Oh, there are so many mysteries in The Mysteries of Laura, NBC’s new cop drama/motherhood comedy. The first mystery is, of course, why this show was made in 2014. It follows the template of the horrid “Can women have it all?” genre of television show that should, by now, be extinct. It reads as self-parody — the god-awful posters that disfigure Debra Messing’s arms have her standing in the middle of her two lives: on one side, she handcuffs a criminal as her partner smiles; on the other, she is wrangling two misbehaving children as her husband smolders on, oblivious. Messing might as well be performing a Modern Woman Circus Act, in which she literally juggles a screaming child, a loaded gun, a wedding ring, and an actual cop car — all while chasing down a perp as she chaperones a school trip.
Another mystery: How many people allowed this to happen? How many people did this logline, script, and pilot episode pass through without a single person shooting it down, listing the countless other programs that have tackled the same basic premise (even in this current TV season), and explaining why it’s just downright offensive that we are basing entire television shows on the oh-so-baffling idea that women are unable to handle more than one responsibility? Maybe this will be a shock to network executives, but: It is entirely possible for a woman to have a job and have a family, and it is also entirely possible for a woman to choose only one, or to choose neither. What is impossible to believe is that “she’s great at her job… but her personal life is a mess!” is still what passes for a well-rounded female character.
Even putting aside that whole ridiculousness, there aren’t many redeeming qualities to the pilot episode (written by Jeff Rake of Boston Legal and, for some reason, directed by McG). Laura Diamond (Messing) is a frazzled woman who is mostly characterized by Spanx and the ability to make Lady Gaga references. Within the first two minutes of the pilot, she dangerously shoots a perp. She uses her advantages as a cop to blackmail a teacher into accepting her sons into a school — as if we weren’t already keenly aware of police officers abusing their power. Laura is a “complex” character: sometimes she wears a swimsuit while talking about football to show that she can be a cool mom, cop, and hottie; sometimes she drugs her children with cold medication so they will behave during a school interview.
There is also the mystery of her husband Jake (Josh Lucas). We know very little about him except that he is the favorite parent, he is also a good detective, and he once cheated on Laura, but he is totally over it so like, why can’t his shrew of a wife get over it, too? She wants a divorce, but he refuses to sign the divorce papers because to do so would ruin what is surely going to be an irritating storyline throughout the series because — spoiler — he ends up becoming her captain. Can Jake have it all? Of course! Not once in the pilot is he anything but a Cool Dad or a Cool Cop or a Cool Husband — which, of course, turns Laura into Crazy Mom, Crazy Cop, and Crazy Wife. Again, this is a TV show in 2014.
The Mysteries of Laura indirectly brings up another mystery: What the hell to do with Debra Messing? She’s a solid comedic actress and has proved as much on both Ned & Stacey and Will & Grace, but she’s so out of place here, struggling to create something worthwhile out of a unspectacular script. NBC Universal obviously wants to keep Messing in the family — NBC’s Smash, USA’s The Starter Wife — and will basically do whatever they can to ensure that except give her something golden to work with. The best thing Messing can hope for is that this show will be swiftly canceled so she can return to sitcoms.
Here’s the thing about The Mysteries of Laura: Laura isn’t a great mother, but she’s a pretty good cop! She’s intelligent, she has good instincts, and she actually solves cases (while playing by her own rules). The Mysteries of Laura could be a fun, light cop drama if it weren’t so bad at just about everything else.