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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Prime Suspect not prime

     NBC's Prime Suspect follows Detective Jane Timoney (Maria Bello, ER), a homicide detective who is not exactly welcomed into her new department, even having her cases stolen. Things get even worse when, after a colleague dies, she secures his position, putting her in a leadership roll. The boys club that runs the show doesn't trust her, though Lieutenant Kevin Sweeney (Aidan Quinn, Weeds) has faith that she will get the job done. And she does, without much help and support from her team. Though she may warm a few of them up slightly.

     Prime Suspect is based on a very successful British series of the same name. The themes of the original involve a woman trying to make it in a man's profession. Given that this is 2011, those don't seem quite so relevant any more. Yet, somehow Jane's treatment at the hands of her co-workers rings with a bit of truth. Is it possible, even in this day and age, there are still some jobs that women are not expected to do? Other television shows rarely address this, and there are plenty of cop shows around to choose from. But perhaps taking this different stance gives Prime Suspect a leg up on the competition.

     The cast is fantastic. Bello shines as Jane, even if she should consider losing the stupid headwear. Quinn does a decent job, and Brian F. O'Byrne (Mildred Pierce, FlashForward) is terrific as Jane's main protagonist. The other guys don't get a lot to do in the "Pilot," but recognize Kirk Acevedo as Fringe, so hopefully he will have a large role. The feel is also pretty decent. It's a grittier show than many, and the cinematography isn't completely typical.

     Unfortunately, that will probably not save it from being a rote procedural. Though Prime Suspect airs on NBC, not CBS, it has many of the familiar staples of the million other crime series already airing. There isn't much story apart from the case of the week. Unlike the original version, each case will be solved by the end of the hour. These are not the makings of a bold new show. It may be too soon to tell if Prime Suspect can hold interest, but it's not exactly off to a promising start, despite a couple of intriguing characters.

     The best thing Prime Suspect has going for it are the scenes that Maria spends with Matt Webb (Kenny Johnson, Sons of Anarchy, The Shield), the guy she lives with. Matt is trying to get partial custody of his son, but his ex (Lena Georgas, Kingdom Hospital) doesn't make it easy. She has a new guy, but still seems jealous of Maria. Maria steps in, behind Matt's back, and makes sure that Matt gets to see his kid. This bit really makes the character of Maria, demonstrating what she is like off the job.

     Also nice is the time that Maria spends with her father, Desmond (Peter Gerety, Mercy, Brothers & Sisters). If Prime Suspect can keep a major focus on Maria's family, as it sort of does in the "Pilot," then perhaps Prime Suspect will make something of itself.

     Prime Suspect airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.

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