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Is Maria Bello ‘Primed’ for Law & Order-esque Success?

October 14th, 2011 by Andrea Marker Hulu

PBS is the HBO of the cable-less household: Epic mini-series, eclectic documentaries, and if you stay up late enough, naked people you unfortunately can’t un-see.  When I heard that NBC was remaking Prime Suspect, a show that I had seen thanks to PBS’s Mystery, I thought that HBO was finally going to make its way to network TV.  After the frank and gritty police stories of The Wire, I pictured the new Jane Tennyson as a female McNulty working a single case over a full season of TV, battling to find the killer while balancing her patronizing colleagues’ bitter subterfuge, her crumbling personal life, and her consuming alcoholism.

Instead I got a hat.  And an attitude.

This show is not the Prime Suspect I remembered.  While Helen Mirren’s Jane Tennyson quickly overcame the sexist attitudes she faced from her colleagues by proving herself to be an excellent detective and supportive leader, Maria Bello’s Jane Timony eye rolls her way through her precinct’s squad of misogynist stock characters.  What struck me most about this Prime Suspect is that the show, much like Jane’s fedora and cravat, is simply trying too hard.  The Jane I remembered was effortlessly tough; she certainly didn’t need to pull her weapon on a rude cabbie to prove that she’s not one to be messed with.

The show has definitely improved since its pilot, but it’s still strange to see Jane Timony’s colleagues’ over-the-top sexism when there have been so many strong female detectives since Jane Tennyson on television.  Homicide’s Kay Howard, Law & Order’s Anita Van Buren, The Wire’s Kima Greggs, The Shield’s Claudette Wyms, and NCIS’s Ziva David are all tough female law enforcement officers who were police, not women, first.  If only Jane could meet up with one of NYPD’s best female police officers currently on NBC’s duty roster, she’d learn that you don’t have to act tough to be taken seriously.  You just have to be good at your job.

Olivia Benson of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is very good at her job.  A crusader for justice from Day 1, Olivia is proof that you don’t have to act like a man to be respected by one.

So Jane, meet Olivia.  She’s smart, tough, and a good detective, just like you.  But unlike you, she doesn’t have to cop an attitude to prove it.

Last comment: Oct 15th 2011 4 Comments
  • And it’s poorly constructed, plotwise. They never explain why Bello’s character gets to order anyone around – her character doesn’t seem to have any actual rank? And she has a kind boss who runs interference for her…that’s a big difference I see in many UK > US shows, the American woman always has to have a nice male above her in some way, to protect & guide her, & to flirt with.
    DCI Tennyson wouldn’t use this show for mouthwash. Sad.

  • lyd says:

    And that greasy hat! Please, they sell fedoras on every corner in New York, she would have a bunch.

    I tried to leave a longer comment about this show’s sad transition from brilliant to broke, but WordPress said no deal. WordPress sucks!

  • Giovani says:


    Producing the gun was definitely over-the-top. Just flashing the badge would have felt a lot more professional. That’s a writer’s error, but someone should have called the writer on it.

  • @MariaBello shines in #PrimeSuspect as you aptly termed ‘frank & gritty’ not a usual for network TV. Of the New Drama’s rolled out this season this is by far my fav. My only worry is that of the all mighty ratings. More people need to tune into this show & or watch on Hulu.com for the needed ratings to count.Not sure if people know that watching on Hulu does count toward the final adjusted ratings.