Helen Mirren's Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison, the only female DCI on an old boy's club London homicide squad, is like a phantom lurking around the edges of the action while the men rush through their latest murde... more »r case, joshing and winking in the kind of male camaraderie the cop genre has celebrated for decades. When DCI Shefford dies of a sudden heart attack, Tennison demands to take over. Despite her superintendent's resistance ("Give her this case and she'll start expecting more."), she becomes the squad's first woman to head a murder investigation. Scrutinized at every moment by her superior officers, Tennison is faced with a case that spirals out from a single murder to a serial spree, a second-in-command who undermines her authority and her investigation at every turn, a team resistant to taking orders from a woman, and a private life unraveling due to her professional diligence. Lynda La Plant's script is a compelling thriller riddled with ambiguity that turns dead ends, blind alleys, and the mundane legwork of real-life cops into fascinating details. Mirren commands the role of Tennison with authority, intelligence, and a touch of overachieving desperation. Superb performances, excellent writing, and understated direction make this BBC miniseries one of the most involving mysteries in years. Look for future British stars Ralph Fiennes and Tom Wilkinson in supporting roles. --Sean Axmaker« less
"DCI Jane Tennison, superbly played by Helen Mirren, is not to be trifled with. Her charging, take-no-prisoners attitude is great fun to watch. She suffers fools poorly . . . or rather they suffer from her. Why do these chauvinists love to pick fights with her? Personally, I'd give her wide berth! Prime Suspect begins the six-part series.
Full disclosure . . . I'm a flag waving, red state kind of guy. My gastritis flairs when I confess the Brits blow us out of the pond in dramatic construction. These dramas are not just good. They're awesome. Each is exquisitely plotted with three dimensional characters(maybe Jane has five dimensions). The action in the squad room has a documentary feel to it.
It is a joy to watch DCI Jane in action; a role made for Helen Mirren. She flirts with you, insults you, kicks you, and always fights for justice. Usually in a multi-part series such as Prime Suspect, I will have a favorite . . .but this is not true here: each is a gem."
Riveting Television ... The Way It Should Be Done
Edward Lee | 06/26/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Helen Mirren stars as Chief Inspector Jane Tennison in this dramatic BBC miniseries.A serial killer is at large, and Tennison inherits the mantle of investigating the lead suspect. While certain elements of the story are largely predictable, there is also an unexpected element of surprise with the way the tale unfolds. Mirren adds a definitive credibility to the vulnerable character of Tennison, struggling for any reasonable work/life balance, and she proves to be the most interesting sleuth to come out of England since Sherlock Holmes.Time Magazine voted this, in its initial airing, the second most important television event of the year ... right behind Johnny Carson's farewell show. A must viewing for serious fans of mystery genre."
Helen Mirren is at the top of her form....
LuAnn Dunham | Grayslake, IL United States | 06/25/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As usual the UK has produced and delivered a series that puts to shame anything that American television has to offer. Helen Mirren is ranked one of the world's best actors-and for good reason.
I have all of the DVD's in the Prime Suspect series, having watched them first on public television's ExxonMobil Theatre. If you are one of those who make deliberate choices based on quality, then do not miss this series. It is one of, if not THE best, that television has to offer."
Shows what television can be
C. Burch | San Francisco, CA USA | 07/03/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are very few television programs I would consider buying on DVD, but this is definitly one of them. Watching Prime Suspect on DVD is a real treat. If you saw it in America on PBS, you don't realize how much continuity and tension are lost by all of the inevitable pledge breaks. Helen Mirren is nothing short of brilliant as Inspect Jane Tennison, the first woman to hold the post of D.C.I. (Deputy Chief Inspector) on a major homicide investigation. She must not only solve a series of murders, but battle sexism and sabotoge within her department. Great acting in the supporting roles and a first rate script (written by Linda LaPlante)are enough to carry this story. But what really sets it apart is how it manages to get you rooting for Jane Tennison without being cloying or sentimental. We see this woman as a human being, warts and all. Her obsession with work leads her to neglect her relationships. She is quick to anger. Sometimes her first judgement is not the right one. But through it all you want her to succeed. She gives everything to her job. If you like mysteries or police stories, this is as fine as piece of television as you'll see. The video and audio transfer are only so-so (by DVD standards), but this is the happy exception where the DVD is cheaper that VHS. You've got to flip the disk, but a small price to pay for an entire evening of great drama."
Best Way to Get the Man is Put a Woman on the Case
Movie Mania | Southern Calfornia | 03/20/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Prime Suspect started what has become the best series of detective specials ever.
Jane Tennison (Helen Mirren) is a Deputy Chief Inspector (DCI) with the Metropolitan Police in London. But the Met is an all boys club. Jane is also starting a new relationship with a divorcee, Peter (Tom Wilkinson).
Episode 1 - A woman was found brutally murdered in the bed sit (business apartment) of prostitute Della Mornay. DCI Shefford has been assigned the case. They find a rare blood type in the bed sit and are able to trace it to a convicted rapist George Marlow. They arrest and question Marlow and he admits to frequenting Della. But the quick end of the investigation changes when DCI Shefford has a heart attack and dies.
There is no available DCI's for the case, well no male DCI's. Jane makes a pitch to her boss and with some trepidation, he gives her the case. This makes her the first female DCI to handle a murder investigation. The old boys network circles the wagons to sabotage Jane, lead by Shefford's second Detective Sergeant Bill Otley.
The first thing that Jane does is confirm the victim's identity. But the victim's finger prints do not match Della's, they must now find out the victim's identity. They slim down the missing persons to two and Jane visits the family and discovers the girl's identity, Karen Howard. Now they have to connect Marlow with Karen Howard.
Episode 2 - The 72 hours is up and Jane must make a decision, charge or release Marlow. Since she has no compelling evidence, Marlow is released. This displeases everyone and Otley uses this to his advantage.
Jane realizes something is wrong and looks through a desk and finds the missing Della Mornay file and diary. The following day Otley has convinced the Superintendent to remove Jane from the case but now Jane has all the cards. It comes out that not only Shefford but Otley knew Della Mornay. She was their confidential informant. Further, there are pages missing from her diary. It turns out that Shefford also visited Della "professionally".
Jane goes on Crime Watch to see if this will yield any clues and it does. A witness is found and might tie Marlow to Karen Howard. (Look for Ralph Fiennes at the beginning of the episode as Karen's boyfriend.)
Episode 3 - When the witness chooses the wrong person from the line up, the investigation is stepped up. Jane goes to Marlow's employer and finds out that he started with the firm in Manchester and that his common law wife, Moira (Zoe Wannamaker), accompanied him on his sales trips. Jane gets Marlow's trip records and has the crew match similar murders. They locate three more homicides. Also, Jane interviews Marlow's cell mate and finds out that Marlow had a lock-up (rental garage).
In investigating the first suspected linked murder it is found out that Shefford was on the case. Jane needs to find out if he was involved in the other investigations. This is the last straw with her boss and is being taken off the case.
Episode 4 - The crew has determined that enough similarities exist to consider these murders connected. Now Jane has to figure out what tie Marlow to the victims. It takes her assistant, a woman, to come up with Moira. She is a free lance beautician. Jane brings her in and starts to rattle her.
When her boss "The Gov" catches up with her, she is told that all of her crew have refused to allow her removal from the case. But the good news is interrupted by the news that George and Moira are on the move.
At Euston underground, they split up. The crew split up to follow them. While Moira is off shopping, George leads them to the lock-up. Both are arrested and after she is confronted again, Moira recants her testimony. Then George confesses of the six cases.
Lynda LaPlante has created one of the great police movies and the greatest female police character. Helen Mirren gives a magnificent performance as the under appreciated DCI Jane Tennison. She takes LaPlante's script and hits every nuance to perfection.
This miniseries also featured early performances by future stars including a cameo by Ralph Fiennes, future Oscar nominee Tom Wilkenson as Jane's current boyfriend and a stunning performance by Zoe Wannamaker as Moira, the prime suspect's girlfriend.
This series has spawned five additional miniseries, none of which was a good as the original but better than anything else on television. (The first three won Emmy Awards for Best Mini-Series).