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Short summary

A female police detective investigates a series of serial murders while dealing with sexist hostility from her male comrades.
DCI Jane Tennison has been passed over time and again to lead a murder investigation, so when one of her fellow DCIs has a heart attack just before he's ready to charge their prime suspect, Jane sees her chance to lead a murder investigation. But the murder squad she takes over is hostile to her, the men upstairs are eager to pull the plug on her investigation, her personal relationships suffer from her obsession with work, and the prime suspect remains elusive. Jane has her work cut out for her as she and her team work their way through computer data trails, legwork, intuitive leaps, chases, arrests, and confessions to find the killer.

Trailers "Prime Suspect "

User reviews


  • comment
    • Author: Reemiel
    This is far above the average cop series, let alone a made-for-TV cop series. Helen Mirren is, as always, outstanding as Tennyson. The rest of the series is as good as the first, which is, in itself, rare. Usually, sequels or continuations of a series try to follow the same general plot and characterizations and fail because of their lack of originality. Prime Suspect is riviting from the first to the last.

    One extra note...did anyone watching it recently notice that the original victim's boyfriend was played by Ralph Fiennes? Shows that quality breeds quality.
  • comment
    • Author: Diredefender
    This is the series that started it all. When Prime Suspect debuted, it was instantly hailed as a classic and also sparked a debate much akin to the Clarence Thomas hearings in the US. At heart, this is a police drama, but it is also a story of changing gender roles and issues of harassment.

    Spoilers: Helen Mirren is outstanding as DCI Jane Tennison, a rare female detective, of high rank, on the Metropolitan Police Force. Tennison has fought her way up the ranks and is just itching to get her first crack at a murder investigation. Unfortunately, she has been overlooked, side-stepped, and ignored at every turn. Fate deals her a hand and she plays it for all it's worth. Mirren brings a wealth of experience and talent to this role and she is further aided by the top-notch writing of Lynda La Plante. Mirren is able to convey so much with a look, a smile or just a movement of her head.

    John Bowe is also mesmerizing as the prime suspect of the investigation, George Marlowe. He is charming one moment, desperate the next. The series keeps you guessing as to his guilt or innocence, and Bowe is able to convey both the idea of an innocent man being railroaded, and a cold-blooded killer.

    This series abounds with police procedure, the mind-numbing, but vital collection and pursuit of evidence, the methods of interrogation and the building of a case. It also details the struggle of a woman to succeed in a male-dominated field. Tennison is a good cop due to an obsessive nature; but, it has detrimental effect on her personal life. Her relationship falls apart the more she becomes immersed in the case. This theme would continue throughout the series.

    This series is a fine example of great writing, acting, and direction. The script is first rate and all of the actors, right down to background characters, are outstanding. It has been said that Helen Mirren's Oscar nomination for the Madness of King George was actually an acknowledgement of her work here (her role in that film was far smaller than those generally nominated in the same category). There may be some truth there. Mirren is so powerful in this role, you wish the Oscars did cover tv features.

    If you are a fan of good drama, crime drama, or fine acting, check this out.
  • comment
    • Author: Vetalol
    Watching Prime Suspect again makes me realize and appreciate every episode. Dame Helen Mirren is always worth watching whether Prime Suspect or anything else. Her role of Jane Tennison will go down in history as one of the best female roles ever written and acted by this wonderful dame. The writing is superior to anything else on television. More than ten years after its first showing in America, Prime Suspect is classic television. The series itself has also some award winning performances by Zoe Wanamaker as the unsuspecting wife of a serial killer. Even though we suspect it, it is fascinating to unravel the mystery. When we see the female corpses, it is a gruesome look into reality. For us, it is entertainment. In the real world, they are somebody's daughter and the killer is inhuman. When we finally solve the mystery in this addition, we will have more questions and answers. The biggest question is why does this happen to begin with.
  • comment
    • Author: Era
    Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison (Helen Mirren) is in charge of the investigation to uncover a serial killer who rapes, tortures, and brutally murders prostitutes in London. Tennison is put in charge after one of her fellow DCIs has a heart attack and dies. She inherits the murder case and soon comes across the connected second murder. If trying to solve not one but two rape-murder cases is not enough, Jane's work is complicated by the hostility of her staff. The members of the male-dominated police department feel humiliated and have problems following the orders of the female boss, no matter how intelligent, tough, organized, and fit for the position she is. Tennison's obsession with the cases and fighting for credibility and respect from her colleagues don't help to her relationship with the boyfriend Peter Rawlins (Tom Wilkinson), either. Helen Mirren is superb as DCI Tennison playing the character that is sympathetic, tough, vulnerable, bright, very clever, and sexy - all at the same time. Mirren was voted the sexiest 60+ star in the world few months ago. I think she's been always incredibly attractive and desirable - and always will be. She definitely lit the screen at 46, in her first season of "Prime Suspect" (1991). Creator of the show, Lynda La Plante wrote the story that ranks among the best police procedures and it is terrific - complex, dynamic, with unexpected turns, and interesting multidimensional characters. Ralph Fiennes played one of his first roles as a boyfriend of a murdered girl and he was memorable in a very emotional scene opposite Mirren. I look forward for more DVDs with the rest of the seasons coming from Netflix.
  • comment
    • Author: Benn
    "Prime Suspect" is a dark, sometimes cynical, sometimes inspiring, always disturbing series. I watched most of the series on PBS a few summers back, and found myself instantly hooked. Helen Mirren is simply one of the best actresses alive today. It's a police drama with little on camera violence and true human emotion; you'd be hard pressed to find such a series on American television.
  • comment
    • Author: Centrizius
    A common problem with great British series is that as time passes, rather than become better they lose their steam or atypicality. By the time Prime Suspect 4 came about, but for the rare scene it had become virtually identical to a common copper flick.

    The first series, concerning the serial killings attributed to George Marlow (With accomplices), is the most complex and riveting, more so than even Cracker's first series. I have seen the episodes through their completion on several rotations and am still finding subtle aspects of character and plot. Helen is integral and can portray a paradoxical human in every episode consistently. Almost as integral is Marlow who can just about convince you that he's innocent -- but not quite, not in the right way.

    In the Prime Suspect world, everything is politics. La Plante examines the seperate realms of politics and how they interact; this is what makes up most of the running time and all of my interest. Physical details and clue tables are pushed to the side to examine one person's brain, how it reacts to the world, and how the world reacts to it. Politics, Jane, that's what it's all about.
  • comment
    • Author: Nightscar
    Helen Mirren portraits the female DCI with dignity, courage and flair. She ís Jane Tennisson and every episode of this brilliant British crime series is worth more then any other series ever made before or ever made since. Mirren gets into the character from the very start and she slowly builds a genuine person of flesh and blood, that moves the viewer, because we understand her anger, her enthusiasm, her frustrations. There is an American Prime Suspect series now, but I don't want to watch it, because it can never be anywhere near as good as the original and that is solely due to Helen Mirren. This can never be topped. That goes for all the episodes.
  • comment
    • Author: Adaly
    This just is the best of the lot. I have seen many a police drama but this one near perfect and very believable. The key here is the story and the in each of the 3 seasons I've seen it just gets better and better. The emphasis is here is on good old policing involving evidence gathering , deduction , and superb interrogation technique within that permitted by law. There's very minimal use of science and technology. Also the conclusions are very realistic and almost true to what happens in reality. The direction is superb and is well matched with the editing. The casting crew needs to be be given a pat on the back. And last but not the least Helen Mirren is superb . I saw all the 3 seasons in 2012 and probably was as entertained by it as anyone so would've seen it on initial release, if not more. A must watch !
  • comment
    • Author: Very Old Chap
    Normally when things are this good you predict 'it's all downhill from here' but with this series things never dip really - small bumps in the road perhaps but the quality is uniformly high.

    These are close on four hour dramas. They weren't shown in one stretch on the telly but if you get the boxed set that's how they'll be presented - with no pauses in between and no signs of where they would have gone either. (Thank you British television.)

    Episode I is written by the creator of the series and it's nigh on perfect with all the stacked decks where you want them and a masterful revelation of the lead character 'gradually'. Tom Wilkinson great in a small supporting role.

    This one has everything and some of the sequels won't have it as well. Upon viewing the start of episode two the girlfriend immediately blurted 'one was cacophony in the station room - this one is a light hum'. You want that cacophony and this one has it.

    Get comfortable for you're in for a heady four hour ride.
  • comment
    • Author: Gribandis
    From the mind of crime writing specialist Lynda La Plante the Prime Suspect series was a critically acclaimed series in the UK and became one of Helen Mirren's most famous roles.

    DCI Jane Tennison (Mirren) is a senior detective in the London Metropolitan Police who takes over of a murder investigation of a prostitute when the original investigating detective dies of a heart attack. Tennison soon has to prove a suspect, George Marlow (John Bowe), finds evidences that they might be a serial killer, question the work of her precedence and battle of the sexism of her police colleagues.

    Police procedural are very common in the UK and can be at times formulaic as they do who done it story lines and have to become more inventive with the range of serial killers or rapists they have to find (if you read crime fiction in the UK you would think the nation is littered with psychopaths). What Prime Suspect works is instead of the usual cliché of finding a range of suspects, a suspect is already known and it is the police's job to find the evidence as well as finding more about the crimes the suspect has committed. This is much more realistic because normally the first suspect/main suspects are normally the personal who committed the crime.

    The other focus is Tennison's personal life as the investigation takes it told on her personal life, particularly her relationship with her partner (Tom Wilkinson) and the look of the sexism in police force as few female detectives had reached a senior rank in the early 90s. We get to see Tennison's relationships with her officers as some grow to respect her and show competence whilst others are too loyal to the precedence. We also get to look at the private life of the suspect, getting to know him and doubt whether he really did it.

    Prime Suspect is a very well-acted programme (bar an embarrassing heart attack scene). This is a programme that has top actors, including Ralph Fiennes in a small early role. Director Christopher Menaul keeps a great pace for the programme, using long takes and steady cam shots to add a naturalism to the preceding as it keeps a flow going whilst not

    Prime Suspect is high quality police procedural drama that fans of these programs.
  • comment
    • Author: Alexandra
    What is excellant about this TV-Movie is that there are so many loose ends. We Do Not know if the Prime Suspect is guilty or not. This Happens in true life situations. We have Police Harassment and many Realistic Human situations. Enjoyable and Interesting. I watched DVD Version. Even DCI Jane Tennison is not perfect and makes human errors! Sam C.
  • comment
    • Author: Love Me
    Little did I know when I signed up to be a television extra that I would spend 10 days working on Prime Suspect. Though set in London the interior shots for the Police HQ were filmed in what is now 'The Printworks' in Manchester. I was lucky enough to be a plain clothes detective and featured in many key scenes. It was filmed in December and was freezing cold. The studio was then a deserted newspaper office and the canteen shots were filmed in it's original kitchen which was temporarily brought back into service. It was great to see Tom Bell and

    work and each had their own style - Tom would turn up, do his scene and leave, whilst Helen was very much involved in the set up of her scenes. I can remember her accepting a cup of tea from me as she rested on set. Prime Suspect changed the way this type of drama was filmed and it's impact can still be seen today in modern detective dramas. It went on to win many awards and I was in the clip shown at the BAFTAS! If interested, you can see me in a scene where Tom Bell walks into the incident room to make a key announcement - I am behind him looking at a map and have to react - open mouthed with shock! Anyway enjoy..
  • comment
    • Author: Contancia
    I absolutely love this show, the word brilliant doesn't even properly give it justice. As usual the UK has produced and delivered a series that puts to shame anything that American television has to offer. Helen Mirren is ranked one of the world's best actors-and for good reason. The stories are superb "who dun nits" with outstanding writing and acting all the way around. In addition to being a great crime solving drama, "Prime Suspect" succeeds as a character study of a middle-aged, professional woman who has sacrificed much of her personal life to rise among the ranks of the police force. In a typically understated British fashion, Prime Suspect delivers excellent performances by an edgy, raucous cast of "old boy's club" cops and a steely-eyed, ambitious female Detective Chief Inspector (DCI), Tennison.
  • comment
    • Author: invasion
    I bought the box set of all the Prime suspect shows and started with Series 1 (obviously).

    This really is top quality police drama. At 3 hours 20 minutes in length the makers were able to take their time developing the plot and showing the nuances of the characters. For example we see a lot of the domestic life of the prime suspect, leading us to have sympathy for him and wonder if the police have the wrong man. John Bowe is superb as the charming, but possibly murderous Marlow.

    We also get to study the slow but inevitable breakdown of the relationship of DCI Tennison(played by Helen Mirren) with her partner, as she becomes obsessed with her first murder case. It clear that she willingly chooses to prioritise her career over everything in her life.

    It's not for the faint hearted either. I was surprised with the graphic nature of the post-mortem scenes, especially since it was made in 1991.

    Sexism in the Metropolitan Police is also a major theme in the show. There is huge resistance from the detectives when Tennisson takes over the case though are gradually won over by her by her ability.

    Written by Lynda La Plante this is definitely a classic of British crime drama on TV.
  • comment
    • Author: Tygrafym
    There is little that needs to be added to the other highly appreciative reviews already posted on this site.

    The first Prime Suspect was a landmark in British TV drama. It had all the virtues of a good mystery thriller but was enriched by a densely-researched exposition of police procedure and closely observed characterisation. The cast and their performances are all outstanding. There had been nothing quite like it on British TV before.

    I am pleased to see that its merits are widely recognised wherever it has been shown, but I also note that there is a tendency to use it as a stick with which to beat American TV. I would only point out that this gritty approach to the cop genre was actually pioneered in America - particularly with Hill Street Blues. I suspect it was the success of that show that encouraged ATV to go ahead with this gruelling series. Without it, Lynda La Plant may never have been able to get Prime Suspect off the ground.

    It has one big advantage over similar American shows (before and since). It is a stand-alone serial. Free from the requirement to fill a 22 week season, it could be written by one person and tell a single coherent story over three and a half hours. Even the best US shows eventually suffer from multiple writers and directors trying to maintain a consistent vision that is ultimately not their own. Even a show as good as The Sopranos succumbed to the flattening effect of this conveyor belt approach to drama.

    This is equally true of Prime Suspect. Subsequent series had their merits and were consistently above average for TV drama, but ultimately they were all just sequels. As so often happens, they tried to replicate the success of the original series by simply ringing a few changes on all the elements that were once such a fresh and original mix.

    It is we who are to blame. When we see something we like, we greedily demand more and more, so the virtues of the original show soon get overwhelmed and diluted by the increasingly desperate attempts of the film-makers to make something that is seemingly different while being exactly the same.

    I doubt if there is more than handful of sequels in the whole history of cinema and TV that are truly better than the shows that gave them their inspiration.

    Prime Suspect Two, Three, Four etc. are not amongst them.
  • comment
    • Author: Kefym
    I have always loved Dame Helen Mirren in anything she is in but I just started this series and I love it! I am an avid Law and Order fan, but I have to say, Ms. Mirren is well suited as Jane Tennison, the strong willed detective/sergeant/superintendent that has to fight her way through the males in her department!

    I am starting Series/Season 5 and can't wait to see how Ms. Mirren/Ms. Tennison handles her position, department and her life moving forward. And the intense storylines to come!
  • comment
    • Author: Clandratha
    PS 1 is fantastic! The intensity of the whole George Marlow storyline is simply brilliant. You can tell why this one started the whole series. PS 2 while not as good as the first, still delivers. PS 3 is also good and continues the same "homicide feel" of 1 & 2.

    PS 4 is a 3 movie episode season. "The Lost Child" would of excelled all preceding story lines had it not being for "Scent of Darkness" which continues the George Marlow storyline and becomes to me the best PS story of the entire series. It outdoes it's self.

    PS 5 is purely and simply a disappointment. It goes into an entirely different direction and ambient that makes this series so great. worst of the series.

    PS6 WOW!! Simply the best episode of the entire series to me. Not because it is the best plot written, the George Marlow storyline is still superior, but I choose this one as the best because it emphasizes into Jane Tenison's ever-growing sense of justice and how she never allows anything/anyone to obstruct justice from being served. In previous season's Jane overcomes obstacles made by her superiors to solve each case. In this season the obstacle is as "high as it can be".

    PS7 should not have being made. The case is very weak and it focuses far too much into the character's weakness and life misfortunes. Which is not what audiences want to see. We know jane has personal problems but it is her gigantic sense of justice that we fell in love with and we come to admire her for. This is the key to Prime Suspects success. I absolutely love this series and rank it amongst the top 5 best British TV series ever made.

    By Dedoshucos.
  • comment
    • Author: ChallengeMine
    A woman is murdered. Lead investigator DCI John Shefford quickly identifies the victim as prostitute Della Mornay and the killer as her John, George Marlow. After Shefford dies from a heart attack, DCI Jane Tennison (Helen Mirren) pounced to break the glass ceiling. Shefford's right-hand man DS Bill Otley (Tom Bell) works to undermine the new lead investigator Tennison. She discovers that the victim has been misidentified and that Shefford had a relationship with Mornay. Tennison releases Marlow and then Mornay's long dead body is found. On the home front, Tennison is living with Peter Rawlins (Tom Wilkinson) who is trying to reconnect with his young son.

    This is a 2-part TV series running 3.5 hours. The first part is great. Helen Mirren is perfect but it's Tom Bell who delivers a great foil. The chain-smoking sexist environment is terrific. Tom Bell gets pushed aside in the second half. Tom Wilkinson loses his place as well. The story moves on without them which is fine but not as great. It's setting up to be more of a police procedural. Ralph Fiennes does have a small role but he's overacting a little here.
  • comment
    • Author: Still In Mind
    I let about 4-5 years go by before another session with Prime Suspect 1. And every single time it holds up for its plot, its originality, its underlying domestic upheavals and its politics.

    Helen Mirren is brilliant. Frazzled. Stressed. And with genius lurking in those eyes. Dogged in her pursuit. Making it, way back then, in a completely male universe.

    I've watched it 4 times now. And it engages me from beginning to end.

    The supporting cast are outstanding. Watch for very young Ralph Fiennes cutting his acting teeth on a bit part.

    Always a 10/10 from me.

    Groundbreaking.
  • comment
    • Author: 6snake6
    There are many great mystery/detective dramas out there, and 'Prime Suspect' is one of the best and consistent there is.

    It is also by far the best series of Lynda La Plante's work, with 'Trial and Retribution' being absorbing but inconsistent with the early seasons being significantly better than the first and 'Above Suspicion' having some good things but also a lot of weak elements.

    'Prime Suspect' is stylishly and cleverly filmed, and there is a consistently wonderful atmosphere throughout. The scripting is some of the most best there is of any mystery/detective drama, being superbly constructed and intelligent. The story is complex and easy to follow, with an incredible intensity.

    The depiction of the police force avoids being sexist and is unique for a mystery/detective drama. The characters are engagingly written, and written with complexity, Jane Tennison is one of the most interesting detective characters there is. The acting is superb across the board, Helen Mirren's performance is one of sheer magnificence, Tom Wilkinson impressive as always and John Bowe is deceptively charming and sinister. Ralph Fiennes, in an early role, has been better, but shows genuine emotion without going overboard.

    All in all, really incredible. If anybody is a fan of mystery/detective dramas, 'Prime Suspect' is a must see. 10/10 Bethany Cox
  • comment
    • Author: Lahorns Gods
    A female police detective (Helen Mirren) investigates a series of serial murders while dealing with sexist hostility from her male comrades.

    Many observers have viewed Prime Suspect as the inspiration for female characters in American TV series, particularly noting strong similarities between this series in general—and the character of Jane Tennison in particular—and the later American series "The Closer", starring Kyra Sedgwick in the role of Deputy Chief of Police Brenda Leigh Johnson.

    I am not sure about the sexism of the show; were British police really that weird about having a female superior? They had a queen and a female prime minister... was it hard to imagine a female detective? But I suppose it is always a struggle.

    The plot is great, and you are left questioning along the way if the "prime suspect" is going to be the actual serial killer, or if there will be a curve along the way. You never really do know one way or the other until the end. And even then, are we really sure? You will have to watch it for yourself to see what I mean.
  • comment
    • Author: LeXXXuS
    Dour and dark with little realism as a program. Helen Mirren is a very fine actor but does not seem comfortable in this role. Her character is not a likable or even realistic person, and if the idea is to have some kind of gender message it fails as her character becomes worse than the blokey guys she takes over from.

    Real shame.
  • comment
    • Author: Gerceytone
    Prime Suspect has its faults - it has plot holes and many instances of deus-ex-machina-like convenience, it's sometimes clichéd, it's at times melodramatic - but it's utterly gripping, and that's mainly thanks to Helen Mirren, who takes a brilliantly written character, full of complexity, unpredictability, weaknesses yet inner strength, and makes it her masterpiece. She's spellbinding, from Episode 1.1 to 7.2 (I binge-watched the lot during a week's holiday). And some of the secondary performances are equally superb (even if there is the odd bit of over-acting); a special note for the late, great Tom Bell, who shines in the early episodes and re-emerges for 7.1 - a dignified epitaph for a wonderful actor.
  • Complete series cast summary:
    Helen Mirren Helen Mirren - DCI Jane Tennison 2 episodes, 1991
    Tom Bell Tom Bell - DS Bill Otley 2 episodes, 1991
    John Benfield John Benfield - DCS Michael Kernan 2 episodes, 1991
    Jack Ellis Jack Ellis - DI Tony Muddyman 2 episodes, 1991
    Craig Fairbrass Craig Fairbrass - D.I. Frank Burkin 2 episodes, 1991
    Mossie Smith Mossie Smith - WPC Maureen Havers 2 episodes, 1991
    Ian Fitzgibbon Ian Fitzgibbon - DC Jones 2 episodes, 1991
    John Bowe John Bowe - George Marlow 2 episodes, 1991
    Andrew Tiernan Andrew Tiernan - DC Rosper 2 episodes, 1991
    Philip Wright Philip Wright - DC Lillie 2 episodes, 1991
    Zoë Wanamaker Zoë Wanamaker - Moyra Henson 2 episodes, 1991
    Richard Hawley Richard Hawley - DC Richard Haskons 2 episodes, 1991
    Mark Spalding Mark Spalding - DC Oakhill 2 episodes, 1991
    Tom Wilkinson Tom Wilkinson - Peter Rawlins 2 episodes, 1991
    Jeremy Warder Jeremy Warder - Joey 2 episodes, 1991
    Andrew Abrahams Andrew Abrahams - Tilly 2 episodes, 1991
    Gareth Tudor Price Gareth Tudor Price - Willy Chang 2 episodes, 1991
    Jessica Turner Jessica Turner - Pam 2 episodes, 1991
    Angela Bruce Angela Bruce - Helen Masters 2 episodes, 1991
    James Snell James Snell - Arnold Upcher 2 episodes, 1991
    Michael Fleming Michael Fleming - Major Howard 2 episodes, 1991
    Daphne Neville Daphne Neville - Mrs. Howard 2 episodes, 1991
    Ralph Fiennes Ralph Fiennes - Michael 2 episodes, 1991
    Julie Sumnall Julie Sumnall - Karen / - 2 episodes, 1991
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