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Whodunit to Debra Messing in NBC's The Mysteries of Laura?


Debra Messing tries to get a grip on her twin terrors. NBC photo

Premiering: Wednesday, Sept. 17th at 9 p.m. (central) before moving to regular 7 p.m. Wednesday slot on Sept. 24th
Starring: Debra Messing, Josh Lucas, Laz Alonso, Janina Gavankar, Charles Reina, Vincent Reina
Produced by: Greg Berlanti, Jeff Rake, McG, Aaron Kaplan, Todd Lituchy, Sarah Schechter

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NBC has a new crime-time Wednesday in mind, with The Mysteries of Laura walking the beat in the leadoff spot before Law & Order: SVU and Chicago P.D. go after more bad guys.

But first comes a “sneak preview” of Laura, an oft-loud and mostly messy hour of Debra Messing hoping to register as a New York homicide detective after all those years on Will & Grace and a tour of duty on Smash. The pilot episode follows Wednesday’s two-hour Season 9 finale of America’s Got Talent.

Straight-ahead, close-ended crimesolving is the overall intent, with Messing’s Laura Diamond deducing the weekly murderer in a manner that suggests both the board game Clue and the old Columbo whodunits. But a fairly inventive plot twist at the end can’t save the opening hour from otherwise being all over the place.

It all begins with a slam-bang car chase and a Dirty Harry-ish Diamond in pistol-brandishing action before viewers are introduced to her pre-K twin boys from hell, Nicholas and Harrison (Charles and Vincent Reina). Separated from her husband, Jake (Josh Lucas), who’s also a detective, Laura has the impossible task of parenting two kids who can’t be deterred from destroying property, peeing on one another, etc. Dad doesn’t help by bringing the boys toy guns during one of his quick visits.

“You need to beat ‘em!” a black woman bystander exclaims when Nicholas and Harrison go ape in a public park. In light of recent events involving Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, that line may well have to go before Laura makes its way to home screens.

The central murder case, which couldn’t be much more uninteresting, involves an effete rich guy who’s planning to launch a new cell phone. He lives like a king with his snooty wife before being found dead. Laura, assisted by her partner Billy (Laz Alonso), manages to wind up undercover in a fairly daring swimsuit at the impossibly pricey Ancient Baths spa.

Meanwhile, a new private school must be found for her sons after they’re kicked out of their current one. This allows Dad to call a school interviewer a “snobbish, pre-K Nazi Queen” after she’s understandably aghast at the boys’ latest bad behavior.

Messing seems to be trying hard, but in a role and a show that just don’t suit her talents. The Mysteries of Laura may well get a nice-sized sampling in Wednesday’s advantageous post-AGT slot. But the appetite for more will be sorely tested next week when Laura goes to battle opposite new episodes of CBS’ Survivor, Fox’s Hell’s Kitchen and ABC’s family comedy combo of The Middle and The Goldbergs.

Elementary deduction: that’s a fourth-place finish in the making.

GRADE: C-minus

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