Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Prime Suspect US - early episodes round-up

I've been watching the US remake of Prime Suspect today and had a few thoughts on it. I should say that I am a relative latecomer to the original Prime Suspect having watched most of it on the Virgin On Demand service in January this year. I suppose that puts me in the position of having seen it fairly recently which might detract from viewing the remake. I did enjoy the UK Helen Mirren original but already find this remake to be a fairly different animal.

I think the producers of the US version have, quite appropriately, used the central idea of a talented but mildly abrasive female detective trying to progress her career in a male dominated environment and transplanted it into an American procedural. This process has . The television event model of producing 2-4 hours of material to air over 2-4 days that so many British series rely on allows for individual cases to receive longer running time. The American series appears to be following the solve it in 45 minutes model that American networks are enamoured with. I believe this means that the casework and the examination of the criminal characters will struggle to achieve the depth of the original. That said the American model produces more television in a shorter space of time so the characters that form the backbone of the show - the cops and those from Timoney's personal life - do have plenty of time for development.

I was disappointed to learn that (like CSI New York) this is another New York set crime series that has chosen to film entirely on the West Coast of America. Not only does this dampen the authenticity but it means the show will not have access to the fantastic pool of East Coast based character actors that can enliven a crime drama and lift it above the cluttered field of competition.

I do have a little cache of faith in executive producer Peter Berg who did such a fantastic job of the Friday Night Lights (FNL) series - an example of a successful television series adapted from existing material. I've been pleased to recognise a few names in the credits from the team Berg assembled for FNL including  writer Liz Heldens and producer Nan Bernstein Freed.

The series has a good ensemble cast of believable New Yorkers. Bello is doing fine work as Timoney and her interrogation skills, intuition and intelligence are clear to see and contrast well with her fraut relationships with her colleagues. The extreme sexism of the rest of her squad seemed over the top in the pilot episode. Times have changed since the original series but this element was not updated and thus seemed outdated. The following two episodes (which is as far as I have got today) featured a greater range of responses from her colleagues that seemed more believable. Brian F. O'Byrne (who I recognise from his fine work on the excellent Brotherhood) has the most conflict with Timoney as the two are in competition for lead detective roles. He is believable as a sexist and as a successful homicide detective and I think he has a difficult role - not many cop shows feature such difficult working relationships between their investigators. Its a pleasure to see Kirk Acevedo (from Oz and Fringe) in another series regular role although I wonder if this one will be anything new as he as a veteran of mens men roles. He does have some comedic interplay with fellow star Tim Griffin - the two make believable squad mates reminiscent of the cops from David Simon's Homicide book. It is also good to see Peter Gerety as Timoney's father, he is a fine actor and I hope the producers make good use of him. I note that he is also playing the cop's dad role on Homeland this year - hope he doesn't get confused!

The investigations seemed believable and it was nice to see that the writers took time to give us insight into Timoney's thought processes and how it sometimes differs from her squadmates. It certainly beats the plot driven machinations of other recent crime series (I'm thinking of you, Blue Bloods).

I understand the series has garnered some critical praise (although I've only read Alan Sepinwall's mildly positive review) but has struggled in the ratings. I'm enjoying it enough so far that I want it to stay on the air for the 13 NBC have ordered. I think that is a possibility if it maintains it's current ratings given the lack of successes NBC has had in this season.

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