NBC burned off the final two episodes of Prime Suspect on Sunday night. The football game was on Fox, CBS aired a rerun, you aren’t watching Desperate Housewives anymore, are you, especially when you could watch Downton Abbey? Anyway, much in the manner a criminal on an episode of Prime Suspect might dispose of two dead bodies, NBC dumped Prime Suspect with a pair of new, good episodes.
The series developed into something of its own, free of the Helen Mirren, British-made Prime Suspect that the producers didn’t really need trade on to create the show they eventually got on the air. Don’t misunderstand me: I don’t think Maria Bello’s Prime Suspect failed to attract an audience because millions of people were disappointed it didn’t match up to their memories of the Mirren Suspect — the percentage of people who tuned in and out for that reason was doubtless miniscule.
No, I think this Suspect didn’t last for other reasons. The pilot, the crucial episode with which lots of people decide whether they’ll ever watch again, was well-acted, well-made, but easy to dislike for viewers who want their protagonists to be sympathetic (Bello’s Jane Timoney was aggressively gruff, to her fellow police detectives and, by extension, the audience). And it didn’t help that this show was on NBC, which hasn’t been doing well in this genre lately; for broadcast, it might have been better on CBS, which knows how to launch crime shows ranging from Person of Interest to Blue Bloods. Or it might have gone to cable, where Suspect’s ratings would have looked like a smash on AMC or FX or Showtime.
It’s all over now, but the very last Suspect was a good one, featuring guest turns from two veterans of The Wire, Andre Royo and Chris Bauer (the latter probably better known these days as Andy Bellefleur on True Blood). The episode, titled “Stuck in the Middle with You,” emphasized Brian F. O’Byrne’s Det. Reg Duffy, laboring under a death threat. It was a comic subplot that turned, like many in this show, poignant. By this point in the series, we were as invested in the supporting cast (yay, Kirk Acevedo) as we were with Bello’s Jane. There was a terrific interrogation scene spotlighting Tim Griffin’s Det. Augie Blando, who just kept getting better with every episode. It was clear, watching this episode, that Prime Suspect had a lot of juice left in it, with Jane finally having broken into the tough-boy’s club of cops who’d come to respect her (and she they). But now it joins the ranks of other good one-season dramas (AMC’s Rubicon springs to mind) gone too soon.
To quote Charles Mingus, “Goodbye, pork pie hat.”