October 6, 2012

THE SKED PILOT + 1 REVIEW: “Made In Jersey”

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot in the spring and the production of episodes for the regular season: a writing/producing team is hired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics begin to rear their ugly heads. The results can include changes to tone, pace, casting, and even story. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.’


Previously… on MADE IN JERSEY:  Martina Garretti (Janet Montgomery) is a sharp, tenacious, compassionate young lawyer, born guess-where, who’s recently moved from the Trenton District Attorney’s office to a white-shoe NY law firm headed by sympathetic Donovan Stark (Kyle MacLachlan).  Martina works with firm partner Nolan Adams (Kristoffer Polaha), fellow associate Riley Parker (Megalyn Echikunwoke), paralegal Cyndi Vega (Toni Trucks) and investigator Riv Brody (Felix Solis) to fight for justice.  She’s also close with her large Italian-American family, headed by mama Darlene (Donna Murphy).

Episode 2:  The case-of-the-week concerns a young woman arrested for murdering her boyfriend 11 years ago and institutionalized for what was at the time undiagnosed schizophrenia.  She’s recently become lucid again since her medications were adjusted, and swears she was never guilty of the crime, prompting Martina and Stark (who was the original lawyer on the case) to champion her case.  Representing the prosecution:  Martina’s ex-boyfriend (Enver Gjokaj).  The family storyline has one of Martina’s sisters anxious to introduce a new and unusually respectable beau to mom and the siblings.

Let’s not mince words:  Made In Jersey is painfully bad, as awful an hour as can be found on network television.  There have been changes since the pilot, as the series is being run by the experienced Kevin Falls (in happier times he was part of the Aaron Sorkin stable on West Wing and Sports Night) with pilot writer Dana Calvo as Co-Executive Producer, and there’s been some shuffling in the cast.  The class struggle undertone of the pilot has been mininized, with ice queen Stephanie March cut back to recurring and high-toned Echikunwoke introduced as more of a frenemy colleague, while Polaha has been added for some presumptive future romantic interest (if the series lives that long).  None of this has actually improved the show in any noticeable way.

The second episode, written by Supervising Producer Brett Conrad and directed by Adam Davidson, is, like the pilot, a legal storyline in name only, with Martina spending much more time solving the crime than in court.  Even on those terms, though, the solution to the mystery is both simplistic and unlikely, and hangs on the defendant having the same terrible secret as every other attractive young woman in every crime show of the past half-dozen years, along with her mental disorder conflating events that occurred years apart.  It’s the kind of lazy television where when Kate Burton makes an appearance early on as a seemingly minor witness, you instantly make a mental note that she must be more important than she appears to be, and of course you’re right.  Meanwhile, the New Joisey family sequences are like reruns of The Tortellis have forced their way into a procedural.

Montgomery may or may not be a talented actress, but having the British performer adopt a cartoon Jersey dialect is more like an SNL sketch than something that belongs on a drama (Donna Murphy is better at the caricature, which somehow makes it worse), and the other regular characters are colorless.  The Nielsen ratings aren’t always a source of justice, but last week Made In Jersey got the awful rating it deserved, tied with the legendarily low-rated Fringe, and with any luck it will be a dim memory by the time the season has reached its midpoint.  It’s a rare complete blunder for CBS.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  Change The Channel

PILOT + 1:  Legal Procedurals For Dummies


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."