Friday, 4 February 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #671: Let This Prime Suspect Go

Welcome to the show folks...

NBC has given the green-light to an American version of the classic Brit police procedural Prime Suspect.


I'm sorry I don't like this idea, at all, and it's not because I'm a fan of the original British series that starred Helen Mirren. It's easier just to list them.


1. TIMING: The original Prime Suspect came around in the early 90s, a period where most shows about policewomen were usually campy confections about sexpots with guns.

Creator Lynda LaPlante took a radically different tack, she made her female detective realistic and unglamorous. She was middle aged and had to fight to become a senior police officer, and fight to stay in that position.

Since Prime Suspect's debut in the early 1990s there have been at least a dozen TV dramas about female detectives that have enjoyed varying degrees of seriousness, quality, as well as success and failure. The novelty is long gone.

2. THE CHARACTER: Jane Tennison is deeply entwined with actress Helen Mirren, and anyone taking up the part will be judged harshly as a pale imitation, whether such judging is fair or not. She's also a character that American network TV finds hard to do very well. She's older than the average network starlet, unglamorous, isn't particularly kick-ass, or Sherlockian brilliant, as well as she is very demanding, short tempered, and in later series of the original show, a drunk.

Cable might be able to make that leap, but I doubt if a network has the brass ones to avoid turning her into a hot 25 year old ex-model who solves crimes in 44 minute chunks with her scientific brilliance, marked whenever she puts on her "smart glasses."

3. THE STRUCTURE: Like I said before, Tennison isn't Sherlock Holmes, she doesn't solve cases quickly, she plods through the evidence and the suspects until she finds the truth, and that takes time. The original series took multiple episodes to solve a single case, going deep into the details of each crime and investigation, including the lives ruined as well as lost.

That's an anathema to the 1 & Done story format that dominate most crime procedural shows, and I'm sure they'd be tempted to try to compress the detail that made the original so compelling, into such a tight package.

4. THIS IS NBC WE'RE TALKING ABOUT: They do have a pretty bad batting average. Whether or not this will change with the new regime has yet to be seen.

That's what I think, what to do you think?


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  2. They're probably doing this because of the incredible success of bringing an American version of "Top Gear" over here. :P