‘Brilliant but flawed’ women rule NBC’s TCA presentation

Kate Walsh attends the NBC 2014 Summer TCA.
(Richard Shotwell / Invision / Associated Press)

The portrayal of women emerged as a major theme Sunday at NBC’s presentation at the Television Critics Assn. summer press tour.

The network’s fall schedule includes a trio of shows (“Bad Judge,” “The Mysteries of Laura” and “State of Affairs”) about brilliant-but-flawed female protagonists, women who excel in the workplace but lead chaotic personal lives.

Questions about so-called difficult women began during the panel for the new drama “State of Affairs,” starring Katherine Heigl plays as a talented CIA analyst with a penchant for booze and casual sex, a la Carrie Mathison of “Homeland.” But in a self-reflexive twist, reporters at the panel were more concerned with Heigl’s offscreen reputation than with her character’s complicated personality.

In contrast, much of the conversation regarding “The Mysteries of Laura” revolved around the issue of work-life balance and how it affects women in particular. In the dramedy, adapted from a Spanish series, Debra Messing plays a brilliant (of course) homicide detective with misbehaved twin boys and a philandering, soon-to-be-ex husband. (Logline: “Two tough jobs. One hot mess.”)

Executive producer Jeff Rake disputed the idea that the series was explicitly trying to make a point about women’s place in society, but he did note that “there are singular issues, even in 2014, that speak to women in the workplace,” ones that “The Mysteries of Laura,” with a female protagonist, will naturally address.


“It’s still the women pulling the lion’s share of the work and worry of getting their kids through the day,” he said. “Not because guys haven’t realized it’s their responsibility also. There’s just something about a mother’s role that makes their responsibility a little bit more significant.”

Messing agreed that her character represented neither a “new standard” nor “an extreme case” and observed that, much like that of her character, her at-home personality is distinct from the person she is on on the job.

“When I go to work and I know that my child is safe and in school and taken care of, I can focus all of my attention on my work, and I am a very different person than when I am running around like a chicken without a neck at home trying to get him ready for camp and school is ending and he’s vomited or something,” she said. “It’s real. It’s something I relate to, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to show both worlds simultaneously.”

“The Mysteries of Laura” is not to be confused with “Bad Judge,” starring Kate Walsh as a brilliant jurist with a wild side. (Logline: “Upholding the rules by day. Breaking the rules by night.”)

Walsh defended her character, calling her a “party girl” who “happens to be really really good at her job.”

“It is given as a male archetype, but as a female archetype we’re still exploring it,” she said, pointing to the example of Hugh Laurie’s character on “House.” “You were never like, ‘I’m just waiting for that guy to get settled down and have kids.’ ”

She’s made unconventional choices, and she’s unapologetic about them,” said executive producer Anne Heche, pointing out that Rebecca’s personal foibles are heightened because of the demands of her job. “She’s a mess, but she’s a mess because she handles so much during the day.
Added show runner Liz Brixius, “If it’s a guy who goes out and parties and drinks, we understand that he’s just blowing off steam.”

Twitter: @MeredithBlake