Prime Suspect – Pilot Review

Jane Timoney is an ambitious female New York detective in a homicide department full of old school obnoxious blokes.

I’ve never seen the UK Prime Suspect that this is based on, so I’m not going to be able to comment at all on how close the adaptation is, and how much it might piss off fans of the original. What I can say is that all by itself this is so far my favourite pilot of the year.

I’m a big fan of Maria Bello since her days on ER and she’s got a great character here. Jane is a great cop combining thorough investigative research with street smarts and determination. She’s also a bit of a cow. Which if she were surrounded with reasonable people would make her kind of horrific, but compared to her colleagues she’s an absolute sweet heart. Her department appears to be made up entirely of lazy, sloppy, misogynists who spend their days drinking in the office, swearing, making crude jokes and jumping to conclusions. If that’s realistic representation of a modern police department its one of the most depressing things I’ve ever seen.

The pilot feels a little bit ‘swingy’. One moment Jane will do something phenomenally heartless and you hate her a bit, then she has a great scene with her dad where she admits she made a mistake and you realise that she’s just human. Then she does a really great bit of investigative work and you think she’s brilliant, but she follows it up acting smug and aloof to her colleagues and she’s back to being as much a part of the problem as they are. If the writing and acting were less good it could easily appear to be sloppy and inconsistent, but actually it all hangs together really well creating a complex and fascinating character.

The plot really is a bit incidental to the whole thing, and on a second viewing when I was paying more attention to it I was less impressed with the superficiality of it. It’s just fundamentally not very interesting and the final twist to set up the action sequence was borderline ridiculous. The supporting characters don’t get much to do here, but they’ve got some good foundations and some actors that always manage to make more of the small roles they get than is written on the page, a couple of my favourites – Kirk Acevedo (Fringe) and Kenny Johnson (The Shield, Sons of Anarchy).

The direction of the show is interesting, it’s not quite documentary style, but it is fairly gritty and realistic. The violence is brutal, the offices are messy, the people complicated, and situations unfair – this isn’t the shiny New York of CSI or the honour filled police force of Blue Bloods. I suspect I’ll spend half my time hating each of the characters and half my time loving them all, but from the pilot at least it seems I’ll enjoy the process.

Other reviews
Buzz Focus – I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the American version of Prime Suspect is my favorite new hour-long show on network television. It may very well be the best new show premiering this Fall. It’s a smart, un-condescending cop show that is anchored by a fantastic performance by Maria Bello.

TV Fanatic – 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.


2 thoughts on “Prime Suspect – Pilot Review

  1. Pingback: The Upfronts 2012 – NBC « Narrative Devices

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