Prime Suspect (UK)
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Prime Suspect (UK)
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Prime Suspect centers on a no-nonsense female detective who is dedicated to her job but largely neglects her personal life and anyone who happens to be in it. In one episode, she elects to have an abortion. She also struggles with alcoholism, which, although it isn't a major focus of the show, ultimately plays an important role in the end of the series. Prime Suspect is renowned for its realism, including gritty crime and autopsy scenes with visible blood and occasional nudity, as well as cases that touch on racism, child pornography, and rape, among other tense topics. There's also some low-level swearing ("hell," "damn"), but, overall, the series is understated rather than gratuitous.
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What's the Story?
Comprising seven serials that aired between 1991 and 2006, the BAFTA- and Emmy-winning PRIME SUSPECT centers on the life and career of Jane Tennison (Helen Mirren), one of the first female detective chief inspectors in Greater London's Metropolitan Police Service, who is devoted to her job -- at times, to her detriment. In spite of rampant on-the-job sexism, Jane eventually rises to the rank of detective superintendent but wages a series-long battle with her own personal demons while solving some of the city's most baffling crimes.
Is It Any Good?
If you consider yourself a connoisseur of crime dramas, you'd best add this series to your playlist. We all know Helen Mirren can act. But her portrayal of a no-nonsense police detective with a complex personal backstory is widely considered a masterwork, particularly since the seven Prime Suspect serials were filmed over such a long time span with significant gaps in between.
Aside from its obvious ties to the Americanized Prime Suspect (starring Maria Bello as Jane Timoney, a New York City homicide detective), this award-winning British series also heavily influenced The Closer (even though Kyra Sedgewick's Brenda Johnson opts for sugar instead of booze and cigarettes). What's more, it continues to remind us of the value of strong storytelling and excellent acting.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about sexism in the workplace and whether Prime Suspect's portrayal of the problem holds up to present-day realities. How does Jane cope with the sexism she encounters on the job? What are some more positive strategies for overcoming it?
How does the original Prime Suspect differ from the newer version adapted for American audiences? What changes were made to the plot and characters, and why?
How has Prime Suspect influenced other series about female crime-solvers? What qualities made Jane such a celebrated character, particularly among actors?
- Premiere date: April 7, 1991
- Cast: Helen Mirren, John Benfield
- Networks: ITV, PBS
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Great Girl Role Models
- TV rating: TV-14
- Last updated: February 4, 2023
For kids who love drama and strong female characters
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