Based on the critically acclaimed British television series of the same name, “Prime Suspect” has been redeveloped for American audiences by writer Alexandra Cunningham (“Desperate Housewives,” “NYPD Blue”), director Peter Berg (NBC’s “Friday Night Lights”) — and stars Maria Bello (“A History of Violence”) as tough-as-nails Detective Jane Timoney. Timoney finds that being a homicide detective in New York City is tough enough and having to contend with a male-dominated police department to get respect makes it that much tougher. She’s an outsider who has just transferred to a new precinct dominated by an impenetrable clique of a boys’ club. Timoney has her own vices too — with a questionable past — and she tends to be forceful, rude and reckless. But she’s also a brilliant cop who keeps her eye on one thing: the prime suspect. – NBC
80 out of 100
DISCLAIMER: The ‘Tastic, through our continuing efforts to be relevant, will not be reviewing, rating or otherwise judging this show in comparison to its BBC predecessor. They aren’t the same show and it’s embarrassing for us to see critic and fan reviews that take this route which they seem to do for every flippin’ show that crosses the pond.
Regular readers of The ‘Tastic know that we have a long list of types of shows that we simply hate and ranking high on that list is the police procedural. They are all the same (which is why they’re referred to as procedurals… duh) and it’s incredibly rare that any of them really stand out from one another. And then there’s NBC’s Prime Suspect which is really one of the best procedurals we’ve seen in years.
Why is it working where most others fail? Well, we think that part of it comes down to a relatability factor with the characters. All of the detectives seem more like people you would know in your neighborhood and family with all of the regular personality and ego quirks normally associated with familiar acquaintances.
But the key to this show’s success, quality-wise, is actually the investigations themselves and Bello’s honest portrayal of Jane Timoney, the no-nonsense detective that the show centers on. Timoney is a flawed character, but she’s very good and has a keen intuition and is very down to earth. Many police procedurals try to portray their lead-character detectives as superheroes, seeing things that no one else would ever possibly see because of their keen intellect or special ability that puts them a step above their colleagues (e.g., CSI, Unforgettable, The Mentalist, Numb3rs, etc). Prime Suspect doesn’t waste the audience’s time with this and in fact, it goes out of its way to show that Timoney is human and does make mistakes and is dependent on the other detectives, whether she likes it or not.
Speaking of the other detectives, the supporting cast of this show is an all-star lineup of veteran film and television actors that complement Timoney perfectly partly because some of them don’t even like her, yet. With a lineup that includes Aidan Quinn (Legends of the Fall, and many, many others), Kirk Acevedo (Fringe, Oz, Band of Brothers), Brían F. O’Byrne (Brotherhood, FlashForward) and Tim Griffin (known as “the actor who is in everything” for good reason) this show really can’t do much wrong.
One of the problems we often have with police procedurals is of course, the formulaic and procedural nature to them which lends itself to having no emotional attachment to the victim. This is a failing of procedurals and over the years it seems that producers just stopped caring. What’s one more dead guy, right? Prime Suspect breaks out of this by avoiding the common pitfalls associated with the genre. There aren’t always going to be twists, misdirection and mistaken identity on Prime Suspect. Sometimes it’s just a straight-up investigation and yes, the spouse did do it. Any police officer or detective will tell you that criminal investigations are rarely as complex as portrayed on Dateline, 48 Hours or the myriad of police procedurals on television (most cops hate police procedurals). However, there’s always a story and subtext to any investigation and this is what Prime Suspect exploits very effectively and by doing so, the audience has no choice but to be sympathetic to the characters (especially the victims) and in spite of the fact this is a police procedural, you are sucked into the narrative.
It’s very rare, to the point of nigh-impossible, that a police procedural made us misty-eyed over one of its victims. This one did last week when the victim was a five year-old boy whose alcoholic/pill-popping mother was hungover and hit his head against the wall and he died two hours later at school. Throughout the entire episode they kept showing his little body covered on a table in the medical examiner’s office. If you have kids, that’s the some hard-hitting stuff and they were so subtle about doing it that it worked brilliantly as a plot device.
There’s only one aspect to the show that we can do without and that is that we don’t give a sh*t about how much of a total lunatic bitch her husband’s ex-wife is. We don’t mind the interaction with Timoney’s own family (her father and her sister, in particular) because it serves to develop her character but the scenes involving the husband’s ex do nothing to advance the plot, in fact they are a drain on every episode and the time could be better spent on other areas… like watching Timoney get a cleaning at the dentist. They are so bad as to make you want to turn off the damned show whenever they start. Also, the trailer above really is embarrassing because it cheapens just how good this show is.
Realistic and gritty, all in all, Prime Suspect is a great show and a surprisingly well-done police procedural.
You can watch full episodes of Prime Suspect, here.