Work on TV: Prime Suspect

Okay, so it’s not quite “Work on TV” — it’s more in the way of a rental or a boxed-set DVD purchase, but however you get it, the British detective series “Prime Suspect” is a simply brilliant portrayal of work life in a metropolitan London police department.

“Prime Suspect” stars the remarkable Helen Mirren in the lead role as Jane Tennison, who takes over a detective squad in Season 1 and serves in a variety of positions during the roughly 16-year life of the series. Tennison is tough, resilient, vulnerable, and imperfect, and over the years we become witness to her personal and professional successes and struggles.  

“Prime Suspect” addresses gender, race, and class issues with a gritty realism.  There’s plenty of intramural posturing, conniving, bullying, thuggery, and politicking within the department, one of the things I love most about good cop shows.  Tennison is not unique among her co-workers in sacrificing her personal life to the demands and obsessions of her job.

The episodes are rich in character and plot.  This is emotionally intelligent television, miles ahead of comparable fare on network and cable stations. HBO’s “The Wire,” also praised by this blog, is the only American counterpart that reaches this level of excellence.

For American viewers, “Prime Suspect” was originally a gift from public television.  It premiered here in 1992, and finished in 2008.


Here’s the Wikipedia entry about “Prime Suspect”:

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