The 2014-15 season is close to two months old, meaning most new shows now have a half-dozen or so episodes under their belts. In other words, they’ve had enough time to either double down on the strengths of their pilot episodes or work to correct some of their flaws.
So, did they? Zap2it is taking a second look at a few new series in our Fall TV Re-reviews.
The show: “The Mysteries of Laura,” NBC
The reviews: Critics were, uh, not kind to “Laura,” a light cop drama starring Debra Messing as an NYPD homicide detective who — can you believe it? — is also a mom. More than a few critics called it the worst new show of the season.
The money quote: From Zap2it’s review: “Everything about this show feels like deja vu, but everything it references comes from TV before TV realized it could be good.”
The re-review: “Laura” has, in fact, improved on some of the more glaring issues from its pilot. The pilot leaned way, waaay too heavily on the idea that “She’s a cop … AND a mom!” — to the point where NPR critic Linda Holmes renamed the show “Copmom Momcop,” complete with new theme song. The good news is the show has pulled back on that aspect — it still goes home with Laura, but her kids are no longer budding sociopaths, and her ex-husband/superior officer (Josh Lucas) has been upgraded from negligent to indifferent as a father, which is progress of a sort.
Seven episodes in, though, about the best to be said for “The Mysteries of Laura” is that it’s laundry-folding TV, the kind of show you can have on in the background while you’re doing other things and still follow reasonably easily. The cases Laura and her fellow detectives work are easy pickings for veteran cop-show viewers — the Most Famous Guest Star theory has been applied more than once already — and the writers are a bit overly fond of the kind of on-the-nose quips of the Lennie Briscoe-Horatio Caine variety.
Messing has, at least, thrown herself into her role, embracing Laura’s harried anti-style. But what she’s given to work with is all surface — jokes about scrounging free food while on the job and comfy Velcro shoes don’t really get at anything resembling a real-life struggle to balance a dangerous job with raising a couple of young kids. (The insinuation that somehow being a mother cuts her off from pop culture and the world at large is also kind of insulting.)
Gritty realism is not where this show lives, and that’s fine, but more than a token nod to Laura’s situation would add a welcome bit of grounding to the series.
The show has been performing decently in the ratings, and NBC has picked it up for a full season. It’s working to some degree as TV comfort food, and the broadcast networks will likely always have a place for shows like this. But “Laura” still needs more seasoning to really work.