, that's about it.

Even the tagline is: "Every underdog has her day."

Oh, sure, she's got a huge family in Jersey. And they are very Jersey -- at least the TV version of what Jersey is supposed to be. Her family might be boisterous and a little unpolished, but they are there to remind her that whatever struggles she has playing with the rich kids, there's plenty of love and hugs back home. Also, if she ever gets uppity, they can ground her in a hurry.

If that sounds like something you could watch play out every week -- likely in repetitive fashion, even though the cases will change -- then Made in Jersey has your name written all over it.

But it sounds suspiciously one-note, and the pilot doesn't do anything to convince one otherwise.

The series stars British actress Janet Montgomery as Martina Garretti, the Jersey girl. She works for firm founder Donovan Stark (Kyle MacLachlan). Various and sundry hoity-toity lawyers conspire against her at the firm, but luckily she's in good with people she can relate to, like cop-turned-company investigator River Brody (Felix Solis).

Created by Dana Calvo (who was a story editor on Journeyman and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and a producer on Franklin & Bash and Covert Affairs), Made in Jersey will look to play the underdog card as heavily as the family card (Garretti is from a big Italian family in Clifton). You will always know she's tough (she worked in Trenton), but she will always battle the stigma of not coming from a rich family or even a New York family. It's the chip on her shoulder to which we're supposed to relate.

Except that Made in Jersey doesn't really tap into much emotion in the pilot. The snobs at the law firm are paper-cutout characters, her family doesn't seem dysfunctional enough to mine stories from (that could change, of course), and Garretti seems too removed to truly gain viewers' sympathy (after all, she's beautiful and a lawyer -- it's not like being from Jersey is such a crippling problem).

Most of the chatter about Made in Jersey probably will be about how accurate Montgomery's accent is (she's an excellent actress, regardless) and how many Jersey stereotypes will be mined for drama (Calvo is from New Jersey, and has said she wants to foil the stereotypes so prevalent on television -- but the pilot doesn't seem to put that desire into action).

The predictability is out in force on this series, and despite CBS' ability to make a hit out of pretty much anything it films, this one doesn't really stand up and make a case for itself.

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