How exactly do you end up with a wonderful television series? Is it cast? Is it writing? Is it the production values in general? Is it a combination of all these things? Or, does it require all of them and, perhaps, just a little bit of magic?
Being released to DVD for the first time ever as a single set, Prime Suspect, is certainly the last of these things. Over the course of the seven different seasons of the show the only constant is Helen Mirren as DCI (at least initially) Jane Tennison, but Mirren and Tennison are certainly enough to build a series around. Additionally, the ever-changing cast of supporting players is also outstanding, including names like Ralph Fiennes, Ciaran Hinds, Colin Salmon, Tom Wilkinson, Ben Miles, Jonny Lee Miller, and Zoë Wanamaker. As with the cast, the behind the scenes crew changed as well, but the series always found a way to talk about important issues of the day, even if the discussions were sometimes a little heavy-handed.
Taking a step back for a second, Prime Suspect aired (although not continuously) from 1991 to 2006 and followed the exploits of Mirren's Tennison, an outwardly tough-as-nails Detective Chief Inspector. At the outset of the first season, Tennison gets her long overdue shot to investigate a murder and instantly finds herself – as she knew she would – as one of the only women (and the sole one of her rank) in a big boys' club. She need not only navigate a minefield among her higher-ups, but also the rank and file who would rather she not be ordering them about. It is a tough place for her to be, a place as tough as the serial murders she finds herself investigating. In the pursuit of her career, Tennison gives up a lot in the first season, and gives up plenty more as the show continues in subsequent years of the series.