Perhaps now is a good time to look at Prime Suspect, the British series which will soon enjoy an American remake on broadcast television. Last year, Acorn Media released The Complete Collection on DVD, and thus, it’s easy enough to get a look at the approximately twenty-five hours Oscar winner Helen Mirren (The Queen, Red) spends breathing life in to Jane Tennison. More of a series of television movies or miniseries than a traditional show, Tennison’s life is observed over fifteen years (with a big gap after the first five) as she works her way up in the police ranks, and deals with numerous personal issues. Prime Suspect aired on PBS in the States.
Prime Suspect won a number of awards over its run, which ended in 2006, including Emmys, BAFTAs, and Golden Globes. Thus, it is not surprising that Mirren stars, given that she herself has won all of those, plus an Oscar, numerous SAGs, and many others. Tennison is a complex character, both when breaking into a traditionally male-dominated profession, and also dealing with sour relationships and alcoholism. It’s a tour de force, and a treat for those who generally only get a couple of hours of Mirren at a time. Her gritty, realistic portrayal has lots of depth, as well as the sheer raw talent that Mirren is known, and has been honored, for.
Mirren isn’t the only actor who deserves kudos for her work on Prime Suspect. Though others do not appear throughout the entire series, notable people that were a part of the effort include Tom Wilkinson (The Kennedys, John Adams), Tom Bell (No Bananas, The Krays), John Benfield (Cassandra’s Dream), Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter, The English Patient), Johnny Lee Miller (Eli Stone, Trainspotting), John Bowe (Silent Witness, Cranford), Zoë Wanamaker (My Family, Love Hurts), and Bryan Pringle (Brazil, A Prince Among Men). With such a talented cast, it is no wonder Prime Suspect is revered as a highly successful drama.
For those bored the gluttony of police procedurals on the television, Prime Suspect is not just one of those, though it certainly contains many elements of such. The highly personal nature of much of Tennison’s plot, as well as a number of deeper, social issues explored in depth raise it above the drivel. While a number of series, including The Closer, claim to pay homage to Prime Suspects, none come close to the caliber of the Mirren-led series. It truly rises above the rest.
The DVD set of Prime Suspect – The Complete Collection is nice in that it collects all of the adventures in one nice, neat set. Early seasons are 4:3 in picture ratio, and not even in stereo, so there isn’t a big technological advantage to the newer release over previous ones. Special features are lite, too, only included in the final two series. There’s a photo gallery, cast filmographies, and two featurettes, totaling less than an hour and a half in length. But, of course, the main draw are the nine mysteries that encompass the set, not the bonuses, or lack thereof. Those make the purchase well worth the price.