Tuesday, September 16, 2014

TV REVIEW: NBC's 'The Mysteries of Laura'

NBC will launch its latest original drama series The Mysteries of Laura on Wednesday, September 17 at 10/9c. following the season finale of America's Got Talent. It moves to its regular 8/7c. time slot on Wednesday, September 24. The drama stars Debra Messing, Josh Lucas, Laz Alonso, Janina Gavankar and Max Jenkins.

Read on for my thoughts on the new comedic police drama after screening its premiere episode.

I'm left speechless as to how anyone at NBC thought The Mysteries of Laura was a good idea. The premise is that Debra Messing's Laura Diamond is both a detective for the NYPD and a mom to two hellish boys while also separating from her disastrous husband. That's literally as deep as this show wants to go. It's not presenting something meaningful about the demands women face trying to balance both a professional and family life. Television has frankly told better stories than this - with similar source material - for the past 30 years. So why then, does NBC feel the need to program this version of this show in 2014? It makes no sense. It's one of the first new shows to debut this fall and it's also clearly one of the worst - which is definitely saying something by this fall's standards.

The pilot is so problematic because it just wants to undercut every single aspect with comedy. According to Messing, that was the reason she signed onto the project. It was an hourlong dramedy and "that's something that had never been done on broadcast television before." I think Glee and Desperate Housewives would beg to differ. But that's beside the point. If the show can make an outlandish joke, you can built that they'll take that option instead of digging deep into these characters.

And quite frankly, Laura is both a horrible mother and a horrible detective. There simply is no sense of consequences within her parenting style because the show would rather just zip to the next outlandish plot point. So her two twin boys run around acting like devil spawn in the worst kind of way. These types of kids don't exist - and if they do, you sure as hell can't sympathize with the parents on any level. They destroy a classroom, get kicked out of pre-k and pee on each other in public. And they aren't punished for any of it! Laura is too exasperated to do anything while her ex-husband (Josh Lucas) is being played as a happy-go-lucky scamp but instead comes across as a sociopath. We are suppose to applaud all of their antics because they make us laugh. TV doesn't work like that. No momentum is built throughout this hour because every single character is a horrible human being. When Laura drugs her kids with cough syrup in order for them to sit still in a school interview, it's horrifying. And yet, the show wants us to think of it as the best possible thing Laura could do.

The Mysteries of Laura thinks its smart and clever. However, I spent the whole hour wishing I was watching the procedural elements when the family stuff was on screen and the family stuff when the procedural elements was. There's almost nothing redeeming about this pilot. The case-of-the-week storyline wants us to see Laura as a badass detective unafraid of wherever the case may go. However, the inciting event she investigates happens right in front of her eyes and it takes her an entire hour for her to put all the pieces together. It's transparent immediately who done it and the fact that she doesn't see it only presents the character as a worse than average detective and a drag to get through.

The best thing that I can say about The Mysteries of Laura is that Debra Messing still looks amazing. But even that can't be celebrated. The costume designer frequently outfits her in frumpy clothing - especially an ill-fitting trench coat - just so the eventual reveal of her going undercover in a tight swimsuit would be so surprising. It's not surprising. Messing looks great and the show should embrace that more instead of playing it for shock value. She is entitled to having some parts of her life rewarded - instead of constantly just looking like she threw stuff together solely because she's a mother. Ugh! That plot point simply isn't fresh anymore - and it hasn't in a long time.

NBC is so desperate to make a Debra Messing-starring vehicle work that they are willing to put up with an awful show to get her on the network. TV shouldn't work like that and I'm really looking forward to this show's swift cancellation.