When only four percent of scripted TV shows feature LGBT characters, what’s a gay girl to do? Why, strap on your gay goggles and watch TV along with us, of course! Our handy appraisal scale is better than any old letter grade. Other sites A+. We say, “What about our lezzy-lady feelings?”
Let’s get this off our chests right away. Everyone loves Helen Mirren. Everyone loves Helen Mirren in the original Prime Suspect. New York Police Department Detective Jane Timoney is not Scotland Yard Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison. And Maria Bello is no Helen Mirren. But, hey, that’s OK. Let’s face it, no one else is Helen Mirren either. But Maria can still be a damn good actress. And this could, with some work, be a damn good show. Maybe not Helen Mirren good, but come on. Settled? Settled. Good, now let’s talk about this show.
AFTERELLEN BAIT (What enticement did the episode use to reel in gay lady viewers?)
Maria, Maria, Maria and that black Trilby hat. Maria is clearly the draw here. We’ve loved her since her ER days. Some of us who will remain unnamed even saw that fairly terrible Coyote Ugly movie, maybe more than once, because of her. But, besides Maria, that’s about it. Pretty much the only other female characters thus far are her boyfriend’s bitchy ex wife and the poor murder suspect. Like I was saying, good thing we like Maria.
Wow, is overt sexism unfun to watch on TV. And, wow, did Det. Timoney have to put up with a lot of it in the pilot. What with her male colleagues in her new homicide squad accusing her of sleeping her way to a promotion, lurking to ruin the career of good (male) cops and just being an empty suit. It was so bad, I was even uncharitably happy when the lead detective and chief asshat died. Now, if this whole show hinges on Jane having to prove herself to her misogynistic male co-workers, I’m out. I’m not super interested in watching a capable, talented woman who is constantly underestimated and blatantly undermined by the good old boys club week after week.
This isn’t to say the show shouldn’t tackle the institutionalized sexism in male-dominated workforces like police departments. But it can’t always be Jane against The Men. Luckily, producers have promised that future episodes will dial down the sexism – way down. So, as long as the show focuses on what makes Det. Timoney a damn good homicide detective in spite of the boys club, I’m in.
Few actresses blend tough, sexy and believability with such ease as Bello. She has a workman-like physicality about her that always feels infinitely capable and quietly observant. You can tell she’s thinking, even if you don’t entirely know what about. It’s pretty interesting – and pretty hot. Her Det. Timoney is both instinctive and intelligent. In the pilot not only does she face down her chauvinistic colleagues, she fought a rapist/murder, shutdown her boyfriend’s ex and silenced an obnoxious cabbie. That doesn’t just deserve a hat tip, that deserves a hats off.
With so much time spent fighting sexism, there was hardly any time to fight actual crime. The murder itself, while grizzly, almost seemed like a secondary plotline. I expect after the premiere the solving of the crimes will become more central – now that all the character introductions are out of the way. The police work they did show was impressive. Writers even made a point to say that DNA results take “longer than it takes on TV.” Message: This isn’t just another crime procedural. A taught chase scene that culminates the investigation was also nicely realistic, with the suspect and Jane even getting winded after running several blocks. What’s nice too is that instead of being supernaturally gifted somehow, Jane’s abilities seem to come from understanding human nature, doing her homework and working harder than everyone else in the room.
No, this isn’t Helen Mirren’s Prime Suspect. But Maria Bello’s Prime Suspect is pretty good, too. And with some work and some continued characterization, it could even maybe get great. So, how did you like your introduction to Det. Jane Timoney? Are you going to stay on the case? Or is the sexism scaring you away? And how about that hat?