"Prime Suspect" has potential

PRIME SUSPECT -- Episode: Pilot -- Pictured: Standing (l-r) Joe Nieves as Det. Eddie Gautier, Br Patrick Harbron

"Prime Suspect" featuring (standing, left to right) Joe Nieves, Bri­an F. O'Byrne and Aidan Quinn. Seated, left to right, Kirk Acevedo, Maria Bello and Tim Griffin.
NBC

(CBS) It's impossible to write a review of a remake without mentioning the original and whether it's better than the spawn it inspired. So let's get that out of the way.

Comparing Thursday's episode - the pilot - of the American version of "Prime Suspect" starring Maria Bello with the entire British forebear starring Helen Mirren, the original is better. How could it not be? One episode isn't something with which to make a decent comparison.

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NBC's remake has some things going for it, mostly Bello. Her Det. Jane Timoney is tough, smart, goes after what she wants at work and isn't afraid to make other people look stupid. She can also take a punch and be an abrasive pain in the ass.

Based on what's going on around her, that all makes sense. Her father's also a pain in the ass and her new coworkers don't like or respect her. One of the serious drawbacks of the pilot is that the male detectives in her squad are such an unrepentant bunch of sexist jerks. It's not that guys like that don't exist, but if they don't soften up a little over the next 21 episodes, they'll all be pretty tough to take. (Imagine working with them.)

Timoney deals with their outright hostility and subtler insults with either a fake smirk or a thousand-yard stare. After a particularly nasty run-in with another detective, well played by Brian F. O'Byrne - he calls her a whore in front of the others, thinking she's slept her way to her new job - she waits until she gets home dissolve into tears.

Not knowing exactly what happens in the NYPD, can there really be this few woman who are detectives? Timoney is the only one in this squad. Sometimes the pilot feels as if it's stuck in 1985, not 2011.

That said, sexism keeps on keepin' on in the workplace, even when we pretend it doesn't. As loathsome as some of the behavior is by Timoney's colleagues, it's all too believable.

The police procedural stuff is pretty standard but it's good enough for a pilot. As with all pilots there's a lot to get through - setting up characters and major plot points and teasing the audience enough so that it will stick around for a second week - and hopefully some of the upcoming cases will get tougher and deeper, and, like in the British version, begin to take a psychological toll on its lead character.

Bello is solid as always. She navigates Timoney's life in the NYPD and her home - complete with a live-in boyfriend trying to negotiate child visitation rights with his ex - with the right combination of no-nonsense attitude, wit and bemused humor.

As for the other characters, they don't have much yet to do but play foil in one way or another to Bello. Aidan Quinn, as Bello's boss, sometimes tips into overwrought in the pilot but believably plays the role of sometime peacemaker, sometime antagonizer in the office. What he does - and what the show's writers do - with the part and how he relates to Bello will be an intriguing storyline.

What did you think of "Prime Suspect"? Let us know in the comments.

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