TV Review: Charismatic Janet Montgomery Can’t Acquit ‘Made in Jersey’

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CHICAGO – Sometimes a strong cast can save weak writing but such is not the case with CBS’s “Made in Jersey,” a show with one of the most charismatic leading ladies of the new season but also some of its weakest plotting. The legal drama of the premiere is so ridiculous, manipulative, and just silly that it’s almost remarkable how watchable the beautiful Janet Montgomery makes the proceedings but she can’t stop the TV jury from convicting for bad writing. Television Rating: 2.0/5.0
Television Rating: 2.0/5.0

Martina Garretti (Montgomery) is the tough-as-nails Jersey girl who makes an impression on the power structure at a prestigious law firm. Can the girl who comes from a blue collar background across the state line play in the legal circles of men and women who make in a day what her entire family makes in a year? Of course, Garretti uses the instinct that Hollywood writers always seem to believe that rich people turn in when they buy a Benz.

Made in Jersey
Made in Jersey
Photo credit: CBS

In the opening episode, Garretti notices something in a meeting involving a case of a student accused of killing her teacher and impresses firm founder Donovan Stark (Kyle MacLachlan) and attorney Nolan Adams (Kristoffer Polaha) while aggravating some of the more snobby lawyers at the firm. Garretti gets put on the case and starts using her Jersey street smarts to not just acquit a CLEARLY innocent girl but solve the case. She’s a superwoman.

Made in Jersey
Made in Jersey
Photo credit: CBS

She’s also solving a horrendously plotted case that used manipulation — she’s a “regular girl” just like Martina — instead of actual writing. It’s apparently a case that comes from the worst police investigation in history given the number of other suspects that Martina finds just by asking a question or two. Wait, he was having an affair with the Dean’s wife? And pissed off someone else? And someone saw him get hit with a tire iron? I’m kidding about that last one but not by much. That’s the level of crime-solving writing here. It’s paper thin.

And the fact that Martina’s nemesis at the firm wants her to plea out a case that NO ONE would ever plea out because no jury would ever convict is simply silly. Her reasoning is that “the prosecutor’s narrative is taking shape.” She’d be disbarred. But “Made in Jersey” needs to put Martina on a pedestal more than make her realistic. She’ll fight for the student who no one believes. Even her own attorneys.

As you might imagine, the family stuff with Garetti’s extended Italian Jersey clan works much better than the legal stuff. There’s an appealing warmth there and I think audiences will take to that aspect of the show if “Made in Jersey” connects. It reminds me of the comfort factor at place in “Blue Bloods.” If that’s the “cop family show,” this is a nice partner as the “lawyer family show.” If the series is going to improve however, try to ground the crimes and the law in as much warmth and believability as the human story. Otherwise, the show just won’t make it.

“Made in Jersey” stars Janet Montgomery, Kristoffer Polaha, Kyle MacLachlan, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Toni Trucks, Erin Cummings, and Felix Solis. It premieres on Friday, September 28, 2012 at 8pm CST on CBS. content director Brian Tallerico

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