Prime Suspect Review: Series Premiere

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There is one thing that kept the series premiere of Prime Suspect from descending into mediocrity: Maria Bello.

Never before have I watched someone who wanted something so badly. Bello, as Jane Timoney, is able to keep up with the boys and beat them at their own game of being a detective in New York City.

Jane and Luisito

While the “Beef Trust” is content to sit around, only going after the suspects that seem guilty and spending the rest of their time drinking and keeping Jane off lead detective work, Jane is dedicated to being an actual detective, even after one of their own died of a heart attack.

And that is what keeps Prime Suspect from being just another show about women being held down in a traditionally male-dominated field.

The Beef Trust doesn’t have a problem with women coming in and being detectives, they have a problem with Jane, specifically because they believe she slept her way to the top.

What sets Timoney apart from most procedural heroines - and something that will probably help her eventually win over the force and audiences alike - is she really does feel like one of the guys. There’s no gung-ho, overly earnest optimism here. Jane is a dark character, filled with bright spots of dark humor and crudeness. She is interested in doing her job well and going over every angle, not closing the case as quickly as possible and getting a beer with the fellas after work.

Another trait that sets Jane apart is how her personality doesn’t flip a switch when she gets home. This isn't someone who suddenly become the stereotypical happy homemaker when she sets foot in her house or is around children.

Jane doesn’t have a problem checking into her boyfriend’s ex and her new husband’s past as leverage to get his son to spend some nights with them, nor does she have a problem showing a traumatized child her gun if it means more information about her case.

The final act perfectly encapsulates who Jane is. No matter what the cost or consequence... she is going to do her job, even if that means chasing a suspect and getting into an absolutely ruthless, dirty fight. Nothing knocks her down for long and no one will stand in her way, even if it means getting tackled and punched in the face.

While the episode's case of the week felt rather generic, and the other characters need some definite story arcs besides being barriers to Jane, one thing is for certain: Maria Bello elevates Prime Suspect to must-watch status.

Review

Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
  • 4.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.1 / 5.0 (128 Votes)

Nick McHatton is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.

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Why call this rather poor "run of the mill" television programme "Prime Suspect"? Is it supposed to be equal to the hard hitting, gritty Helen Mirren series? Quite ridiculous, even offensive.

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I don't bother trying to compare US remakes to British originals, because the set-ups are just too different. And they wouldn't work at all if they weren't. So I just accepted this at face value and thoroughly enjoyed it. Sure, it might take a little while to find its feet - but if there's one thing I hate it's shows that barely get one season to become a roaring success and face the axe if they don't. And I work in tv so yes, I get the need for budgets and viewer figures and all that stuff - but sometimes the best shows start off with rough edges and grow into themselves. That's why some of the best shows are the classics from back in the days when being an instant success wasn't such a driver. I love the casting too - I always liked Maria Bello from her ER days and I'm a huge fan of Kenny Johnson from the epic that was the Shield. Hope this sticks around!

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If you are a fan of Helen Mirren/Prime Suspect, this is a huge disappointment. Acting not that great, forced scripts and what is with that stupid hat???? Sorry, this one does not make the cut!!!!

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Maria Bello is always a pleasure but this show is a dog. Awkward and self-concious dialogue, stereotyped characters and generally way too linear--there's no psychological space in this thing, no way to develop any curiosity about any of it. It feels like it was written by people who spend all watching other police procedurals and then washing their scripts in grittyness. Or Marketing executives. Whole thing very puffed-up. There is no excuse for using that title.

Fortyseven

Mediocre. Bello wasn't bad.

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As someone who loved the original series with Helen Mirren, I had high hopes for this show. I HATED it. It had no subtlety, no finesse, all the characters were poorly introduced, the dialog was unintelligible, and the plot was ridiculous (she deputized a desk clerk at a homeless shelter? She gave a little boy a gun to play with while she herself is playing amateur child psychologist? She keeps FOUR rifles in a New York apartment?). The writers and producers missed a golden opportunity to create a show that addresses the problems faced by women when the first entered the "man's world" of police work, which is an anachronism today, especially on tv. And they missed an opportunity to create a smart crime drama that shows real detective work, like the original series did. As much as I liked Maria Bello and Aiden Quinn, there is no way I would watch another episode of this predictable, annoying nonsense.

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As an admirer of the British Prime Suspect, I was ready for a let-down, but instead found a truly original Americanized take on the series. The first episode was an inventive adaptation of one of the first episodes of the original -- and it worked. Maria Bello is excellent, but so are other cast members. I agree that this is a must -watch!!

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The first season of the Bristish Prime Suspect was fantastic. I liked subsequent seasons less. Although I did not think I would like Maria Bello, I find this new American series fairly interesting. I like the soundtrack as well. I think this new series will do well as long as they get good scripts.

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The thing that really sets this apart from the original Prime Suspect is the tone. There were far too many humorous and almost humorous moments in the episode. The original PM isn't like that. Mirren's Jane is a deeply-flawed character, who is damn good at her job. She does come up against the old-boy network, and she suffers for her work, via alcoholism, smoking, and the failure of her intimate and familial relationships. She has a darkness, as does the show, overall. I think that, on its own, this current version could turn out to be a winner. But, there is little here to compare with the original show, other than the title.

Nick-m

Alex, I feel like I have to defend myself a little bit here. I prefaced what you quoted with "What sets Timoney apart from most procedural heroines." That theme runs through almost the rest of my review. Jane's defining personality traits make her feel more like the guys on the squad than the beef trust would like to admit. The defining characteristics I listed are further evidence of why Jane isn't like a stereotypical female procedural heroine. I'm not talking about the women you and I meet every day. I'm talking about what we experience from a very large amount of the TV produced. Like you said "Women as portrayed on TV? Another breed altogether." I very much realize women are not a separate species and you'll find that many of the shows I like have strong, fully realized women in lead roles. P.S. I don't want to come across combative. I love your comment, your point came across clearly, and your passion is contagious because when more people like you stand up against stereotypes in any form of media things get changed.