television review

Only mystery about ‘Mysteries’ is why it isn’t better

Debra Messing as an NYPD homicide detective in “The Mysteries of Laura.”
Barbara Nitke/NBC
Debra Messing as an NYPD homicide detective in “The Mysteries of Laura.”

Every fall TV season, a few new shows land in the same sad club: series that raise our hopes, thanks to the involvement of quality creative people, and then dash them with muddled execution.

The charter member this year is NBC’s “The Mysteries of Laura” — based on a Spanish series — which gets a sneak preview Wednesday at 10 p.m. before moving to its regular 8 p.m. time slot on Sept. 24.

Several pieces of news inspired optimism about the dramedy that chronicles the contrasting work and home life of NYPD homicide detective Laura Diamond.


Chief among those was the casting of reliably great actress Debra Messing (“Will & Grace”) as a tenacious and gifted cop juggling crime-solving with the challenges of raising unruly twin sons. Messing had us sticking with “Smash” all the way to the curtain call, even though that show fell apart in the second act. Add the involvement of executive producer Greg Berlanti who has on his resume a clutch of terrific shows — “Brothers & Sisters,” “Everwood,” “Eli Stone” — that generally achieved a good balance of humor, heart, and plot. Throw in Josh Lucas as Diamond’s hunky but flawed husband, Jake Broderick, and you’re off to a good start.

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The pilot has a few bright spots, chief among them Messing’s portrayal of Diamond’s sleuthing skills — she’s cut from the same “just one more thing” cloth as the faux-bumbling Columbo. She sells the tenacity and smart-alecky charm even if the crime she’s investigating is not that engrossing.

But every time we head from the precinct house to Diamond’s actual house, it gets tougher to stick with “The Mysteries of Laura.” At home her sons are gleefully peeing on each other, her husband — also a gifted cop from whom she is trying to obtain a divorce and distance — is deeply unhelpful, and she’s shown in Spanx, a joke the show sells hard but is very difficult to buy.

The mischief and mishaps may be utterly realistic and familiar to the parents, but that doesn’t mean watching children barfing is entertaining.

Lucas, who always seems to have a twinkle in his eye regardless of the situation, isn’t given very many notes to play, but you come to understand why Laura doesn’t want to stay married to him. A twist involving his character at the end of the episode feels contrived but could lead to more interesting insights about their relationship.


The rest of the supporting cast — including Laz Alonso (“Stomp the Yard”) — has too little to do, so it’s hard to know what they might yet contribute. Likewise, some of the show’s problems — tonal shifts, the extremity of the twins’ behavior — may indeed be worked out over time, but based on the pilot, these “Mysteries” might never be solved.

Sarah Rodman can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GlobeRodman.