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Prime Suspect

prime suspect, prime suspect tennison
Prime Suspect is a British police procedural television drama series It stars Helen Mirren as Jane Tennison, one of the first female Detective Chief Inspectors in Greater London's Metropolitan Police Service, as she rises to rank of Detective Superintendent whilst confronting the institutionalised sexism that exists within her job


  • 1 Plot
  • 2 Concept and development
    • 21 Themes
    • 22 Setting
    • 23 Production
    • 24 Music
    • 25 Reception
  • 3 Cast
    • 31 Main cast
    • 32 Supporting cast
  • 4 Prequel
  • 5 Impact
    • 51 Spoofs
  • 6 Home media
  • 7 References
  • 8 External links


The series focuses on a no-nonsense female Detective Chief Inspector DCI, Jane Tennison played by Helen Mirren, who is an officer in the Metropolitan Police, initially at the fictional Southampton Row police station The series shows how she survives and negotiates with the support of her boss, Detective Chief Superintendent Mike Kernan, and loyal Detective Sergeant Richard Haskons in a male-dominated profession determined to see her fail In later series, Tennison is reassigned to rotating duties, including a Vice Squad in Soho and a Gang Squad in Manchester She is promoted to Detective Superintendent shortly thereafter

Concept and development


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, such as institutional racism in Prime Suspect 2 and paedophilia child abuse, and prostitution in Prime Suspect 3, but continued to demonstrate the determination of male peers and the police upper echelon to see her fail Tennison's difficulty in achieving a balance between her work and her life outside the job and her difficulty in maintaining stable relationships are a recurring theme 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


It is set mostly in London and the outer areas, with series 5 being set in Manchester


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 was produced by Granada Television for the ITV network between 7 April 1991 and 22 October 2006 Prime Suspect 4 through 7 were co-produced by WGBH Boston for its Masterpiece Mystery anthology series


The music score for the first five series was done by Academy Award-winning composer Stephen Warbeck, who was nominated for a BAFTA for Prime Suspect series one


The teleplays for the first and third serials, along with the story for the second, were written by Lynda La Plante, who received an Edgar Award in 1993 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 3 was awarded a Peabody Award in 1993 for its realistic scenes and dialogue

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 garnered multiple BAFTA Awards, Emmy Awards, Golden Globe Awards and a Peabody Award


Main cast

Actor Character Occupation Cases
1 2 3 41 42 43 5 6 7
Helen Mirren Jane Tennison Detective Chief Inspector / Detective Superintendent Main
Helen Mirren as Jane Tennison, a Detective Chief Inspector, and later a Detective Superintendent

Tennison is the series protagonist, and the audience follow her career as she investigates cases in both London and Manchester She is a skilled Detective, battling to prove herself in the male-dominated world of policing Mirren described Tennison as "extremely directed, ambitious, talented and very uncompromising," and she is, as a result, "deeply frustrated by her job" After a fruitful career as a Senior Investigating Officer, Tennison retires from policing at the series ends

Supporting cast

The actors listed below are those who appeared in two or more cases This list is not definitive, and as such, single-case appearances are not noted
Actor Character Occupation Cases
1 2 3 41 42 43 5 6 7
John Benfield Michael Kernan Detective Superintendent / Detective Chief Superintendent Main N/A
Tom Bell Bill Otley Detective Sergeant Main N/A Main N/A Main
Craig Fairbrass Frank Burkin Detective Inspector Main N/A
Jack Ellis Tony Muddyman Detective Inspector Main N/A Main N/A
Mossie Smith Maureen Havers WPC Main N/A Main N/A
Richard Hawley Richard Haskons Detective Constable / Detective Sergeant / Detective Inspector Main N/A
Ian Fitzgibbon Jones Detective Constable Main N/A
Phillip Wright Lillie Detective Constable Main N/A
Andrew Tiernan Rosper Detective Constable Main N/A
Stephen Boxer Thorndike Detective Chief Inspector / Detective Superintendent N/A Main N/A Main N/A
Stafford Gordon Traynor Commander N/A Main N/A Main N/A
Mark Strong Larry Hall Detective Inspector / Detective Chief Superintendent N/A Main N/A Main N/A
Robert Pugh Alun Simms Detective Sergeant N/A Main


Main article: Prime Suspect 1973

A six-part prequel, Prime Suspect 1973, was announced in 2015 by ITV, based on the book "Tennison" by Lynda La Plante, adapted by Glen Laker It tells the story of a 22 year old Jane Tennison as a probationary WPC officer in Hackney, London, investigating her first murder case The series began airing on 2 March 2017 The role of Tennison is played by Stefanie Martini


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 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 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

NBC picked up an American adaptation of the British series for the 2011–2012 season


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

Dead Ringers featured a parody with Queen Elizabeth II in the lead role as a reaction to Helen Mirren's portrayal of her in The Queen

Home media

On 1 October 2013, Netflix made the Series 1-6 available online for streaming On 27 August 2013, Acorn Media released the entire series in a seven-disc Blu-ray Disc set Each disc contains the individual programme, upscaled to 720p HD and converted to 16:9 Widescreen Bonus material includes a 50-minute behind-the-scenes special, a 23-minute Series 6 behind-the-scenes featurette, a photo gallery and cast filmographies The DVD format of the series was released in 2010


  1. ^ Peabody Awards Archives
  2. ^ Poniewozik, James 6 September 2007 "The 100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME" Time Timecom Retrieved 4 March 2010 
  3. ^ "Masterpiece Theatre | Prime Suspect 1-5 | Prime Suspect 1" Pbsorg 2016-03-14 Retrieved 2016-10-29 
  4. ^ "Prime Suspect prequel sees return of Jane Tennison on ITV" THe Guardian The Guardian Retrieved 20 August 2015 
  5. ^ "Tennison cast list: Stefanie Martini to play the young Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect prequel" Radio Times Radio Times Retrieved 18 July 2016 
  6. ^ Bianco, Robert 12 June 2006 "Call 911 for TNT's 'Saved'; 'Closer' still beats strong" USA Today Retrieved 2012-11-17 
  7. ^ Bernhard, Brendan 19 June 2007 "Who Needs David Caruso" The New York Sun Retrieved 2012-11-17 
  8. ^ Boedeker, Hal 25 July 2007 "Kyra Sedgwick: The Closer owes a debt to Prime Suspect, but don't look for 'my idol' Helen Mirren on the show" Retrieved 13 June 2014 
  9. ^ Ulaby, Neda 12 July 2010 "Power Player: Kyra Sedgwick Returns In The Closer" NPR Morning Edition Retrieved 2012-11-17 
  10. ^ Poniewozik, James 26 July 2007 "Antiheroine Chic" Timecom Retrieved 2012-11-17 
  11. ^ Taped interview with Kyra Sedgwick, along with other cast members and creators of The Closer, Fancastcom Archived 17 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Heffernan, Virginia 10 July 2006 "The Closer's Kyra Sedgwick, a Study in Nuance" The New York Times Retrieved 2012-11-17 
  13. ^ Goodale, Gloria 12 July 2010 "The Closer opened doors for women – and for basic cable" The Christian Science Monitor Retrieved 2012-11-17 
  14. ^ Stanley, Alessandra 10 November 2006 "Swan Song for a Tough Old Bird" The New York Times Retrieved 2012-11-17 
  15. ^ Hale, Mike 3 September 2010 "A Complete Look at a Complex Character" The New York Times Retrieved 2012-11-17 
  16. ^ Abele, Robert 23 June 2005 "Wounded Souls" LAweeklycom Retrieved 13 June 2014 
  17. ^ Seidman, Robert 11 May 2011 "Updated: NBC Picks Up 'Smash,' 'Prime Suspects' and Two More Sitcoms to Series" TV By the Numbers Retrieved 12 May 2011 
  18. ^ Cruz, Gilbert 1 October 2013 "What's New on Netflix Streaming This Month: October 2013" vulturecom Retrieved 2 October 2013 
  19. ^ Lambert, David 6 June 2013 "Prime Suspect - Blu-ray Disc Release of the 'Complete Collection' Starring Helen Mirren" TVShowsOnDVDcom Retrieved 19 June 2013 

External links

  • Prime Suspect at PBS
  • Prime Suspect at itvcom
  • Prime Suspect at TVcom
  • Prime Suspect at the British Film Institute's Screenonline
  • Prime Suspect in the Encyclopedia of Television, Museum of Broadcast Communications MBC

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Prime Suspect

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