Has ‘Prime Suspect’ aged as well as Helen Mirren?
The seminal series still convinces in its examination of women fighting to succeed in male-dominated worlds
In April 1991, Lynda La Plante created the show Prime Suspect starring Helen Mirren and quietly but forever changed the landscape of crime drama. There had been hard drinking, chain smoking, all-consumed-by-the-job-at-the-expense-of-their-private-lives detectives on television before, but Prime Suspect offered us the first vision of such a character as a woman, a revolutionary idea at the time.
Mirren’s detective chief inspector (DCI) Jane Tennison — based on real police officer Jackie Milton — was in her 40s, placed in a position of some authority but ignored in the male-dominated world in which she found herself and tolerated as a diversity hire at best.
The first season of the show introduces us to Tennison in her role as a side character in an office full of adrenaline-pumped lads crowing as they seemed to swiftly solve a case involving a murdered prostitute. Gradually we are given insight into Tennison’s personal life and watch as circumstances allow her to make an ambitious play for taking over the case after the lead detective suffers a fatal heart attack...