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.

The Upfronts: NBC

What’s out
The only show that I actually watch on NBC is Friday Night Lights and the end of the show has been planned for a while, giving plenty of time to wrap it up in a satisfying fashion. I adore the show, think it’s superb, but have to admit that I haven’t quite had the emotional strength to watch the last season yet, knowing it’s the last actually made it harder.

There are plenty of new shows that won’t be back, most of which never got off the ground at all – The Cape, Chase, The Event, Law & Order LA (which couldn’t be rescued even by a complete overhaul mid-season), Undercovers, and several sitcoms. Not a good year for NBC.

What’s back
Chuck has been renewed for a final half season wrap up, for a show that’s been bubbling since it started, 5.5 seasons seems like a bloody good run. But I don’t watch it so I can’t really say.

Harry’s Law is one that I wanted to like, but the more I thought about it, the more troubling I found the tone of the pilot. I may investigate whether it got better and go back to it as it will be returning next year, slightly surprising given that I haven’t heard any critic say anything about it in months and the ratings weren’t spectacular.

Parenthood is a show I keep meaning to catch up on, initially staying away from it because I didn’t want to fall in love with it as it seemed doomed to early cancellation. Now that’s just been renewed for season 3 so I guess that excuse has worn out.

Other things I don’t watch that are returning – 30 Rock, Community, The Office, Parks and Recreation and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, although there seems to be the suggestion that they might be making big cast changes (if anyone reading this cares).

What’s new
Awake – Hello to Jason Issacs! You seem to have landed yourself a pretty amazing looking show.

Bent – I like Amanda Peet and the rest of the thing isn’t horrific, although it all looks a bit unremarkable.

Grimm – Kind of Supernatural meets Criminal Minds from the looks of it, sounds interesting, but I wasn’t massively impressed with the trailer.

The Playboy Club – This could end up being the kind of show that you tell people to ignore the title and the blurb and just watch because it’s superb. Or it could be horribly sexist and offensive. The trailer leaves me optimistic.

Prime Suspect – I’ve not watched the UK version, but this doesn’t look like Helen Mirren. I like Maria Bello a lot and this doesn’t look half bad.

Smash – Hey, Glee is massively successful right, why don’t we do a show about musicals?! Frankly I’m amazed that every network isn’t belting out show tunes at me. This looked… all right, not sure how they’re going to make it a series rather than just a tv movie though.

Up All Night – I actually chuckled a couple of times at this!

Free Agents – Damnit, I chuckled a couple of times in this one too. I hate myself.

Whitney – I did not laugh. I feel better about myself.

Are You There Vodka? It’s Me Chelsea – dear god in heaven, this is possibly the most offensive and horrific thing I’ve ever seen labelled as a comedy. Drinking and driving… so funny!

Also a TV adaptation of The Firm (coming next Jan, so there’s no trailer for me to label as boring yet) and something called Best Friends Forever which seemed awful from the only clip I could find.

Links: The TV Addict, The Futon Critic, TV Squad.