With its focus on a female attorney surrounded by people from a different "world" than she's used to, CBS' unfortunately-titled legal drama Made in Jersey had a sort of Legally Blonde feel to its premise, except instead of a bubbly Los Angeles blonde trying to fit in among a bunch of Harvard East Coast snobs, we get Martina Garretti, a New Jersey native working at a posh New York law firm. Beyond the fish-out-of-water gimmick, CBS' new drama seems less about focusing on the contrast between its female lead and her surroundings and more on the work the attorney does. It's for that reason that this series is worth checking out.
Created by Dana Calvo, Made in Jersey stars Janet Montgomery as Martina Garretti, a working class New Jersey born attorney who works at a top notch New York City law firm. Surrounded by Ivy League educated attorneys, including the firm founder Donovan Stark (Kyle MacLachlan), Martina's legal expertise and people skills give her an edge, though some may underestimate her due to her background
The first episode has her defending a college student suspected of the murder of a professor. Garretti does a lot of running around as she tries to figure out what really happened, and this gives us a sense of her instincts as well as her legal expertise. The arc isn't anything especially exciting, but it does add a layer of mystery to the episode and the case is wrapped up by the end of the hour. As Garretti, Montgomery is charming and believable as an educated woman with good instincts and tenacity, and her strong performance is another good thing the series has going for it.
By the title, I thought Made in Jersey would heavily play up the "Jersey" angle, with a focus on how different Garretti is from her colleagues (her hair, her accent, her clothes, etc), but based on the pilot, it looks like the series is aiming to strike a slightly less obvious balance between Garetti's background and the work she does at the firm. What we learn from the pilot is that she's close with her Italian family and has strong roots there, and that she's just as capable as the other attorneys she works with, despite the lack of an upperclass upbringing. And maybe her more personable nature gives her an edge when working with clients and interviewing potential witnesses.
Sure, there's one very Legally Blonde-ish moment at the beginning of the episode when Garretti draws attention to herself by cracking a case thanks to her vast experience with tight jeans and manicures, but beyond that, the show settles into a less gimmicky place, where the lead's Jersey background is really just a part of who she is as a character and not the primary focus of the series. If that's the direction Made in Jersey continues to take, I can see this one working for CBS. Fans of legal procedurals should check this one out when it premieres tonight.
Made in Jersey premieres Friday, September 28 at 9:00 p.m. ET on CBS.