Made in Jersey Series Premiere Review: The Nanny in an Office, Minus the Humor

By Lily Sparks

Sep 29, 2012

Made in Jersey?> S01E01: "Pilot"

You wouldn't know it from a cursory scan of popular TV, but there are other exciting places in the U.S. to live in besides New York City. Yet the all-seeing eye of TV keeps wandering back to NYC and it bizarro-world counterpart and neighbor, New Jersey, which has developed a reputation as home of the brassy and super-trashy. Made in Jersey expects you to already be well-versed in this stereotype, calling upon a pastiche of pop-culture tropes, from Stephanie Plum novels to Working Girl to the The Nanny. I mean, look at Martina Stromboli's hair!

The actress playing Martina Stromboli (not the character's actual last name, it but might as well be), Janet Montgomery, is engaging and natural and a pure delight, but she's about as "Jersey" as Kate Middleton, and dipped in and out of her accent throughout last night's series premiere. Despite looking more or less well-dressed to bumpkins like me, she was constantly told things like "You came in... looking like you!" so we could understand that she looks like HUMAN GARBAGE to the eyes of REAL New Yorkers.

However, this hasn't really held her back; in the opening scene she'd already been hired by a Big Awesome Law Firm, and by the end of the episode she'd risen through the ranks at a precocious speed and the guy with his name on the building was singing her praises, so it seems like her arc is not going to be a very dramatic one (maybe the big season finale will be her fighting to make Partner?). She uses her brassy experience with the working class to get clues her wealthy Prep school colleagues and the frou-frou NYPD detectives are too snobby to nose out. She CHATS with a WAITRESS!! I mean she basically IS the 99%.

She also has a big delightful stereotypical family that gets together for dinner with like eight sisters who all appear to be sassy supermodel models. Even if the big Jersey family has been done umpteen times, the Stromboli family's dinner was one of the highlights of the episode. If the writers can steer this ship closer to Martina's family and their Moonlighting vibe, they might even convince some viewers to record this show on their DVRs before heading out to enjoy their Friday night.

Because that's the elephant in the room, right? Premiering on a Friday night is bad news for a show, and Made in Jersey is not exactly the fun-filled escape from a workweek you might seek out when you're all TGIF'd up. The majority of the scenes unfold in a gray and brown legal office because ambitious Martina works non-stop. And the show will require the same level of engagement as, say, a high school math class, if this first "case" is any indication, with a flood of tiny bits of evidence trickling in throughout the episode. At a certain point I thought I'd need a notepad to keep track of everything, I actually got a little stressed out. In just this first episode the key evidence that was discussed at length included:

- a 'mosquito tone'

- substances which trigger luminals

- a series of illicit voicemails

- a brasserie alibi

- the cost of highlights

- DIY hair color

- a thumbprint on a ledge

- brick dust on a sleeve

- uncredited research

On and on... and weirdly, none of these clues really changed where the plot went. Nothing triggered a twist or a turn. Martina was convinced their young client was innocent, and every detail just reinforced that, a straight shot from a young girl accused of murder to all charges being dismissed.

The only real conflict in Martina's world is her bitchy Aryan co worker, a handsome blonde woman who undercuts her with super-inappropriate little one-liners. The dynamic is exactly that of Nanny Fine and C.C. Babcock. That may have been how this was pitched. "We want to set The Nanny at a law firm..."

With national treasure Kyle MacLachlan stepping in as the Max Sheffield analog.

Don't get me wrong, I loved The Nanny but it was a half-hour sitcom and this is an hour. An hour of puzzling over a foregone conclusion.

This is one of those rare instances when you have strong writers, a great lead, fine production, and just a lackluster premise. Martina is not dramatically brassy/sassy/different enough from the world of her colleagues to hinder her own progress, so the show craves conflict. It took a cartoon premise and really restrained it and the result is kind of tepid and completely humorless. Would I pause and watch this again? Mmmmmaybe... but then, I'm usually busy Friday nights.


... What city do you wish a TV series would be set in?

... Have you ever been to Jersey?

... If you haven't been to Jersey, do you still have a strong idea of what it's like and what is that based on?

... How did you like Made in Jersey?

  • Comments (18)
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  • DonGarney Oct 12, 2012

    You are obviously ignorant as to what good entertainment is:.....I was skeptical of this announced show and decided to tune in....I am from Chicago and not New Jersey but it makes no difference to me...a great show with great acting and I look forward to relaxing with this well written show each week.....there are alot of other new shows this season you could have some fun with how they made it to television in the first place...but this is not one of them...I think you need to go back to your day job as a republican advisor on fact checking!!!!

  • anngel421 Oct 05, 2012

    okay... so I know this is on many peoples dead pool list, heck knowing CBS' track record its on mine too... but i just saw a promo that features Enver Gjokaj aka Victor from Dollhouse.( eek!) I'm enough of a fan to admit I'm going to tune in to atleast one more episode to see where it goes.

  • masorella Oct 01, 2012

    This is definitely in the Dead Pool List. What could have been more interesting is if the Jersey lawyer was working in Houston or Dallas. Then there would be a big hair competition going on, and a real fish out of water situation.

  • dandush33 Oct 01, 2012

    it was too easy, the boss likes her, the Aryan co worker doesn't really stand in her way, the detective is a huge yes-man though she's a rookie, awwww

  • AnoukvdZee Oct 01, 2012

    It was okay. Absolutely nothing special, but sometimes I need a break from the heavyweight shows such as POI, Fringe etc., where I don't have to think about anything. It fitted for that reason, but perhaps next week I might be bored by it already, if it keeps lacking conflict. The lack of it was quite distressing to watch.

  • brandydan Oct 01, 2012

    I sorta liked but sorta didn't.Some of it was boring and I'm still lost on all character names besides the lead.I liked the lead but don't care about the others yet.I may DVr the episodes and watch them over winter/holiday hiatus or this summer when I don't have 20 other shows to watch.It reminded me a little of Drop Dead Diva.

  • Redhen18 Sep 30, 2012

    If not for Kyle MacLachlan, I wouldn't have taped the show, and even then it was rough going. They have to do SOMETHING about Janet Montgomery's hair -- it's too stroobly for someone trying to work her way up in a NYC law firm. And I completely lost track of all those "clues", even with running the tape back. A few minutes of Kyle/Donovan Stark at the beginning and end were the only bright spots. I'll keep it at it though and hope the show improves. Please, God

  • Papilloni Sep 30, 2012

    While this is not my typical show to watch, I do have a thing for law shows from time to time and of course everybody likes underdogs. It's at least the best thing on TV with the word "Jersey" in it, but that was easy.

    Actually, I kind of liked it. It could be simple, straight forward, feel good TV. But they really did too much in fairly many regards. Janet Montgomery looks so extremely skinny, you wonder if there is even a person left beneath all the makeup. It kind of annoys me as I'm thinking more about that someone should give her a meal instead of following the plot. Someone less skinny model type and more cute girl type would have been a better fit, at least for me.

    There were also a bit too many clues. It became kind of boring to see her find another one and another one. It also lacks a bit of conflict, but that may change as the potential is there. I just hope we won't see too much of the Jersey family as this was by far the most boring part.

  • CarmenWoolfor Sep 30, 2012

    My husband said that there were too many women running all around the place taking up all the oxygen - and they all wore too much make-up and gaudy clothes. It definitely has to be toned down. Stephanie March was her usual ice princess.

  • CindyHardyPi Sep 30, 2012

    I really enjoyed this show! I did notice the problem with the accent, however deter my enjoyment of the show 1 bit! I thought the characters were believable, and I thought the storyline was great! Give this show a chance! Don't be so hard on it!

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