REVIEW: Prime Suspect – (NBC – Thursday, 10:00 p.m.)

Based on the critically acclaimed British television series of the same name, “Prime Suspect” has been redeveloped for American audiences by writer Alexandra Cunningham (“Desperate Housewives,” “NYPD Blue”), director Peter Berg (NBC’s “Friday Night Lights”) — and stars Maria Bello (“A History of Violence”) as tough-as-nails Detective Jane Timoney. Timoney finds that being a homicide detective in New York City is tough enough and having to contend with a male-dominated police department to get respect makes it that much tougher. She’s an outsider who has just transferred to a new precinct dominated by an impenetrable clique of a boys’ club. Timoney has her own vices too — with a questionable past — and she tends to be forceful, rude and reckless. But she’s also a brilliant cop who keeps her eye on one thing: the prime suspect. – NBC

80 out of 100

DISCLAIMER: The ‘Tastic, through our continuing efforts to be relevant, will not be reviewing, rating or otherwise judging this show in comparison to its BBC predecessor. They aren’t the same show and it’s embarrassing for us to see critic and fan reviews that take this route which they seem to do for every flippin’ show that crosses the pond.

Regular readers of The ‘Tastic know that we have a long list of types of shows that we simply hate and ranking high on that list is the police procedural.  They are all the same (which is why they’re referred to as procedurals… duh) and it’s incredibly rare that any of them really stand out from one another.  And then there’s NBC’s Prime Suspect which is really one of the best procedurals we’ve seen in years.

Why is it working where most others fail?  Well, we think that part of it comes down to a relatability factor with the characters.  All of the detectives seem more like people you would know in your neighborhood and family with all of the regular personality and ego quirks normally associated with familiar acquaintances.

But the key to this show’s success, quality-wise, is actually the investigations themselves and Bello’s honest portrayal of Jane Timoney, the no-nonsense detective that the show centers on. Timoney is a flawed character, but she’s very good and has a keen intuition and is very down to earth.    Many police procedurals try to portray their lead-character detectives as superheroes, seeing things that  no one else would ever possibly see because of their keen intellect or special ability that puts them a step above their colleagues (e.g., CSI, Unforgettable, The Mentalist, Numb3rs, etc).  Prime Suspect doesn’t waste the audience’s time with this and in fact, it goes out of its way to show that Timoney is human and does make mistakes and is dependent on the other detectives, whether she likes it or not.

Speaking of the other detectives, the supporting cast of this show is an all-star lineup of veteran film and television actors that complement Timoney perfectly partly because some of them don’t even like her, yet.  With a lineup that includes Aidan Quinn (Legends of the Fall, and many, many others), Kirk Acevedo (Fringe, Oz, Band of Brothers), Brían F. O’Byrne (Brotherhood, FlashForward) and Tim Griffin (known as “the actor who is in everything” for good reason) this show really can’t do much wrong.

One of the problems we often have with police procedurals is of course, the formulaic and procedural nature to them which lends itself to having no emotional attachment to the victim.  This is a failing of procedurals and over the years it seems that producers just stopped caring.  What’s one more dead guy, right? Prime Suspect breaks out of this by avoiding the common pitfalls associated with the genre.  There aren’t always going to be twists, misdirection and mistaken identity on Prime Suspect.  Sometimes it’s just a straight-up investigation and yes, the spouse did do it.  Any police officer or detective will tell you that criminal investigations are rarely as complex as portrayed on Dateline, 48 Hours or the myriad of police procedurals on television (most cops hate police procedurals). However, there’s always a story and subtext to any investigation and this is what Prime Suspect exploits very effectively and by doing so, the audience has no choice but to be sympathetic to the characters (especially the victims) and in spite of the fact this is a police procedural, you are sucked into the narrative.

It’s very rare, to the point of nigh-impossible, that a police procedural made us misty-eyed over one of its victims.  This one did last week when the victim was a five year-old boy whose alcoholic/pill-popping mother was hungover and hit his head against the wall and he died two hours later at school. Throughout the entire episode they kept showing his little body covered on a table in the medical examiner’s office.  If you have kids, that’s the some hard-hitting stuff and they were so subtle about doing it that it worked brilliantly as a plot device.

There’s only one aspect to the show that we can do without and that is that we don’t give a sh*t about how much of a total lunatic bitch her husband’s ex-wife is.  We don’t mind the interaction with Timoney’s own family (her father and her sister, in particular) because it serves  to develop her character but the scenes involving the husband’s ex do nothing to advance the plot, in fact they are a drain on every episode and the time could be better spent on other areas… like watching Timoney get a cleaning at the dentist.  They are so bad as to make you want to turn off the damned show whenever they start.  Also, the trailer above really is embarrassing because it cheapens just how good this show is.

Realistic and gritty, all in all, Prime Suspect is a great show and a surprisingly well-done police procedural.

You can watch full episodes of Prime Suspect, here.

REVIEW: Unforgettable – CBS (Tuesday, 10:00 p.m.)

Unforgettable stars Poppy Montgomery as Carrie Wells, an enigmatic former police detective with a rare condition that makes her memory so flawless that every place, every conversation, every moment of joy and every heartbreak is forever embedded in her mind.  It’s not just that she doesn’t forget anything – she can’t; except for one thing: the details that would help solve her sister’s long-ago murder.  Carrie has tried to put her past behind her, but she’s unexpectedly reunited with her ex-boyfriend and partner, NYPD Detective Al Burns (Dylan Walsh), when she consults on a homicide case.  His squad includes Det. Mike Costello (Michael Gaston), Al’s right-hand man; Detective Roe Saunders (Kevin Rankin), the junior member of the team; and Detective Nina Inara (Daya Vaidya), a sassy, street-smart cop.  Being back on the job after a break feels surprisingly right for Carrie.  Despite her conflicted feelings for Al, she decides to permanently join his unit as a detective solving homicides – most notably, the unsolved murder of her sister.  All she needs to do is remember.  – CBS

70 out of 100

Well, if you like Numb3rs, The Mentalist or CSI, you’ll like this crapfest, Unforgettable, as well.

Honestly, that’s probably not very fair, though, as there’s nothing particularly wrong with Unforgettable at all, really… provided that you’ve never seen a police procedural before. Unforgettable is just your typical American, cookie-cutter, vanilla, bland police procedural where someone dies in the beginning, the detectives investigate, there’s a couple of suspects along the way and a twist about 45 minutes into it, with a little misdirection and then the real culprit is exposed and in true CSI/Scooby Doo, Where Are You? fashion, they (sans attorney) admits everything and the then lament how they could have gotten away with it.  The only thing that’s missing is, “… And I could have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids (or… police detectives)!”

Add to that, the protagonist with the amazing ability that’s unique, but not supernatural (this is where Numb3rs and The Mentalist come in) and you’ve got the typical police procedural with a twist!  And, oh yeah… the lead’s sister was murdered and that was the one murder she hasn’t been able to solve (expect an arc on that to resolve it quickly if the ratings start to drop) and surprise, surprise she and the male lead have a professional and romantic history from years past in common.

Really, though, it’s fine for what it is and we try not to rate new shows based on our own personal biases against format, hence the higher than expected rating for a show that we don’t particularly enjoy. There’s nothing original about the plotlines of any of this show’s murders-of-the-week at all but we’re sure this will probably be a big hit for CBS because A.) it’s on CBS and B.) this is the type of safe, generic fare that general audiences lap up.

It’s well cast, the performances are fine, it’s shot well, the storytelling is OK (if not entirely original) and the pace is decent, but then again, it’s hard to screw up a show when your playing Police Procedural Mad Libs (and no, it’s no coincidence that the creator of Mad Libs was the late Leonard Stern, well-known television writer and producer).  It’s a good show, but as we’ve noted, dry, formulaic procedurals just aren’t our thing so it won’t be in our viewing stable, but we wouldn’t discourage our readers from watching if they like this sort of thing because we’re sure you’ll enjoy it, but the problem for Unforgettable for us is that it was, well… pretty forgettable.

You can watch new episodes of Unforgettable, here.