(Written by Christine Duong and Hera Syed)
Halfway through this pilot, homicide detective Laura Diamond’s (Debra Messing) pre-school aged sons are peeing on each other for shits and giggles in the middle of the park. That moment, right there, is the perfect embodiment of The Mysteries of Laura and our experience watching the episode.
It begins with Laura shooting a man’s ear off smack dab in a crowded area. Her antics just get worse from there. By the episode’s end, Laura has threatened a preschool teacher and drugged her own children with cough syrup, all in the name of “comedy.” At least, we think it’s supposed to be funny. Mysteries of Laura is a strange mishmash of comedy, drama, and mystery, but it achieves none of these things well – or even competently. It’s not funny enough to be a comedy (not to mention it’s 30 minutes too long), the drama with Laura’s cheating husband isn’t compelling, and the mystery is poorly written.
And don’t even get us started on Laura’s husband, Jake (Josh Lucas). The main conflict with him is that he won’t sign their divorce papers (will he ever?!). He’s consistently terrible, a deadbeat dad – but we get the sense that we’re supposed to find him somewhat charming. Nope. Not happening. When Laura actually thanks him for fulfilling one of his fatherly duties, it’s like… no. Just no. That’s not deserving of a “thank you,” that’s deserving of a “finally you got off your ass and actually did the bare minimum of something to help this family.” To top it all off, he gets to shirk all of his responsibilities while getting promoted as Laura’s boss by the end of the pilot, ensuring that this unbearable relationship will be dragged out for much, much longer.
Not only is Laura’s husband cartoonishly terrible, but her twin sons are little demon children from hell who are written as caricatures – not as actual human children. There’s no other explanation for their outrageous behavior, especially if we are to believe that Laura is the “best mom” along with being a really good detective who’s treated as the popular kid at work. We mentioned them peeing on each other, but that’s not even the worst thing these kids get up to here. I mean, fecal finger painting? How much more awful are they going to get in future episodes?! We don’t want to find out.
The only other supporting characters of note are Laura’s partner Billy (Laz Alonso), a muscular African-American detective who’s got a pretty good chance of becoming a love interest, and Meredith (Janina Gavankar) the “bitchy” co-worker who rightfully calls Laura out on recklessly firing her weapon and tries to focus on proper police procedures, only to be scoffed at and ridiculed.
The fact that NBC billed this as a realistic take on today’s working moms is laughable. It’s supposed to be grounded in reality, but nothing about Laura’s family life is relatable. It doesn’t even makes sense! Laura’s mission to get her sons into preschool is boring, and showcases her bad sense of judgment as both a parent and a cop. Her detective skills boil down to intuition; she looks at a piece of evidence, makes some grand leap in logic, and then we cut to the next scene where she’s loudly declaring what she’s discovered. The mystery is solved in thirty seconds, which makes the rest of the hour long episode feel even more like filler.
In fact, Laura is a pretty unbearable character, made worse when everyone around her constantly praises her terrible decisions. We can sympathize with the fact that her husband is an asshole, her children are a handful and a half, and she has to juggle all that and deal with homicides all day, but no more than that. Messing doesn’t exactly do a good job here, either, but that could easily be blamed on the script.
The biggest problem with Mysteries of Laura is tone; i.e. it has none. It bounces from (apparently) humorous to “thrilling” case-solving to family drama to wacky over-the-top hijinks at the flick of a switch. Maybe if it was funnier or the show was an exaggerated parody of detective shows (shoutout to A Touch of Cloth!) like it sometimes feels ridiculous enough to be, we could give Mysteries of Laura a pass – but it’s none of those things. It just needs to commit to something. Anything. Tone, genre, whether or not any of these characters are meant to be likeable – take your pick.
Working moms! They can do it all. Except make us want to tune into The Mysteries of Laura again.