Without putting too fine a point on it, “The Mysteries of Laura” is designed for people who really, really love Debra Messing — who have been pining for her return to NBC ever since “Will & Grace,” and were even willing to forgive and forget her role in “Smash.” That contingent, alas, had better be fairly sizable, since there’s precious little else to recommend this new series, which liberally mixes the struggles-of-motherhood comedy with standard police procedural fare. Although Laura’s partner playfully refers to her as “Columbo,” the more apt comparison for NBC might be its “Ironside” revival.
At times, Laura’s commitment to whimsy makes the crime in the premiere — a hard-to-explain murder, committed in plain view — feel almost like an afterthought. That’s because she spends much of her time dealing with her mischievous preschoolers and a philandering husband (Josh Lucas) who, in addition to also being on the police force, doesn’t want to sign those pesky divorce papers.
Messing’s Laura is hardly the first detective to exhibit brilliance as a sleuth while her personal life is in something of a shambles. Although the timing could probably be better regarding the show’s casual approach to officer-involved shootings, where, as even her boss notes, “standard procedure is for douchebags.”
But whatever good will the series musters with its easy-going tone — which, the grimmer cop stuff notwithstanding, comes through in the family scenes and Laura’s banter with her partner (Laz Alonzo) — is squandered not only by the familiarity of its story beats but the haphazard way they’re thrown together, courtesy of writer-showrunner Jeff Rake, who adapted a Spanish series; and director McG, whose fast-paced style seems wasted on this material.
NBC is hardly the first network to bet on old-fashioned star power, but as last season’s Michael J. Fox vehicle suggests, nostalgia only goes so far. (The network will give the series a hoped-for boost by previewing it behind “America’s Got Talent,” before settling into its regular leadoff-the-night timeslot.)
“I’m just a mother with a shiny badge, a loaded gun and very little patience,” Laura snaps at one point, pretty much summing up the show in a nutshell.
So while it’s really no mystery why the network chose to gamble on “Laura,” the riddle that goes unsolved is why anybody who watches the first hour should be inspired to return for another.