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'Made in Jersey' Show Creator's Long Beach Ties

CBS drama premiering Friday night was created by Dana Calvo, who lived in the heart of Belmont Shore. She could write a few scenes of her time on Park Avenue, with all its quirks and charms.

Long Beach has been the backdrop for America's favorite serial killer and it's original CSI team, in Dexter and CSI: Miami. It has an entirely different connection to a new show premiering tonight.

Dana Calvo, creator of the CBS drama, Made in Jersey, once called Long Beach's Belmont Shore her home. Earlier this week, the co-executive producer said she thinks fondly of her local haunts.

It was long before she worked in television drama when Calvo shared a white house with a hot tub on the roof and the yard with a mess of stray cats she had to feed as part of her rental agreement.

As in a screenplay, 174 Park Avenue comes to life in a dash of telling details. In an e-mail exchange Wednesday, Calvo and her husband, Los Angeles Times writer Scott Gold, reminisced about living in the beach town.

"The only reason we left Long Beach is because our landlord broke up with his girlfriend and needed his house back," Calvo said.

Calvo has had several creative roles on TV shows, including story editor on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (NBC) created by Aaron Sorkin and starring Matthew Perry and Amanda Peet; executive story editor on the 2007 sci-fi show about a time traveler, Journeyman (NBC); co-producer of Greek (ABC Family), which followed a group of Ohio college students as they participated in the Greek system.

But she was still a reporter for the Los Angeles Times when she was living in the LBC, with now-husband Gold. In the three-way e-mail, he went first, recalling:

"We rented a little house on Park in 2000 and 2001. We loved our time there - those were our 'formative years' and we really took advantage of the nightlife, the neighborhood and the waterfront.

"Second Street was our main hang, of course - we loved Phuket Thai and, in particular, Domenico's (especially the creamy tomato sauces and the stuffed ravioli). We were pre-kid and pre-dog, but our house came with two cats - essentially, in exchange for renting the house, we promised to feed these strays that had been adopted by the owner.

"Routinely, two extremely fat possums would amble up the side stairs to eat the cat food until we shooed them away. We took a lot of walks through the neighborhood and fantasized about houses that we might be able to buy one day. I also had a red canoe in those days.... We used to take my canoe down to the Naples Canal and circle through the houses there, which were especially beautiful around the holidays."

Calvo: "Two cats?  There were, like, five.  They were white and fluffy.  And the morning after a raging margarita party we threw, one of them showed up for her free food at the side door, with streaks of pink fur."

Gold: "Forgot about the pink-streaked cats. They were daiquiries, not margaritas, and that was a legendary evening."

Calvo: "Our rental house had a hot tub that was perched semi-precariously on the roof of the house, and every time we fired it up, the house would lose power for a few seconds.  I also remember watching fireworks from the beach that Fourth of July, as dozens of neighbors migrated down to the waterline.  So beautiful.  

"Less beautiful, but just as fun: late nights at The Reno Room.  Less than a year into our lease, our landlord called with news that he and his girlfriend had broken up and he needed his house back..." 

Now living on the Silver Lake-Echo Park border, Calvo is closer to her TV work now. Although Made in Jersey filmed on location in New York City, the writing room was near her home.

Known for writing strong and smart female characters, Calvo's lead in Made in Jersey continues the tradition.

Martina Marretti is a first-year lawyer who hails from a loving working class family that is, oh, verbal, about her career in law, her cases. Her life experiences far from the Ivy League inform her legal sensibilities. As the show promo says: "It's not where you come from but who you are that matters."

But we like to think where you come from, even for a year, matters a little.

To watch a CBS trailer of the show, click here.

Nancy Wride September 28, 2012 at 09:14 PM
I think the trailer for this show looks very entertaining, but I will have to Tivo!

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