Prime Suspect

Somewhat dated, written by Lynda La Plante for Granada TV and starring Helen Mirren, first broadcast in 1991, Prime Suspect is an interesting social commentary of the time.

It was an accident it came to be written. Lynda La Plante was in conversation with Granada TV. We are looking for a police drama. Yes, working on one. We are looking for a police drama with a senior female detective. Just what I am working on.

On this basis, Lynda La Plante got the contract. The police drama she was working on was a fiction. There was no police drama.

She then contacted Scotland Yard, what senior female police officers could they offer her? She was hoping for a Detective Chief Inspector. She got a Detective Chief Inspector. They chatted on the phone. The Detective Chief Inspector offered to come over for a chat. To her surprise, the police officer who turned up was a biker clad in black leathers. It was she who filled her in on the culture at the Met, especially the attitude towards women.

The DCI who came to see Lynda La Plante in her biker’s leathers was Jackie Malton. She is now ex-Met, works as a script consultant, but also works with ex-armed robber Graham Godden with young offenders and children to stop them embarking on a career of crime.

Prime Suspect starts with what appears to be the brutal killing of a prostitute. 24 hours into the investigation, the detective leading the investigations dies of a heart attack. Into his shoes steps DCI Jane Tennison (played by Helen Mirren), a move that proves highly unpopular with his team.

Apart from being interesting social commentary, also an excellent drama, that at the end leaves one feeling chilled to the core.

Prime Suspect ran from 1991 to 2006.

Sherlock Holmes has influenced crime fiction up to the present day. In Scandinavia writers have been influenced by the Martin Beck series.

According to Ian Rankin, Prime Suspect has influenced all that has followed.

What is maybe even more surprising, Prime Suspect has been used by the Met for training.

Four years on from the first broadcast, the first female chief constable was appointed. There are over 50 police forces in England and Wales. In 2012 there were half a dozen women chief constables.

A decade on from the first broadcast of Prime Suspect, following the killing of Stephen Lawrence, the Met was accused of being Institutionally Racist.

The series explored racism (Prime Suspect 2), sex trade (Prime Suspect 3). By the end of the series, Jane Tennison, now promoted, was one of the lads, a burnt out cynical alcoholic.

Foreign Bodies, investigates European crime fiction, but BBC true to form, keeps this excellent series on-line for only 7 days.

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