September 17, 2014



THE MYSTERIES OF LAURA:  Wednesday 8PM on NBC starting September 24 (premieres 10PM on September 17) – Change the Channel

PLAYERS:  Star Debra Messing, and central co-stars Josh Lucas and Laz Alonso.  The Spanish TV series on which it’s based.  US series creator Jeff Rake, who’s worked on an assortment of shows over the past decade or so, most recently Beauty & the Beast and The Tomorrow People.  Non-writing Executive Producers Aaron Kaplan and Greg Berlanti.  Pilot director McG.  Warner Bros. Television.

PREMISE:  Please try to remain in your seats:  it is apparently possible for a female human being to be both a homicide detective and a mother.  If you’ve recovered from that shock, consider yourself lucky, because The Mysteries of Laura hasn’t.  Laura Diamond (Messing), to the show’s amazement, manages to hunt down murderers and also mother devilish twins who are at least as much trouble as the killers, with little help from her rascal of a soon-to-be ex-husband (and fellow cop) Jake (Josh Lucas).  Her own partner is Billy Soto (Alonso), and among Laura’s other tribulations is that the other woman cop in the precinct, Meredith (Janina Gavankar), is young, single, and just a mean meanie.

PILOT:  One doesn’t want to jump to conclusions, because TV shows, unlike movies and books, are continuing organisms that have the ability to improve over time.  But it’s hard to imagine a cure for the awfulness of The Mysteries of Laura.  There may well be an audience for its simpering middle-aged-woman-power cheerleading, although it’s hard to consider a show progressive that insists on Debra Messing donning a swimsuit in the pilot, has her blackmailing an innocent (female) teacher to get her kids into a good school, and presents the only other woman in the regular cast as a shallow bitch.  Messing, despite some bad post-Will & Grace choices, is probably on some level still a TV star.  This material, though, is rock-bottom.

If there was a way to balance the sitcom elements of Laura’s family life with her chase scenes and shoot-outs, it remained a mystery to Rake and McG.  The upshot is a seaksickness-inducing series of lurches from comedy scenes that seem to be begging for a laugh-track to some of the worst whodunit plotting this side of a (not so) precocious 12-year-old’s notebook.  The solution to the pilot’s murder is so random and illogical that the crime could just as well have been committed by one of the Avengers–until the last scene makes clear that the whole storyline has been a set-up for what will be an insufferable major feature of the series going forward.

Messing is front and center at all times, and the script’s insistence on her charm, her intuition, her sexiness, and her sheer hard-working endurance is exhausting.  It is, and I don’t say this lightly, enough to make you miss her character on Smash.  (Truly, the one good thing that could emerge from the existence of The Mysteries of Laura would be if Vulture brought back Rachel Shukert to write its episodic recaps.)   Lucas twinkles so much as Laura’s rapscallion almost-ex that you might wish a house to fall on him.  The other actors’ participation will, if they’re lucky, be soon forgotten.

PROSPECTS:  As noted, the wretchedness of Mysteries of Laura doesn’t necessarily mean its failure.  NBC more or less roped off Wednesday nights from the network’s ratings renewal project and decided that if it said SVU and Chicago PD were hits loudly enough, that would make them so, even though last season SVU ran behind CBS and ABC in the 9PM hour (and was lucky FOX’s reality shows collapsed), and Chicago PD could barely keep up with the ancient CSI.  In that old-skewing, tepid context, Mysteries of Laura might fit in (certainly better than Revolution did), especially airing against comedies and reality shows on the other senior networks.  Sadly, the mystery isn’t why NBC is giving the series a shot–just why the show is so bad.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."