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Prime Suspect: TV Review

Prime Suspect
NBC

The Bottom Line

This is not Prime Suspect. It’s a crime procedural that shares the name.

Airdate:

Thursday, Sept. 22, 10 p.m. (NBC)

Cast:

Maria Bello, Kenny Johnson, Andrew Wayne

Maria Bello does good work in this NBC procedural, but the similarities to the original "Prime Suspect" end with the title.

Prime Suspect has one of the season’s biggest challenges, since it is billed as a remake of the acclaimed British series of the same name starring Helen Mirren which vaulted Mirren's Jane Tennison character into the pantheon of groundbreaking, great roles for women. But Prime Suspect as NBC has fashioned it is not a remake. It barely shares any of the same DNA. In fact, you could argue that using the name when they so clearly did not have to, was a marketing mistake.

In some ways, this is all good news. People who worried what NBC would do to Prime Suspect can stop holding their head in their hands. NBC didn't touch Prime Suspect -– it just paid a lot for the name, apparently. If you look at this Prime Suspect as a non-descript procedural with a bravura performance from Maria Bello in the lead role, then you can more level-headedly decide whether to watch it or not.

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The answer is, you should at least give Bello a chance to win you over. She's good. She’s got a rakish hat. She takes a punch. She gives a punch. She could become the kind of character you look forward to watching, someone who carries a series despite the rest of it just being middling.

Bello plays a detective named Jane Timony -– not Tennison. She is the victim of sexism in her squad, which was pretty much the cornerstone of the original. But the producers have said they will ratchet down the pilot because it played that card too hard (and obviously -– which it did). This Jane has a smoking problem, like Mirren’s Jane. But she’s going to wear a patch. Maybe struggle with it. This Jane is not going to be an alcoholic, another immense difference from the original. Her love life will be a lot more settled and normal than the British Jane.

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In short, she’s not Jane Tennison. This is not Prime Suspect. It’s a crime procedural that shares the name. (Oh, and that’s the other thing -– by being a procedural, there can be no ongoing “prime suspect” in a complicated multi-episode case. Nah, there’s just someone who gets caught and everything is fixed in the last minute).

But again -– you should at the very least check out Bello, who does fine work here.