Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.
The Pedigree: The pilot was written by James Grissom (One Life to Live) and directed by Mark Waters (Mr. Popper’s Penguins). Executive producers include Dana Calvo (Covert Affairs), Kevin Falls (The West Wing, Journeyman), and Jamie Tarses (My Boys, Happy Endings).
The Cast & How You Know Them: Made in Jersey stars Janet Montgomery (Human Target, Entourage), Kristoffer Polaha (Life Unexpected, Ringer), Kyle MacLachlan (Desperate Housewives), Megalyn Echikunwoke (CSI: Miami, 90210), Toni Trucks (House, Ruby Sparks), and Felix Solis (The Good Wife, NYC 22).
The Premise: Jersey girl Martina Garretti was the first of her family to go to college, and now she’s starting as a first year associate at a fancy Manhattan law firm. She must try to fit in at her new job while remaining true to herself and her family, and she soon discovers that she can use her knowledge of things like tight jeans and cheap hair dye to make connections her blue-blooded colleagues miss.
What Works: The set-up makes it easy to cheer for Martina as she bests the more experienced (and often snobbish) lawyers, especially because she seems to really care about helping people, rather than only her own advancement. I really enjoyed the scenes with Martina’s big Italian family (much more than the legal stuff, actually), and especially the dynamic between Martina and her mother, who is clearly (and convincingly) both proud of her daughter and feeling increasingly distanced from her as she moves further away from the life the mother has always known.
What Doesn’t: This wasn’t the best-executed pilot I’ve ever seen; it was pretty cheesy and the writing was usually serviceable at best. The case of the week wasn’t annoyingly bad or anything, but it was nothing to write home about. The gimmick of Martina using her background to think of things the other lawyers don’t worked fine in the pilot, but runs the risk of quickly devolving into coincidences and stereotypes. I’m not necessarily convinced that this fancy law firm takes enough cases involving working class people for Martina’s special skills to continue indefinitely in a believable way.
Our Favorite Line: “You never hear Cher making excuses, and she is a very busy lady.”
Other Items of Note: Lead actress Janet Montgomery is British, and while her New Jersey accent isn’t perfect, it was better than I expected.
You Might Like This if you like fish-out-of-water, root-for-the-little-guy procedurals, or shows about big, close extended families. The family aspects reminded me a bit of Blue Bloods or Against the Wall, and the family, the New Jersey setting, and Martina’s use of her working class background to solve crime were highly reminiscent of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series (or the movie adaptation, One for the Money).
(Photo courtesy of CBS.)