A prequel that tries hard but is nowhere near as arresting as the original
★★★ ITV, Thursday, 2 March, 9pm
IT’S BEEN nine years since DCI Jane Tennison, played so unforgettably by Helen Mirren, gave up her warrant card. Lynda La Plante’s Prime Suspect originally launched in 1991 and had a huge impact with its depiction of a determined woman in a workplace male stronghold and some gritty storylines.
As happened with Morse, however, ITV couldn’t let it go. Where Endeavour has gone already, Prime Suspect 1973 now follows.
Stefanie Martini is the fresh-face WPC Tennison. She’s a ‘posh sort’ from Maida Vale, defying her stuffy parents to work as a put-upon constable in Hackney.
Tennison’s first murder case
If the sexism was bad in 1991, it was epic in 1973. The 22-year-old Tennison is obliged to make tea, put up with regular bollockings, male leering and wipe up vomit when a prisoner pukes.
Meanwhile, a teenage female is found strangled on the Kingsmead Estate. She is a young runaway.
What lets this series opener down is that it feels flat. The male neanderthals we know well. And how many crime series have opened with the corpse of a young woman.
Love in the air already?
Romance with Tennison’s sympathetic boss, the similarly posh DI Bradfield (Sam Reid), could be looming and it’s obvious that the novice is going to try to solve the murder case single-handedly.
The original set such high standards that it was hard not to hope that this reboot, based on Lynda La Plante’s bestselling novel Tennison, would shake us up with something distinctive. Instead, it’s sort of OK.
Many TV dramas these days have intricately woven stories running simultaneously. This has a little business going on in prison with Alun Armstrong, but otherwise it follows Tennison’s introduction to vomit clean-ups, the emotional next-of-kin visit and an autopsy.
Its good points are a pretty decent cast, the realistic Hackney setting and that the period depiction is not a nostalgia fest. Alun Armstrong is always good value, and Stefanie Martini has the star presence to hold together what is, unfortunately, a rather cliched story.