Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Post-Mortem: CBS Cancelled "Made in Jersey"

And the honor of the first series to get cancelled this Fall TV season goes to CBS's lackluster law series. Before you fret at the fact that only two episodes have aired, rest assured it was not a premature execution.
CBS's law dramedy "Made in Jersey" was pretty much a snoozefest. It was thought of as the younger counterpart to the network's other legal series "The Good Wife," but that would be an insult to the latter. While Martina Garretti's plucky perspective on life, in spite of constantly being underestimated due to her Jersey-girl background, was tolerable, and the British lead actress, Janet Montgomery, managed to do the state's native twang justice, the content itself was nothing worth staying home for or rushing back to on a Friday night.

Here are the ingredients to the show's downfall:
  • The series didn't offer a twist on the case-solving procedural genre, like many tend to do. Aside from the fact that she basically did her own investigations and outsmarted her superiors, she didn't have a particularly interesting method of deduction. 
  • Instead of being given a strong sidekick from the start, we were introduced to a multitude of supporting characters ranging from family members to co-workers. While she did have a girlfriend at work, Cyndi (Toni Trucks), she was backburnered in the second episode in favor of her sisters, who weren't that interesting to begin with.
  • None of the leading men (Kyle MacLachlan, Pablo Schreiber, and Kristoffer Polaha) were charismatic enough to register on our radar. And while I root for Enver Gjokaj every time I see him on screen, the role of ex-boyfriend slash professional competition was a waste of his talents. That guy can do like 5 accents. He should be on USA's "Covert Affairs" showing Annie/Piper how to do her job.
  • Every protagonist needs an antagonist, and from the first episode to the second it switched from an old, obnoxious, skinny blonde (Stephanie March) to a young, judgmental, skinny black girl (Megalyn Echikunwoke). And neither were intimidating enough to warrant enough sympathy for the viewer to emotionally connect with Martina.
  • Most protagonists have a goal from the start. Alicia Florrick is trying to figure out what kind of lawyer, mother, and lover she wants to be as the entire city watches her every cuckolded move on "The Good Wife." Jane Bingham switched bodies with a model who died the same day she did, and is trying to hijack her life back on "Drop Dead Diva." And Patrick Jane is seeking a serial killer who murdered his family on "The Mentalist." All we know about Martina is that she doesn't like being underestimated. That's not grounds for a series. She needs a running mystery or a deep-seated cause.
Many series creators complain that networks don't give their shows enough time to build an audience, and that ratings aren't everything. While both those points may be accurate, I think what should also be considered is the possibility that the series was shopped to the wrong network. "Made in Jersey" would've fared much better on female-friendly cable networks like LIFE, USA, and ABCFamily. Its best bet would've been the USA network, which loves procedurals and gives them plenty of time to fail. Just ask Sarah Shahi ("Fairly Legal"). Timing is also extremely important. Legal dramedies are a bit dry and not very summer-friendly, but given how happy-go-lucky Martina was most of the time, it would've done just fine in a summer slot.

That said, Montgomery shouldn't have any trouble finding a new gig after this. I don't believe the cancellation had anything to do with her acting abilities. Anyone who's seen her on the short-lived action series "Human Target" knows she can carry a scene. Now all she needs is a worthy ensemble.

What series will get the boot next? My money is on FOX's "Mob Doctor." Aside from that series, I'm not feeling too confident about the second season chances for FOX's "Ben & Kate," CBS's "Partners," NBC's "Animal Practice," or ABC's "The Neighbors." The last two have a chance because of animal lovers and the family-friendly appeal. But "Mob Doctor" is almost as stale as "Made in Jersey," "Ben & Kate" is rarely funny, and if CBS could cancel last season's equally funny "Mad Love" then it would definitely give "Partners" the boot. Time will tell.

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