Put “Working Girl,” “The Nanny,” and “Ugly Betty” in a blender and you’ll have . . . No, wait, put them on a cement platter and drop a piano on them, and then drop another cement platter on top of it all, and you’ll have “Made in Jersey.” In other words, this new CBS series is pretty flat.
The legal procedural, which premieres tonight at 9 on Channel 4, takes scrappy Jersey girl Martina (Janet Montgomery) and throws her into a big-shot Manhattan law firm. Naturally, she wows the boss — but not her jealous colleagues — with her street smarts and her big hair. OK, so she didn’t go to Harvard, but she’s got a PhD in blue-collar sass, and she has the exuberant support of her Italian family in Jersey, who eat lasagna and move their hands around a lot. The lawyers are all stiff and competitive, while Martina’s world is all fights and hugs. The characters on the show are types, including the boss played by Kyle MacLachlan, an actor who is a pro at playing shut-down WASPs.
Everything unfolds as you expect on “Made in Jersey.” Martina works on a murder case after impressing MacLachlan by knowing that the defendant’s pliers were used to zip up her skinny jeans, and not for murder. While her co-workers plot against her, particularly a sneering senior lawyer played by Stephanie March, she continues to dazzle the boss with her ability to get information by befriending secretaries and other lower-level workers. Early on, we can tell that Martina, the Pied Piper of the working class, is always, always right when she has a hunch.
The only thing that surprised me about “Made in Jersey” was when I learned that actress Janet Montgomery not only isn’t from Jersey, she isn’t from the United States. She’s a Brit who can pull off an accent with the best of them, including Damian Lewis and Hugh Laurie. Well done. And Montgomery, who was on “Human Target” and “Entourage,” is likable enough, even if the script pushes us too hard to love her. She’s watchable.
“Made in Jersey” (which, amusingly, was the title of “The Sopranos” in its pre-air life) is lame and clichéd, but it’s far from the bottom of the barrel on network TV. Perhaps it will find an audience looking to zone out on a Friday night. It’s like a show that was produced for USA, but didn’t make the cut.
Matthew Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com.