Two new series premiering Thursday try to reinterpret iconic detective shows—with completely different results.
“Prime Suspect” (9 p.m. Sept. 22, NBC; 3 stars), an adaptation of the British series that made Helen Mirren an international star, will hit its stride as soon as it forgets its ancestor. “Charlie’s Angels” (7 p.m. Sept. 22, ABC; 1 star) is as absurd as the original 1976-81 series that launched the careers of Jaclyn Smith, Kate Jackson and Farrah Fawcett (and her hair).
Stepping in for Mirren, who played the first female Detective Chief Inspector, Jane Tennison, from 1991 to 2006, is the fascinating Maria Bello. She goes deep to create a brand new but equally weary homicide detective, this time named Jane Timoney. Bello’s impatient, outspoken and intense Jane would be an asset to any squad, but she’s spent years on the sidelines thanks to police department sexism—and her own prickly personality.
In the season premiere of this unsentimental drama, Jane battles the boys in the homicide division to be put in charge of her own case.
In the original series, Tennison broke ground as the first woman DCI, so it made sense she would face sexist co-workers. I’m sure sexism still exists in the NYPD, but the “beef trust” (as the male officers call themselves) that butts heads with Timoney seems even more Neanderthalish and sexist than anyone Tennison ever encountered.
Thankfully, writers Peter Berg and Alexandra Cunningham tone down the sexism and we learn that these guys aren’t against women so much as they are against Timoney. She once had a relationship with a high-level officer, and her co-workers believe she slept her way into their division.
Timoney, it turns out, is as good—even better—than any one of them. She proves it from the start. Still, that doesn’t convince one fellow officer played by the always-engaging Brian F. O'Byrne. His Det. Reg Duffy, obviously haunted by his own demons, challenges Timoney in a menacing exchange that promises great things.
Bello’s new show will never fill the gumshoes of the original, partly because network TV audiences demand their cops solve crimes quickly, not over several episodes like the original did. I prefer the longer plotlines, but the new show quickly establishes its detective characters as fascinating individuals to watch.
Thanks to the rock solid performances of Bello, O'Byrne and co-stars that include Kirk Acevedo, Kenny Johnson and Chicago homeboys Tim Griffin and Aidan Quinn, “Prime Suspect” rises above the formula network procedurals that focus more on forensics than good, old-fashioned grunt detective work.
In that sense, “Suspect” reminds me more of classic cop dramas such as “Kojak” and “NYPD Blue” than the show that inspired it.
“Charlie’s Angels,” on the other hand, feels exactly like the original—despite what ABC and creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar have said about it having a “modern twist.”
Three young women (they were called “little girls” in the original, so there!) are brought together by a faceless voice named Charlie to work at his private detective agency. Abby the thief (Rachael Taylor), Kate the blackballed cop (Annie Ilonzeh) and Eve the street racer (Minka Kelly), this time with a hunky Bosley (Ramon Rodriguez), break rules and blow stuff up to make Miami a safer place.
And they wear fabulous clothes—or just swim trunks in Bosley’s cast (not complaining)—while doing it. There’s nothing wrong with escapist fun, but I like at least some brains in the mix.
“Angels” was a hit 35 years ago because viewers obviously didn’t mind idiotic dialogue and illogical plots. Oh, and it also worked because so few action shows had women as leads. Things have changed since then, though. From “Xena” to “Alias” to most of Angelina Jolie’s films, women kick butt on a regular basis.
So why a new “Charlie’s Angels”? Three … hot … chicks.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times