Fall 2014 Review: The Mysteries of Laura

19 Sep

The Mysteries of Laura

The Mysteries of Laura stars TV superstar Debra Messing as a crackerjack homicide detective who also has to take care of two unruly young children on her own. Her soon to be ex-husaband is a fellow cop, and the twist of the pliot is that he gets promoted to be her superior, leading to an awkward relationship at work with her ex, while she deals with the kids by herself at home. Of course, one would think the police department would want to avoid this situation, but we’ll put that aside for the moment.

What exactly are the tiular Mysteries of Laura? That’s a good question. Are the mysteries the individual murders cases she’ll be forced to solve each week? Is the mystery how she handles the stress of a high-pressure job catching deadly criminals, endangering herself in the process, while simultaneously raising two kids? Is the mystery whether The Mysteries of Laura is supposed to funny or serious? Is it who thought The Mysteries of Laura was a show that would have any sort of natural audience?

The Mysteries of Laura attempts to both be funny and dramatic over the course of an hour, and fails at both attempts. If I had to guess, the closest analogues to what The Mysteries of Laura is going for are the hour long comedic procedurals Monk and Psych, both on USA. The Mysteries of Laura would have probably have done better on that network, where,  that’s the type of programming they specialize in and they know how to take on that format successfully.

The Mysteries of Laura is just a mess all over. The first episode features the murder of a wealthy man, which Laura and her fellow detectives, but mostly Laura, must solve. The tone is goofy, and she rattles off jokes and shows off her skills in a jokey manner. She’s unprofessional by serious procedural standards, but that’s okay, because she’s silly and competent and everyone loves her except for the one uptight play-by-the-rules female detective who doesn’t. Again, think of her as the Monk or Shawn from Psych, the skeptic-who-is-always-right-in-the-end and overrules her boss every episode. Those shows though fit this format well because they’re often funny, and when not laugh-out-loud funny, enjoyable to watch – perfect for putting on while lying down before bed or just waking up when you don’t want to think too hard. Mysteries of Laura isn’t amusing or fun to watch.

The first episode, crazily enough, ends up with the revelation that her captain and mentor was the killer (played by Keith Mars himself, Enrico Colantoni). The tone changes oddly here at the episode’s end, implying that we’re supposed to feel some sort of serious, climactic, dramatic moment of pain and shock for Laura, but of course there’s none of this, not only because it belies the tone of the rest of the episode, but because it’s the first episode of the show and we barely know who any of the characters let alone care about them.

It’s just a strange show that aside from just generally not being very good, clearly doesn’t know what it wants to be. Waffling rarely works in TV. It’s possible to span multiple categories and genres (think Louie) but its a hell of a lot harder to do and a show of ambition as modest as The Mysteries of Laura should certainly not be shooting above its pay grade.

Will I watch it again? No. It succeeded at none of its aims. It wasn’t funny, it wasn’t particularly enjoyable, and it didn’t really work as a procedural, either, it wasn’t tense or exciting, or suspenseful.

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