Airing opposite the vastly superior new fortysomething-style ensemble “Once and Again” on ABC in the Tuesday-10 p.m. slot (“NYPD Blue” lands there in a couple of months), “Judging Amy” tries awfully hard to impart the idea that everyone has mommy problems, even Harvard grads wearing judicial robes. Yet what the pilot script from exec producer Barbara Hall tends to gloss over is this simple fact: few people can relate to a character who separates from her husband , lands a judgeship virtually simultaneously, then chooses to move in with her opinionated, obnoxious momma. Show opens back 10 years with Amy Gray (Brenneman) having cold feet on her wedding day, finally deciding to marry the guy based on a coin flip. Back in the present-day, we see the coin didn’t fall the right way. Amy is legally separated, having just packed up and moved with her darling little daughter Gillian (Jessica Tuck) from New York City to Hartford, Conn. And as she lay in her bed, it’s Day One of her new job as a superior court judge.
Problem is, her mother Maxine (Daly) — whose home Amy and Gillian now share — is herself a retired judge. Max also quickly proves herself to be overbearing, insensitive, meddling and altogether domineering. And she even smokes cigarettes.The insecure Amy gets the lay of the judging land even as relations with mom heat to a boil. She has heart-to-hearts with her nice-guy, slacker brother Vincent (nice work from Dan Futterman) and lots of bonding time with her huggable little moppet.
By the end of the premiere, it’s possible to feel some hope that the show can overcome its penchant for bogging down in mock-dramatics and helmer James Hayman’s soft-focus artsy stylings and merit a second look. For one, Brenneman is a talented dramatic actress whom the camera adores. But what would be the point of tuning in every week to watch a professional woman get mercilessly browbeaten by her mom?
Heed the wisdom of these two words, Judge Amy: move out.
Tech credits are solid enough.