Mysteries of Laura: Jewel in the Rough

Laura (Debra Messing) in the Mystery of the Biker Bar
The Mysteries of Laura (Photo: Will Hart / NBC)

We tried, but the bizarre choices and tone problems of Mysteries of Laura make watching the show a chore.

She’s a cop who plays by her own rules! She’s a newly-single mom trying to balance work and home with unruly twin boys! She’s wildly inappropriate at work but gets the job done! She’s this! She’s that!

To say that Mysteries of Laura doesn’t know what it is doing is an understatement. NBC’s new show takes itself way too seriously to be a comedy, but tries way too hard to be funny to be a competent procedural. It should be no surprise that the wildly inconsistent tone problems make it impossible to engage with Laura in any meaningful way. Which is a shame, because there is so much potential for a show like this.

Mysteries do not have to be dour, serious affairs. There are genuinely hilarious moments in Twin Peaks and the reason Columbo works is because Peter Falk’s character is completely disarming. But if you are trying to have a smart mystery, the humor needs to also come from a place of wit. On the flipside, comedies do not have to be delivered at a laugh-a-minute pace. There can be serious dramatic moments that tug at the heart while making you chuckle.1 If The Mysteries of Laura could figure out how to make the conventions of both genres work together, such as in the movie Charade2, this show could be successful. Instead, we get clashing ideas and concepts that do not serve the comedy or the mystery.

The exception that proves this: the subplot involving Laura’s new babysitter Sammi (Kahyun Kim). Sammi is an Occupy Wall Street type who was arrested for civil disobedience. They met at the precinct and Laura needed a last-minute sitter in episode two. In last night’s episode, we see Sammi at work—dressed in all black, teaching the twin boys about Harriet Tubman and the history of abolitionism. Laura sends her assistant to check on the sitter, causing Sammi to quit. Laura apologizes to Sammi because she has been doing an awesome job. Yes, Sammi may be indoctrinating the kids to be like surprise child from Madam Secretary, but isn’t this kind of story much more interesting than Madcap Momcop?

Unfortunately, I will never know. The main plot from Wednesday’s episode centered around a biker bar where Laura and her estranged husband/boss Jake fell in love. Yeah, I don’t know either. I also don’t know why this bar played Jewel’s “You Were Meant for Me” JUST LIKE OLD TIMES. I have to admit, I stopped paying attention at that point until red herring prime suspect (RHPS) started discussing air rights as the reason why a business deal didn’t go through. Air rights. Just like in Burlesque. I’m out.

  1. This is why Amy Poehler will never win an Emmy for Parks and Recreation: her best moments on the show are when the story pushes beyond the chaotic good nature of Leslie Knope.  
  2. I won’t bore you with the paper I wrote in college.  

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About Mike McComb 656 Articles
Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it "TV Camp." After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv