Maria Bello is the biggest badass on TV this fall—female or male, thank you very much. And because of her badassery, we have faith in Prime Suspect, NBC's gritty reboot of the U.K.'s long-running procedural starring Helen Mirren. Oh, and another selling point? It comes from executive producer Peter Berg who did a little show you may have heard of called Friday Night Lights.
But will you like it? Will you FNL fans soon be chanting "Bello Forever"? Here's what you need to know...
Prime Suspect (NBC)
Premieres Thursday, Sept. 22 at 10 p.m.
Time-Slot Competition: The Mentalist (CBS), Private Practice (ABC)
Cast: Maria Bello, Aidan Quinn, Kirk Acevado, Peter Gerety, Kenny Johnson, Tim Griffin, Damon Gupton, Brian F. O'Byrne
Prime Suspect certainly has its flaws, but also has the potential to rise to the level of Friday Night Lights—which, you may remember, started off slowly but grew into one of TV's best-ever dramas. In a sea of police procedurals this TV season, Bello's flawed but brilliant Jane Timoney stands out—and not just because of her funny fedora.
You can't have a cop drama without conflict in the squad room (it's in the TV writers room manual), but the overt sexism of Detective Timoney's new alpha-male colleagues is more '70s Serpico than 2011 NYPD. While Jane herself can be boorish and insensitive, she's the real deal. The misogynistic menfolk, on the other hand, are caricatures from another era. And they're lousy cops.
As with the BBC original, which first aired in 1991, "some of the characters will react to Timoney in a traditionally sexist way," EP Alexandra Cunningham explains, "and other characters will not like her because of the person she is, because she's rude and uncompromising and ambitious. So we're going to explore it in that way and try to make it more realistic because sexism is more subtle in the modern world."
Fortunately, most of the men tone down their peacock posturing once boss Kevin Sweeney (Quinn) publicly backs his only female detective. Everyone except Reg Duffy (O'Byrne), who illogically blames Jane for the death of his partner and the show's biggest buffoon. (RIP, pal.) Although the hostilities continue, O'Byrne promised us on set that the two will share a "tender moment" in an upcoming episode.
It's Jane's vulnerability that makes her such a sympathetic and believable character. She's kinder to her boyfriend (why hello, Kenny Johnson!) than Mirren's Jane ever was—especially when she delivers a satisfying secret smackdown to his interfering baby mama. He and her supportive father (Gerety) alllow Jane to have a good cry...and then pull herself together, straighten her hat, and face up to the bullies at work. It may take a while to appreciate Jane, but by the end of the first episode you will want to be her.
Verdict: DVR. While the overt sexism in the pilot feels a bit dated, we are confident that'll get ironed out quickly. Plus, Bello is crazy good in this role, and if you don't watch she'll probably kick yo ass.