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In what is most definitely going to be a mood-shift from humor tomorrow night, NBC will cap off their two-hour Thursday night comedy block with their new cop-drama starring Maria Bello, Prime Suspect. Fortunately, Bello’s performance is captivating enough from the first moment she appears on screen, that viewers should have no trouble shifting gears for the series premiere.
Produced by Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights) and Desperate Housewives’ Alexandra Cunningham, and based on a British series by the same name, Prime Suspect begins by introducing us to Bello’s character, homicide Detective Jane Timoney, as she demonstrates her willingness to assert herself when being ignored or disregarded by a man. The scene, which takes place in a taxi, runs the risk of being a bit corny, but ends up working out well, due in large part to Bello knowing how to handle this kind of role. The scene also sets the tone for the pilot as we come to see Timoney in her job, surrounded by men and determined not to let anything stop her from making her way up the ranks at the police department.
Among Jane Timoney’s colleagues are Lt. Kevin Sweeney (Aidan Quinn), Det. Reg Duffy (Brian F. O’Byrne), Det. Augie Blando (Tim Griffin), Det. Luisito Calderon (Kirk Acevedo), and Det. Evrard Velerio (Damon Gupton). Playing Jane’s father Desmond is Peter Gerety (Blue Bloods). The only notable female in the series is Jane’s boyfriend’s ex, who happens to present another challenge in Jane’s life.
Gender equality in the workplace has come a long way, but that may not be as much the case when it comes to law enforcement. At least, that’s how it’s presented to us in Prime Suspect, and I think it’s fair to assume that this is not that far from the reality of the situation. Without getting preachy about discrimination, the pilot succeeds at demonstrating the uphill climb Jane has in her job as a female detective.
Beyond her professional challenges, Jane also has things going on in her personal life that she’s attempting to resolve, including a visitation issue involving her boyfriend’s child. It’s also suggested that she has a somewhat spotty past, which may affect how people see her at work and in her private life. All of this is offset by her natural instincts as a detective and her determination to succeed.
I get the sense from the first episode that Bello will and should get a lot of credit for this series’ appeal, should the show succeed. The writing is very good, but it’s Bello’s performance as a woman who is intelligent, tough, a little bit reckless, while also being likable and realistic, that will have me tuning in again. As the premiere episode unfolds, we begin to understand the balance Timoney is constantly looking for as she attempts to maneuver her way through a male-dominated work environment.
Whether it’s solving a case, getting promoted, or making things right in her personal life, choices need to be made and timing is as important as having the right words and making the right moves. Nothing is going to come easy for Jane, which is what should make this series as interesting and entertaining as the pilot episode. Factor in the crime investigation aspect, and I don’t think Prime Suspect will have much trouble finding an audience.
Prime Suspect premieres Thursday, September 22nd at 10:00 p.m. ET on NBC.