I’ll never watch the American version of PRIME SUSPECT. I uttered that months ago, when the ads started, and would have repeated it a scant four weeks ago.
Then it snowed. Being stuck inside while it snows in October is the only excuse I have.
Trouble was, it wasn’t that bad. And as we began to burn through the episodes available On Demand, we saw the potential in the show.
PRIME SUSPECT has a number of things working against it. The original UK version is in a league of its own, and Helen Mirren is a standout in the lead. She owns the character and the series.
It’s unfortunate that the US version didn’t distance itself more. Changing the name of the lead female character wasn’t enough: it needed a different series name as well.
And there have been times when I’ve picked up a book and felt the author was trying too hard to create a distinct character, and it just seemed like every quirk or oddity possible to come up with was thrown into a pot, and instead of being a ‘person’ they were just a laundry list of eccentricities.
That’s how I felt when I saw the ads for the US PRIME SUSPECT. Maria Bello seemed to be trying too hard in a roll that had been twisted to death to appear distinctive. She wasn’t going to appeal to most female viewers, and based on the reaction in this house she wasn’t winning fans amongst men, either. Those commercials sucked, and made me think the show was (much like the UK version) all about her character. And her character came off as annoying in the thirty-second commercials splashed all over the TV.
After a few episodes, it was clear the producers were attempting to smooth out the rough edges, Bello’s character was coming into her own and seemed more real and less fabricated, and the full cast was starting to mesh together. They needed to make it a little less about the detecting and let the characters lead the show. We finished out the episodes available to us, and by the end, we’d added a new show to our weekly roster.
I won’t live on a TV schedule for any show. And I won’t put PRIME SUSPECT on the same level as BREAKING BAD or TERRIERS. There hasn’t been a show I’ve been willing to go to bat for since TERRIERS – we watched CHICAGO CODE and liked it, but away it went, without much of a whimper from anyone – but I’m still not prepared to put PRIME SUSPECT in that category. TERRIERS was, in many respects, unrivaled genius.
However, apparently, viewers far and wide were as deterred by the ads and initial direction of PRIME SUSPECT as we were. There’s speculation that it may be amongst** NBC’s first cancellations of the season. And what stinks about that is that I’m not convinced that would be based on a fair reaction to the show, when the ads were a colossal screw up that failed to put potential viewers in touch with the real heart of the show.
I hope it’s shifted to another night and given a fair shot. Last night, Brian even stated that it was showing promise as a show more reminiscent of HOMICIDE than anything else on TV today.
And, in case you don’t know, that’s pretty high praise in this house. The full cast – including Aidan Quinn, Kirk Acevedo, Brian F. O’Byrne, Peter Gerety – really has potential. This is one of those times I can only say that I hope the show gets half a chance. If it moves in the right direction, it will be the best network crime show currently airing, hands down.
** added to correct statement – since I didn’t watch Playboy Club and had no interest I hadn’t realized NBC already had cancellations this season