It’s actually funny that I watched these shows on the same day as they are similar in some ways and vastly different in most others. One is a crime drama with wit and pathos that shows the stress of police work on those that perform it. The other is The Mysteries of Laura.
What is it? Batman without Batman. Or, rather, the story of how Batman became needed as we watch Gotham City descend into chaos.
Who’s in it? Ben McKenzie (Southland), Donal Logue (Terriers), Jada Pinkett Smith
The Good: Doing this story, playing on known Batman lore without Batman ever appearing is a feat. While Bruce Wayne is a character, he is played by 13-year old David Mazouz. All of Batman’s contemporaries/rogues gallery are kids or young adults at this point in the timeline. If you’re a DC comics fan then this show is either going to be continuity porn or a a giant snarl of headache inducing mess (the character of Renee Montoya (Victoria Cartagena) is currently the latter for me. I have major problems trying to work that one out). But, ultimately, this is a crime drama. If you have no interest in the lore or the origin story aspects, this becomes a gritty procedural, albeit with insanely larger than life characters. And, on that level, it really works. McKenzie’s new/idealist detective plays well with Logue’s shady veteran. This first episode shoves viewers into the unrelenting cess pool that is Gotham and never let’s up. It’s exciting, fun, and sets up and interesting mystery.
The Bad: Being that this show is a a living comic book, this is about to be a dumb comment but ,this show is dizzingly over the top. Logue is chewing enough scenery to feed the Duggar Family. Pinkett Smith (as mob boss Fish Mooney) is clearly having the time of her life but is about as subtle and nuanced as the baseball bat that she keeps swinging at everyone. And, while I can certainly appreciate that, the gritty darkness that permeates this show doesn’t work well with the gleeful craziness of the acting. Pull it back a little, guys. Does anyone else find it a little funny that the opposing police force/maybe bad guys is the MCU? No? Just me then, fine.
Special Mention: A lot of the preseason press for this show has been about Robin Lord Taylor’s (Oswald Cobblepot/Penguin) performance and it it richly deserved. His performance is magnetic. Menace pours out of every opportunistic little pore and it’s fantastic to watch.
The Mysteries of Laura
What is it? The story of a frazzled mom/NYPD homicide detective who is barely holding on to her out of control life.
Who’s in it? Debra Messing (Smash, Will & Grace)
The Good: I have to say I appreciate a series that shows a woman getting it done. She’s an ace at work, she runs her house and has very little help from the men in her life. Never once in the pilot is the fact that she is a woman mentioned let alone seen as a weakness. The opening mystery seems very standard, but the twist ending was well done and surprising.
The Bad: That said: Laura trades on her sexuality/femininity so often and freely that it gets ridiculous really fast. The scene in the public pool is particularly egregious as she slips into a plunge neck one-piece in a nanosecond (her male partner meanwhile simply went with a tank top and his boxers. Come on, no gratuitous shirtlessness?) Her children and ex husband (Josh Lucas) are cartoonish parodies of every bad family member trope in the book. Every twist in the overall narrative of the show, outside the episode’s central mystery, is telegraphed with embarrassingly bad dialogue. And, this is petty but, why is Laura always wearing olive/hunter green? Her standard costume is an olive green turtleneck under a khaki trenchcoat, and her (God it pissed me off) swimsuit is hunter green. Is it a ginger thing? On Smash Messing was drowned in terrible sweaters and now she is relegated to…I’ll be generous and call them “muted jewel tones?” What did you do to your stylist Debra? This show is just terrible from the jump. Nothing about it works in any way and, while I applaud the gutsyness of the final who-is-the-killer reveal, the Sherlockian way the final reveal comes together is both too specific and unsatisfying.
Special Mention: Laz Alonso speaks wonderful Spanish, Who knew?