September 29, 2012

TV: Made in Jersey (CBS, Fri 9)

Let me acknowledge right up front that I have a soft spot for courtroom drama, and so I am probably being far more generous to Made in Jersey than the show deserves.

Because, let's face it, the show's central character, Martina Garretti (played by British actress Janet Montgomery), is a very broad collection of Joisey stereotypes; in the first episode, she helps to win cases through her knowledge of trashy fashion, manicures, and cheap hair bleach. She's a young lawyer who has managed to parlay several good years in the Trenton D.A's office into a job with a posh New York firm, where her hair, outfits, and accent make it difficult for her colleagues to take her seriously.

But she's got street smarts, and working with River Brody (Felix Solis), the firm's investigator, she helps find the evidence to clear a client of murder charges. There are a few clever twists in the evidence along the way, including a moment when her teenage niece hears something in a voice mail message that no one else can hear (because, y'know, the Jersey girls get strength from those ginormous close-knit families).

From looking at the CBS website, it appears that several cast changes were made after this pilot was filmed, but the cast does include Kyle MacLachlan as the head of the firm; Toni Trucks as as Martina's secretary, who can only be described as sassy; Stephanie March as a snotty colleague who looks down her nose at Martina; and Donna Murphy as Martina's mother.

Montgomery is the show's greatest strength, and when she's given a better project than this, I think she's going to be a big star. She's warm, funny, and likable, and gives off just the right mix of intelligence, common sense, and creativity. MacLachlan seems a bit out of place, but that may just be because he's played so many comic roles lately, parts in which he sends up his square-jawed image, that it's a bit hard to take that jaw at (as it were) face value when he's playing it straight.

I'm not going to claim that Made in Jersey is a great show, but it's a genre I love, and I'll watch for another week or two, if only to see how the cast changes play out, and whether Montgomery can bring a bit more depth to her character.

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