Friday, November 10, 2006

Prime Viewing

There's only one adjective that springs to mind when talking about actress Helen Mirren.


When "Prime Suspect" first hit the airwaves in the early 90s, it was groundbreaking TV. It wasn't that we hadn't seen good cop dramas before, or even cop dramas that had female leads. But Mirren's character of Jane Tennison took it to the next level. The various "Prime Suspects" that hit the air over the years tackled such subjects of sexism, racism, child abuse et. al. with a complexity not really seen before.

Sure, there are other British cop dramas that hold a special place for me - "Cracker," "Second Sight," the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series, to name a few - but "Prime Suspect" will always have a place near the top of the list.

Mirren takes her last bow as Tennison Sunday night in "Prime Suspect: The Final Act" (PBS, 9 p.m.), a two-parter that concludes next Sunday. Tennison has to confront such things as alcoholism, imminent retirement and her dying father (Frank Finlay) while trying to solve one final case, the death of a little girl.

As I posted earlier this week, American TV keeps mining British series for new ideas, and there have been a few attempts to clone "Prime Suspect." The most notable has been "The Closer" with Kyra Sedgwick, an OK series that doesn't come close to "Prime Suspect's" heights.

Tennison is smart but fallible. She doesn't always make the right call as she battles bureacracy and office politics as well as general prejudices.

Mirren is a remarkable actress who will likely end up with both an Emmy nomination of "Prime Suspect" and an Oscar bid for "The Queen." No one could be more deserving.

STUDIO 60 NEWS: Despite falling ratings, NBC gave the go-ahead for a full order of "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" on Thursday.

No show came into the fall with more anticipation because of both creators Aaron Sorkin and Tom Schlamme and a stellar cast.

The show has declined ratings-wise over the last few weeks for a couple of reasons. One, because it takes place on a fictional comedy series, people thought it was a comedy itself, so there is disappointment that the show is "not funny." Two, the show and the dialogue are a lot smarter than anything else on TV.

The silver lining to the black cloud that is NBC's Nielsen reality is that the network can afford to give struggling quality shows such as "Studio 60" and "Friday Night Lights" a bit longer than normal to find their audience because NBC doesn't have a whole lot of options. That might be NBC's loss, but it's our gain.


Anonymous said...

Agree with you re Helen Mirren. With Judy Dench she comprizes the best two serious actresses.

Anonymous said...

I thought Studio 60 was a let-down. Thought it was going to be great found it was OK. Has improved slightly over the last few weeks but not in the same class as West Wing. I don't think Matthew Perry is up to the part. He was OK in Friends but........

Phillip Ramati said...

Sadly, Dench doesn't do much TV.

It's hard to compare a show like Studio 60 to West Wing, because WW had seven years and the whole political landscape to work with.

I think Matthew Perry is perfectly cast for the part, they just haven't had a whole lot for him to do yet.

Zodin2008 said...

I for one am greatly enjoying "Studio 60" and I like each episode more & more.

I also agree with you, Phillip, and think Perry is a huge bright spot on the show. I am not sure why anonymous doesn't like Matt Perry.

I also fully agree with you about NBC's ratings mis fortunes are good for us TV viewers as we see more orders for shows like "Studio 60" and "Friday Night Lights"--shows that would have been canceled after 2 episodes with ratings like these on CBS.