People at NBC must really love Debra Messing. For eight seasons she played interior designer Grace Adler, and the role won her an Emmy and a legion of fans. After playing Grace, however, she never found the same devoted audience again. Messing earned good reviews for USA’s The Starter Wife, but she returned to NBC for the musical drama Smash. It only lasted 2 seasons, and every move that show made was deemed a bad one. Why bring up Messing’s television credits? She’s a dependable, warm presence, and people are going after The Mysteries of Laura with sharpened knives.
Messing plays Detective Laura Diamond, a woman on juggling her chaotic home life (separation from her husband, hellion twin boys) with her professional one. The show isn’t very subtle in showing you how messy her life is: Laura’s car is in complete disarray and she isn’t afraid to tell her fellow female co-workers that only douchebags abide by staunch police procedures (well, that makes me feel safe). Her obnoxious singing in said messy car definitely produces smiles, though.
In the pilot, Laura and her Captain (Enrico Colantoni) go to an opulent mansion to investigate a death threat. Something was very distracting, and then it became obvious: Messing is Grace with a gun. Remember how Grace was obsessed with food? When Messing and Colantoni arrive at the opulent house to question the family, they are offered wine and chocolate cheesecake (“Yes and yes!” is Laura’s response). When she sits down to shovel cheesecake into her mouth, all I could think about was Grace anxious to get her onion blossom. Actors can sometimes unknowingly channel their former famous characters, but this was almost blatant.
The pilot episode focuses on a murdered philandering husband who was ready to launch a cell phone with state-of-the-art reception. Who’s to blame? The wife? The sketchy brother? As if finding a killer isn’t enough, her raucous twins have been kicked out of almost every school in the area, and her husband, a fellow cop played by Josh Lucas, isn’t of any help. “I don’t need them to be tolerated. I just need to drop them off at 8 and pick them up at 5,” she tells the elementary principal before they are expelled.
It’s a bit disappointing that NBC ran a 3 minute trailer for Mysteries that reveals the entire plot and ending of the pilot episode. Do they have zero confidence in their own project that they would seriously reveal the killer? It’s not perfect, and it may not be the best new show of the fall—it’s hardly deserving of all the venom thrown its way. Laura spends a little too much time using her cop lingo with her kids and it’s a bit surprising to see her blowing baddies away, but she’s good at her job. There are worse things in the world.
The Mysteries of Laura succeeds because of one thing: Debra Messing. In the hands of a less likable star, the show would probably be unbearable. Watching her stuff her face and sing obnoxiously loud in her messy car is charming. Give it a break, people. Let’s not condemn the show (and it’s vivacious star) from just the first 44 minutes.