‘Prime Suspect’ Series Premiere Review & Discussion

Published 2 years ago by

Maria Bello Prime Suspect Series Premiere NBC Prime Suspect Series Premiere Review & Discussion

When deciding to adapt Prime Suspect from the many British miniseries and TV movies, NBC had the unenviable task of turning an incredibly well received, decades old program into a weekly series – and sell it to an American audience. Daunting though it seemed, after the premiere episode, the peacock network looks to have pulled off something rather remarkable.

Well liked by many an audience stateside, Prime Suspect was never a crossover hit, so any adaptation would likely suffer little scrutiny from the average American viewer, and might actually garner some interest from those familiar with the long-running BBC program. At first glance, the two share some resemblances, but all in all, this new version is thankfully not a simple carbon copy of its predecessor, but rather a unique program that salutes the greatness from which it was spawned.

Like the original, starring Helen Mirren as DCI Jane Tennison, NBC’s Prime Suspect succeeds largely on the strength of its leading lady. Here, the performance from Maria Bello is so strong the show feels anchored from the get go.

Bello is Detective Jane Timoney, a competent and devoted homicide detective who, in addition to investigating heinous crimes in New York City, must navigate her way through an incredibly male-dominated environment where she not only faces the doubt of her peers, but also their utter contempt for her invading, as one puts it: his ‘home.’

Timoney is passed over for top cases, sent to handle menial tasks, and although her colleagues are told by their lieutenant (Aidan Quinn) that she is actually a good detective, it does little to quell the rumors that her somewhat checkered past included sleeping her way into a job on their squad.

The squad in question is a tight-knit group of detectives played most notably by Kirk Acevedo (Fringe) as Det. Luisito Calderon and Bryan F. O’Byrne as Det. Reg Duffy. The latter having the most vitriol toward Timoney, after a high-profile case is handed to her in the wake of a fellow detective’s untimely passing.

Helen Mirren Prime Suspect BBC Prime Suspect Series Premiere Review & Discussion

Helen Mirren and Co. in the original 'Prime Suspect'

Meanwhile, on the home front, Timoney is faced with the overprotective (vindictive) ex wife of her boyfriend Matt Webb, (played in the pilot by Toby Stephens, but later in subsequent episodes by The Shield and Sons of Anarchy actor Kenny Johnson) who uses the dangers of Timoney’s occupation – among other things – as a reason to keep her son away from his father.

To her credit, though, Timoney remains strong. She is intent on asserting her right to be in the precinct by being a good detective – and proving herself by exonerating an innocent man, and moving a case closer to completion than any of her male counterparts had.

This is Prime Suspect’s strongest point. The program has you rooting for Timoney immediately. The audience feels compelled to cheer as she slowly makes headway amongst some that doubted her, and smile when she refuses to trade a reluctant compliment for absolution from the verbal and emotional abuse she has endured at the hands of those who should be her closest allies.

As mentioned before, Prime Suspect rides high on Bello’s performance. The actress plays Timoney funny, smart and wickedly tenacious. Overall, though, she’s just tough. But Bello knows when to dial back all other aspects of her character, and show some real vulnerability. It is that scene in which she pleads for the man in her life to show her some comfort that the audience sees what a complete package Bello has made of Jane Timoney.

Maria Bello Tim Griffin Aidan Quinn Damon Gupton Brian F. OByrne Prime Suspect NBC Prime Suspect Series Premiere Review & Discussion

The pilot, directed by Peter Berg (Battleship, Hancock) and written by showrunner Alexandra Cunningham (Desperate Housewives) leaves little to complain about. Though it’s clear that the treatment Timoney receives from her peers is intended to illustrate the dominance of the male ego in the workplace – especially one so predominantly male as law enforcement – it does teeter on the verge of ridiculousness at times. Still, the strength of the writing in the pilot suggests that any changes, which might need to be made, can be dealt with swiftly, and without watering down the impact of the show’s more dramatic elements.

Of course, it’s those dramatic elements that make Prime Suspect really shine. The balance Cunningham and her crew have struck between the heaver character moments, and the necessity of furthering the plot, distinguishes this program from all other cop dramas on television right now. Each development, as Jane Timoney navigates her way from beleaguered cop, to girlfriend under fire, to concerned daughter, feels organic but brisk – the script never lingers in one place too long – unless it’s a wickedly sweet moment when Jane is finally able to put the screws to someone who has yet to learn she’s a woman not to be trifled with. That scene deserves a double dose.

If nothing else, Prime Suspect should serve as a welcome respite from all of the repetitive procedural cop shows on television today. As this adaptation proves, there is something to be learned from watching great television. Hopefully, more creators tune in and learn from this one.

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Prime Suspect airs Thursday nights @10pm on NBC.

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9 Comments

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  1. I thoroughly enjoyed the first episode of Prime Suspect. As a huge fan of the British series, I was initially not only skeptical but annoyed by NBC’s decision to “Americanize” Jane Tennyson. The casting of Maria Bello gave me hope and she did not disappoint. While some of the supporting characters need work, Bello’s Timony is a solid enough character to carry the show until those around her find their footing. (I’ve read elsewhere that we aren’t beat over the head so hard with the sexism in subsequent episodes) I hope NBC allows them the opportunity to do that.

  2. Great first episode, I would highly recommend this show to anyone. I am guessing Bello could carry any show, never mind an already well established one.

  3. Excellent review. You nailed it. Bello hit it wayyyyy out of the park. Can hardly wait for the next episode.

    Fitch

  4. I was dozing off as Prime Suspect started, but based upon the commercials I was intrigued, so I figured I’d try to get trough it and turn off the tube once my interest waned and it lost me… which was surely to happen. Surprise!… I was absolutely riveted throughout the entire hour. My new favorite show, and Maria Bello, my new favorite actress…. awesomeness!

  5. Prime Suspect is on my “must see” list along with Sons of Anarchy!

  6. I thought Maria Bello was good as Jane Timoney but I felt like the supporting cast was really lacking.

  7. Grade F-. I like Maria Bello, but not in this. No where near as good as Chicago Code and it didn’t make it. Doesn’t hold a candle to Southland. Casting was way off, but couldn’t save it anyway. Writing for pilot, a detective has heart-attack and dies and the captain is crying. Who gives a crap! What’s with the ridiculous Hat?

  8. This show is a sad commentary on what passes for prime time “entertainment” in our country, and an even sadder commentary on the depths of depravity to which those in entertainment, from writers and producers to directors and actors, will sink for a potential pay off. And I really liked Maria Bello until this garbage came out. I’m particularly disappointed in the child abduction/pedophile episode which went way over the top with tasteless descriptive dialog for the sake of shock value (ie ratings). All concerned with this show, and this episode in particular, should be deeply ashamed for parading this garbage out and stamping their names proudly on it. Especially you Maria Bello. Are you a parent? Shame on you. Shame on all of you and you know exactly what I’m talking about!

  9. Love this show… Don’t cancel.

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