'Made in Jersey'
CBS, Friday, 9 ET/PT
** ½ out of four
As hard as this may sometimes be to believe, the broadcast networks really do try to give you what you want.
Or, more precisely, what they think you want.
Fox assumes at least a few of you want a smart, well-acted, intricately plotted, entertainingly complex drama on a Friday night at 9 o'clock -- and for you hardy few, it provides Fringe.
CBS, on the other hand, is betting that most people don't feel like struggling through a sci-fi show's complexities at the end of the work week, and would be more interested in a highly polished, proficiently made, thought-free hour of popular entertainment.
And for you people, CBS has its new Friday worker-bee drama Made in Jersey, a show that's about as far from a potential cult favorite a series can get. Jersey may just be competent, at best -- but that's better than the incompetence that marks so many of the season's new offerings. If it's a choice between another hour with Jersey or even 10 more minutes of Guys With Kids, go to Jersey every time.
Don't think Jersey Shore so much as Working Girl, with British import Janet Montgomery -- a genuine charmer on a likely path to stardom -- as working-class Jersey lawyer Martina Garretti, who has just moved on up to a fancy Manhattan law firm. Her brash Italian-American family (led by Broadway great Donna Murphy in a role that is, so far, beneath her) is thrilled; most of her co-workers are not. But she has brains, gumption and the support of the head of the firm (Kyle MacLachlan), and that proves to be enough.
For her first case, Martina is assigned to defend a college girl accused of murdering her professor. Aside from an equally brash assistant, her colleagues all discount her. (That accent! That hair!) But Martina knows the law and the street, and on TV, that usually an unbeatable combination.
The case does provide some clever moments, but overall, this is TV at its most assembly-line efficient: a comfortably familiar product designed to move you from point to point, and time slot to time slot, without annoying you along the way. CBS is betting that on a Friday night, that's what most people want -- and when it comes to judging popular tastes, CBS is usually right.
And if it's wrong, hey â?? there's always Fringe.