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New TV shows run the gamut

By Rob Hedelt, The Free Lance-Star

A better than expected drama,  one that disappoints and a really stupid sitcom round out today’s look at recent TV arrivals. 

The quality drama is CBS’ “Made in Jersey,” the tale of a scrappy young lawyer who uses her blue-collar background to her advantage at a prestigious Manhattan law firm.

  Yes, there was the obligatory “Housewives of New Jersey” reference in the pilot, as pretty and smart Martina (Janet Montgomery) alludes to the women in her Italian family who resemble the gaggle on that reality show.

  But thankfully, the reference to that world across the river was simply intended to show where this young lawyer came from. Once the show gets started, we see that the work ethic she learned growing up there serves her well.

  Instead of simply taking a plea to help a young client, a woman charged with murder, Martina pushes every new lead, every new clue until she finds something to help her.

  The show works largely because Montgomery is a winning young actress, but also because it’s written in an intelligent and interesting way.

  There are a raft of other main characters, from the friendly receptionist to the lawyers who initially look down their noses at Martina, but soon come to appreciate her intelligence and drive.

  Do we need another lawyer show?  Probably not, but making Martina a character who benefits from Italian working-class roots gives this drama a fresh, real feel.

  ODD VIBES

A new show like ABC’s “666 Park Avenue” walks a very fine line.

  It’s trying to launch a drama built around a haunted New York apartment building, with the two devilish owners living up in the penthouse.

  From the get-go, there are two basic choices.  The show can pack in really scary stuff and try to top itself each week.   Or it can go for a serialized sort of “weirdness of the week,” using the folks living in the building as a sort of fright-night “Love Boat.”

  I’m sorry to see that “666” seems to be choosing the latter, setting up just enough strangeness—a killer elevator, spirits wandering the basement, all-powerful owners who can return folks from the dead—to be different.

  Yes, Terry O’Quinn is typically captivating as the evil owner, with Vanessa Williams up to playing his wife.

  The young couple (Rachael Taylor and Dave Annable)  who move in manage the building are nice enough, but not up to the real job here.

  It’s an odd mix—part social swirl, part sex and part horror where people end up dead and worse.  Even with the powerful presence of O’Quinn, the show isn’t really pulling it off.

  THE WORST

My bet for first show to be canceled this year is the really atrocious ABC sitcom “The Neighbors.”

  How crazy is it that a whole passel of aliens land on Earth, buy an entire subdivision and live out their strange ways.

  Things change only when one of their tribe leaves, opening up a spot for a human family to move in.

Jami Gertz and Lenny Venito are the new arrivals, and hilarity supposedly ensues.

  Want to hear funny?

  These aliens were so clueless about names that they call themselves Reggie Jackson, Larry Bird,  Jackie Joyner–Kersee and Dick Butkus.

  And whenever they show up at the humans’ home, they march up in a big triangle out front, all wearing the same silly clothes.

  Oh yeah, and every now and then, they change into alien form, throwing some green gook out as they do.

  Supposedly, the fact  humans and aliens go through the same struggles will make this funny and cute.

  Instead, it’s just as lame as the scene in which one of the aliens is cleaning the windshield of his round space ship out front one weekend morning.

  The jokes fall flat, everyone but Gertz is horrid and the effects just look silly.

  Here’s a suggestion, Hollywood.  Screen new shows like this for a panel of real people.

  They would have laughed this one off the schedule.

Rob Hedelt:  540/374-5415

rhedelt@freelancestar.com

WANT TO WATCH?

What: “Made in Jersey”

When: Fridays at 9

Where: CBS

What: “666 Park Avenue”

When: Sundays at 10

Where: ABC

What: “The Neighbors”

When: Wednesdays 

at 8:30

Where: ABC

 

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