MCC 2014 Pilot Binge #4: “The Mysteries of Laura”

Mysteries of Laura!

The hard-knock life of an undercover officer.

Debra Messing is back on network TV! She’s po-lice! She’s Mom! Debra Messing is…POLICE MOM!

Have you been dying for a a return to the glorious absurdity of Sledge Hammer! and Police Squad, even if the absurdity is unintentional? Do you lie awake at night wondering why Lifetime never greenlit a series based on the Miss Congeniality movies? Are you tired of shows like The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Street that think real-life, hard-knock police work is more important than magazine makeup or hair care? Then your new favorite show is ready and waiting to make you laugh and cry in all the wrong places.

In NBC’s The Mysteries of Laura, tough-named Laura Diamond is a New York City homicide detective with a handle on her job and a steady partner (Laz Alonso) who holds his own but knows better than to come between her and the camera. Meanwhile behind the scenes, things are falling apart. Her almost-ex-husband (Josh Lucas, a.k.a. Glenn Talbot from Ang Lee’s Hulk) is in the same line of work, but he’s the epitome of the selfish, boorish, ridiculously permissive, useless, infuriating dudebro caricature that populates four out of every five TV sitcoms and makes a persuasive argument why we men should be collectively sentenced to exile. Together they’re the parents of twin boys who are straight-up clones of the kid from those horrible Problem Child movies, which were never rebooted for very good reasons. Their uncontrolled, disgusting behavior implies they were raised in a tool shed behind a barn on an abandoned plantation in a podunk meth-head town where the only form of culture was VHS episodes of The Tom Green Show.

Thus must Detective Diamond, which sounds like a super-hero name, learn to juggle both worlds without letting any stress lines show. In the series’ opening done-in-one mystery, she and her C.O.,Captain Hauser (Enrico Colantoni, sadly just a “special guest”), are called to solve the murder of a smartphone developer (Patrick Breen, another Galaxy Quest vet like Colantoni) that they’d just visited hours earlier, but who mysteriously died soon after. The chase leads them through pointless interviews, a few searches without warrants, gratuitous swimsuit scenes, two plugs for Target, and a gather-all-the-suspects climax that erupts in a moment of Drebinesque classiness at the victim’s funeral.

Meanwhile in the parenting subplot, poor Laura is flustered because Omen 1 and Omen 2 have been expelled from daycare and now she needs to find somewhere else equally upscale to take them off her hands so she can continue working her Monday-through-Friday 9-to-5 homicide-detective job. Pretty convenient work if you can find it. I’d like to sympathize with her, but their shenanigans are timed and shot not as serious drama about hard parental struggles, but as comedy scenes for cheap laughs. (Fingerpaint disaster! Dart-guns! Surprise vomit! Har!)

We hit rock bottom when it’s time for the family to be interviewed for a prospective replacement pre-K center. To keep the boys nice and compliant, Laura feeds them enough cough syrup to inebriate them into a stupor. In some localities this would be labeled child abuse and the interviewer would likely call Child Protective Services on her. This kind of offense is especially fresh in mind for Indianapolis residents who remember a recent, highly publicized case in which an unlicensed day-care runner was arrested for drugging her young charges into submission. But when Laura does it on TV, it’s, uh, funny because she’s desperate! And hot! Hyuk!

And that’s our hero. Alonso brings some game but clearly isn’t allowed to be the star. The rest of her supporting cast were mere pilot placeholders. On the job, she’s an average TV detective that could probably have coffee with Rizzoli and Isles without looking out of place, but too often she makes Linden from The Killing look like Police-Mom of the Year. The Mysteries of Laura is the kind of rickety high-concept prefabrication that gives network TV a bad reputation.

(MCC 2014 Pilot Binge stats: Minutes passed before I wanted the show to go away: 19. Minutes passed before I wanted it to burn: 41. For more information on the MCC 2014 Pilot Binge project, please visit the initial entry for the rationale, the official checklist of pilots, and links to completed entries as we go. Thanks for reading!)

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