With all of CBS’ allotted attention focused on Elementary this 2012-2013 season, fellow pilot Made in Jersey is left fighting for attention. This debut episode goes some distance to explaining why that could be a blessing.
Made in Jersey isn’t outright terrible, but hasn’t quite whittled its premise down to something very new, fresh or interesting. Martina Garretti is a beautiful, capable, New York lawyer who just so happens to come from New Jersey, and this leads to a half-thought out underdog story that strangely doesn’t take into account all of the things Martina has in her favour. She’s attractive and charismatic for one, and she’s brilliant at her job for another. Her harsh struggle is actually hard to decipher in this premiere, and it might have been more entertaining had the writers decided to follow her through the earlier stages of her career.
For how long can we expect this woman to stay an underdog? As can be expected from a pilot showcase of the series’ feel-good strengths, Martina bags a professional win in this episode all with the support of her family and friends around her. What can we look forward to next week if this is how difficult it was for her on day one? Even the prejudice she receives from more outwardly privileged co-workers is so mild as to be rendered unnoticeable, and anyone unaware of the Jersey stereotypes enforced by reality shows like Jersey Shore and Real Housewives of New Jersey (name-checked in this episode) might wonder what they’re even talking about.
Executive producer Dana Calvo has already expressed her wishes to dispute these stereotypes with Made in Jersey, but that admirable intent gets lost in translation. There are major issues of class divisions and prejudice just waiting for the show to tap into them, but the writers seem reluctant to do so. In a show explicitly about a young lawyer from New Jersey, why are they ignoring the obvious this early on? Had they addressed some of the stereotypes in a clever and subversive way in these first stages, there might have been hope for something fresh further down the line. As it is, I’m worried it’ll become repetitive and, worse, slightly condescending to the demographic it seeks to represent.
Any failings are not the fault of the cast, however, and the show has assembled an impressive collection of old and new faces to wade through the mistakes of this premise the best they can. British actress Janet Montgomery is the stand-out, with a seemingly flawless (though I’m not the best person to ask) accent and vibrant charm that lifts the slightly limp dialogue up a few notches. With her are Twin Peaks‘ Kyle MacLachlan as her boss and Law & Order‘s Stephanie March as the first of many snooty co-workers, along with an eclectic group of Jersey natives to populate the Garretti family gatherings.
What did you think of Made in Jersey? Can it avoid becoming repetitive and patronising in the long run, or is it destined to fail? Let us know what you thought in the comments.
Follow me on Twitter @carolinepreece