Prime Suspect title
|Created by||Lynda La Plante|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||7|
|No. of episodes||15|
|Producer(s)||Granada Television/ ITV Productions|
|Running time||101–207 minutes|
|Picture format||4:3 (1991–1996)
|Original run||7 April 1991 – 22 October 2006|
Prime Suspect is a British police procedural television drama series directed by Christopher Menaul and starring Helen Mirren and made by Granada Television for the ITV network in the 1990s and 2000s. The teleplays for the first and third serials (and the story for the second) were written by Lynda La Plante, and in 1993 she received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America in the category of Best TV Feature or Miniseries for her work. The following year, Allan Cubitt's teleplay for Prime Suspect 2 brought the series a second Edgar (in the same category). Prime Suspect was voted 68th in the list of 100 Greatest British Television Programmes as compiled by a poll given by the British Film Institute, and in 2007 it was listed as one of Time magazine's "100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME." The series has garnered multiple Emmy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, BAFTA Awards and a Peabody Award.
The series focuses on a no-nonsense female British Detective Chief Inspector (DCI), Jane Tennison (played by Helen Mirren), who is attached to the Metropolitan Police (Scotland Yard). It is set mostly in London and the outer areas, with series 5 being set in Manchester. In later series, she is promoted to Detective Superintendent. The series shows how she survives and thrives in a male-dominated profession. As mentioned in the behind-the-scenes documentary that accompanies "The Final Act" DVD, Jackie Malton, who was one of only four female DCIs at the time this series began, acted as an advisor to the writers.
The first series features sexism in the workplace as a significant subplot and a barrier to the investigation. Sequels have tended to downplay this theme, relying on straight procedure or on other subplots—for example, institutional racism in Prime Suspect 2 and paedophilia, child abuse, and prostitution in Prime Suspect 3. Tennison's difficulty in achieving a balance between her work and her life outside the job and her difficulty in maintaining stable relationships are recurring issues within the series. Toward the end of Prime Suspect 3 she arranges to have her pregnancy terminated. As the series progresses, she increasingly relies upon alcohol to help her cope; this culminates in the final episode of the series in her attending meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, where she finally acknowledges and confronts her addiction.
Prime Suspect's format is multiple episodes. Each number (1, 2, 3, etc.) represents a case, which runs around 3½ hours (excluding commercials), usually aired in two parts or four parts. Prime Suspect 4 was an exception at slightly over 5 hours with three separate cases.
The first five series were produced at a steady pace of one roughly every eighteen months until Mirren left the role, supposedly to avoid typecasting (according to a PBS interview). She returned to the character after a seven-year gap.
Prime Suspect 
Part 1: 7 April 1991, Part 2: 8 April 1991 (UK) 
DCI Jane Tennison (played by Mirren) gets her first chance to lead a major murder investigation while confronting DS Bill Otley (Tom Bell) and other sexist officers on her squad who attempt to get her replaced. The case involves the rape-murder of a young woman. She eventually gets the suspect, George Marlow (John Bowe) and earns the respect of her team.
This case was reopened in Prime Suspect 4, Scent of Darkness, when similar murders occur while Marlow is in prison.
This series also features Tom Wilkinson, who plays Tennison's love interest, Zoë Wanamaker, who plays the domestic partner of the suspect, and Ralph Fiennes, who plays a victim's boyfriend in a very minor role.
- BAFTA TV Award: Best TV Actress, Helen Mirren (co-star Zoe Wanamaker was also nominated in this category.)
- BAFTA TV Award: Best Drama Serial, Christopher Menaul, Lynda La Plante, Don Leaver
- BAFTA TV Award: Best Film or Video Editor, Edward Mansell
- BAFTA TV Award: Best Film or Video Photography, Ken Morgan
Prime Suspect 2 
|Prime Suspect 2||
Part 1: 15 December 1992, Part 2: 16 December 1992 (UK)
When a body is found in the backyard of a home in an Afro-Caribbean neighborhood of London, DCI Tennison has to tread carefully in her investigation because of the racial tension surrounding unsolved crimes in the region.
This series features many of the same characters that appeared in the first series.
It co-stars Colin Salmon as a black officer with whom Tennison has an affair; when the affair is disclosed in the media, it threatens Tennison's position.
- BAFTA TV Award: Best TV Actress, Helen Mirren
- Emmy Award: Outstanding Miniseries, Sally Head, Paul Marcus
- Emmy Award nomination: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Special, Helen Mirren
Prime Suspect 3 
|Prime Suspect 3||
Part 1: 19 December 1993, Part 2: 20 December 1993 (UK)
Tom Bell, who played Tennison's adversary Sgt. Bill Otley in the first series, returns to the series. Also starring David Thewlis, Ciarán Hinds, Peter Capaldi, Mark Strong, James Frain and Jonny Lee Miller.
- BAFTA TV Award: Best TV Actress, Helen Mirren
- BAFTA TV Award: Best Drama Serial, Paul Marcus, David Drury, Lynda La Plante
- Emmy Award: Outstanding Miniseries, Sally Head, Paul Marcus
- Lynda La Plante's teleplay was nominated for an Emmy Award, as was Helen Mirren, in the category of Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Special.
Prime Suspect 4 
|Prime Suspect 4: The Lost Child||
30 April 1995 (UK)
|Prime Suspect 4: Inner Circles||
7 May 1995 (UK)
|Prime Suspect 4: The Scent of Darkness||
15 May 1995 (UK)
Prime Suspect 4 was the only split series, divided into three separate stories. This series also promotes Tennison to Detective Superintendent.
The Lost Child: A child's death points to a convicted child molester, who has completed his prison sentence and lives with a woman and her two young daughters, keeping his dark past a secret from them. However, the man's counsellor believes that he would not have done it because of his preference in victims. This episode introduces Dr. Schofield (Stuart Wilson). Also starring Beatie Edney, Robert Glenister and Lesley Sharp.
The Scent of Darkness: A series of murders resembling those by George Marlow, investigated in the original Prime Suspect, have encouraged Tennison's subordinates to reopen the case, given that Marlow is stuck in prison when the new crimes took place.
Tennison is reluctant, however, as she is sure Marlow is guilty. In the end she is vindicated when a prison guard who knows Marlow confesses to the crimes. Dr. Schofield returns for this episode as Tennison's love interest.
- Emmy Award: Outstanding Lead Actress - Miniseries, Helen Mirren (Award was given for "The Scent of Darkness" episode. This was Mirren's first Emmy win ever.)
Prime Suspect 5: Errors of Judgement 
|Prime Suspect 5: Errors of Judgement||
20 October 1996 (UK)
Tennison investigates the murder of a drug dealer in Manchester and becomes determined to charge a local gang leader nicknamed "The Street" (Steven Mackintosh) with the crime. Also starring David O'Hara and Marsha Thomason. Written by Guy Andrews. Directed by Philip Davis, an actor best known for his work in the films of Mike Leigh.
- Emmy Award: Outstanding Miniseries, Gub Neal, Rebecca Eaton, Lynn Horsford, producers.
- Helen Mirren nominated for Emmy and BAFTA awards, but did not win.
Prime Suspect 6: The Last Witness 
|Prime Suspect 6: The Last Witness||
Part 1: 9 November 2003, Part 2: 10 November 2003 (UK)
Tennison, under pressure to retire, investigates the murder of a Bosnian refugee and ends up digging into the past war crimes of recent immigrants. The series returns after a seven-year hiatus. It also relocates the story back to London after being set in Manchester in series 5. Also starring Ben Miles, Clare Holman, Mark Strong, Liam Cunningham, Frank Finlay, Ingeborga Dapkunaite, Phoebe Nicholls, Valentine Pelka, and Oleg Menshikov. Directed by Tom Hooper.
- Nominated for four BAFTA awards, including Best Drama Serial and Best Actress (Helen Mirren), but did not win any awards.
- Nominated for three Emmy awards, including Outstanding Miniseries and Best Actress (Helen Mirren), but did not win any awards.
Prime Suspect: The Final Act 
|Prime Suspect: The Final Act||
Part 1: 15 October 2006, Part 2: 22 October 2006 (UK)
- BAFTA TV Award: Best Original TV Music, Nicholas Hooper
- Emmy Award: Outstanding Lead Actress - Miniseries or Movie Helen Mirren
- Emmy Award: Outstanding Writing - Miniseries or Movie
- Emmy Award: Outstanding Directing - Miniseries or Movie
Effect on other series 
Many observers have viewed Prime Suspect as the inspiration for female characters in American TV series, particularly noting strong similarities between this series in general—and the character of Jane Tennison in particular—and the later American series The Closer, starring Kyra Sedgwick in the role of Deputy Chief of Police Brenda Leigh Johnson. Critics noted the similarities between the series in a stronger way during the first seasons of The Closer, with one 2006 article in USA Today calling The Closer "an unofficial Americanization" of the British series, and a later reviewer noting that, "When The Closer was first shown, critics were quick to compare it to Prime Suspect...[and] there's something in that...."
In interviews, Sedgwick has acknowledged that the show owes "a debt" to the British crime drama, and that her admiration for that show and for Mirren were factors that first interested her in the role. According to Sedgwick, Prime Suspect was one of the shows that "paved the way" for The Closer, and her manager got her interested in the series by saying that it was "a little bit like Prime Suspect." Sedgwick is quoted as saying that the Tennison character did become her inspiration in some ways for her portrayal of Brenda Leigh Johnson.
Reviewers in American papers, including the Christian Science Monitor, have noted that The Closer, while not a direct remake of the British series, "owes" much to it, or that it "echoes many of the elements" of it. One The New York Times article refers to The Closer as a "direct descendant" of Prime Suspect, although it is less hard-hitting than the original:
- "There is one show, however, that is a direct descendant, however different its tone might be: The Closer, on which Kyra Sedgwick’s Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson obsesses over her cases, tramples feelings and battles the old-boy network. Her vice, however, is candy; no booze or one-night stands. If you want the hard stuff, you need to head back to Prime Suspect."
Other reviewers have also made the point that the differences between the Tennison and Johnson characters are as important as their similarities:
- But then there’s the locker-room pissiness of her [Johnson's] all-male department, which she navigates like an estrogen version of Prime Suspect's Jane Tennison. (That’s not a running gag error, either: Sedgwick plays Johnson as if her toughness, intelligence and wit blossomed naturally from her Southern femininity, whereas Helen Mirren plays the dogged Tennison as if womanhood were a liability.)
In 1997 a short spoof episode Prime Cracker was produced for the BBC's biennial Red Nose Day charity telethon in aid of Comic Relief. A crossover with ITV stablemate crime drama Cracker, the spoof starred Mirren and Cracker lead Robbie Coltrane as their characters from the respective series, sending up the perceived ultra-seriousness of both shows.
- Poniewozik, James (6 September 2007). "The 100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME". Time (Time.com). Retrieved March 4, 2010.
- "PRIME SUSPECT - The Museum of Broadcast Communications". Museum.tv. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
- Bianco, Robert (2006-06-12). "''USA Today'', June 12, 2006". Usatoday.com. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
- "that " Brendan Bernhard, ''The New York Sun'', June 19, 2007". Nysun.com. 2007-06-19. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
- OrlandoSentinel.com.[dead link]
- "National Public Radio story, July 12, 2010". Npr.org. 2010-07-12. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
- Poniewozik, James (2007-07-26). "Time Magazine, "Antiheroine Chic," July 26, 2007". Time.com. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
- Taped interview with Kyra Sedgwick, along with other cast members and creators of The Closer, Fancast.com.[dead link]
- Heffernan, Virginia (2006-07-10). "NY Times, July 10, 2006". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
- Gloria Goodale. "CSM, July 12, 2010". Csmonitor.com. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
- Stanley, Alessandra (2006-11-10). "''The New York Times'', November 10, 2006". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
- Hale, Mike (2010-09-03). ""A Complete Look at a Complex Character," New York Times, September 3, 2010". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
- "Robert Abele, ''L.A. Weekly'', June 23, 2005". Laweekly.com. 2005-06-23. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
- Seidman, Robert (May 11, 2011). "Updated: NBC Picks Up 'Smash,' 'Prime Suspects' and Two More Sitcoms to Series". TV By the Numbers. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
- Prime Suspect at itv.com
- Prime Suspect at PBS
- Prime Suspect at the British Film Institute's Screenonline
- Prime Suspect at the MBC's Encyclopedia of Television
- Prime Suspect at TV.com
- Prime Suspect at the Internet Movie Database
- Prime Suspect 2 at the Internet Movie Database
- Prime Suspect 3 at the Internet Movie Database
- Prime Suspect 4: Scent of Darkness at the Internet Movie Database
- Prime Suspect 4: Inner Circles at the Internet Movie Database
- Prime Suspect 4: The Lost Child at the Internet Movie Database
- Prime Suspect 5: Errors of Judgement at the Internet Movie Database
- Prime Suspect 6: The Last Witness at the Internet Movie Database
- Prime Suspect 7: The Final Act at the Internet Movie Database