Did you know that a human woman can be both a mother and a competent professional? The Mysteries of Laura treats this like an earth-shattering revelation, which is emblematic of its shrill, condescending tone in presenting what should be a simple police procedural. Debra Messing plays the title character, that apparently freakish creature who both raises children and holds down a job in which she actually knows what she's doing. The pilot starts out with no mention of Laura's children, and then introduces them with a bit of infuriatingly contrived misdirection: Laura gets an emergency call to a school, where she comes upon what appears to be a grisly crime scene. Surprise, it's actually a mess created by her unruly sons! How wacky, that this woman deals with dangerous criminals and her rambunctious children in the same no-nonsense way!
The central mystery in the first episode is nothing special, but it's not egregiously terrible, either (although it does somewhat annoyingly dispatch with a character who appeared to be part of the main cast). The problem with The Mysteries of Laura is in all the elements that should set a procedural apart: the characters, the dialogue, the performances. Messing is annoying and whiny as this caricature of a career woman, and Josh Lucas is patronizingly smarmy as her ex-husband-to-be, who comes off as insensitive when he's meant to be charming. Their supposedly cute parenting tactics often come off as creepy, and their banter is grating rather than endearing. The episode ends with an idiotic twist that reduces Laura even further to a gender stereotype, just in case you thought the show was going to respect her professional abilities. A show with this little respect for its star, its main character and its audience doesn't deserve any respect in return. Premieres tonight at 10 p.m. on NBC.