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October 6, 2015

A Few Thoughts on 'Prime Suspect' and 'Pan Am' (More to Come)

by Maureen Ryan, posted Sep 22nd 2011 5:00PM
We're getting toward the end of one of the most insane weeks in the television season, and I'd be lying if I didn't confess that my brain grows more fried and crispy by the hour.

But on the off chance that anyone was looking for me to review 'Prime Suspect' and 'Pan Am' this week, I want to offer one or two thoughts on each show, and explain why I'm waiting to review these high-profile dramas. ('Prime Suspect' premieres 10PM ET Thursday on NBC.)

The shows have a few things in common, actually, most notably compelling performances from their lead actresses (Maria Bello in 'Suspect' and Christina Ricci in 'Pan Am'). But what really unites these disparate dramas -- one follows the progress of a tough New York cop, the other is a retro look at the lives of stewardesses in the '60s -- is the fact that it's just too early to judge either one.

As I said in my list of 10 Promising Pilots, the main thing 'Prime Suspect' has going for it is Maria Bello's fierce, compelling performance. Everything else about it, especially the brazen sexism of Jane Timoney's colleagues, feels a bit forced and dated, but as critic Alan Sepinwall has pointed out, the show's producers have said they'll turn that down several notches in coming weeks. So I'm going to see how the drama develops and weigh in later in the season.

I'll briefly add that I've tried, as much as I can, to put the Helen Mirren series of the same name out of my mind when thinking about this show. Mirren's performance was iconic and groundbreaking, and the fact that 'Prime Suspect' seasons waxed and waned according to the needs of the stories being told (and it's worth reading Matt Zoller Seitz's essay on that topic) means that the U.K. series will remain far, far different from what we see in the U.S. It could develop into a worthwhile character drama, but given that NBC probably wants more of a procedurally based show, it's never going to be like the saga of Jane Tennison, aside from the fact that both Janes are flawed, intelligent women who like a drink or three.

As for 'Pan Am,' which premieres Sunday on ABC, it struck me as well-made but somewhat insubstantial. It's certainly miles better than the laughable 'Playboy Club,' but BBC America's 'The Hour' may well have served any need I had for a retro drama with espionage overtones. Ricci is very good and the show's attention to detail is commendable, but this is a very demanding time of year, and 'Pan Am' will have to prove itself during the next few weeks if I'm going to come fly with it.

In any event, I invite your comments below once you've seen 'Prime Suspect' (or 'Pan Am'). And I promise to write more about both shows soon, when my opinion about them is more fully formed. In short, I think both are worth checking out, but have their share of flaws. I'll be watching in coming weeks to see how they work out those kinks.

Note: In our podcast discussions of the new fall shows, Ryan McGee and I did talk about these dramas for a few minutes each. And check out Chris Harnick's interview with real-life Pan Am stewardesses, who watched the show's pilot at AOL HQ and gave their own reviews of the show.

Follow @MoRyan on Twitter.

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Prime Suspect is as bad a Chase was. I should see the same fate. Be TAKIN OFF THE AIRWAYS. Prime Suspect is one of the worst shows of the new season. I watched it twice and won't watch it again. Noby else I have talked with likes it either.

October 09 2011 at 5:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Don't think either one will make it to a second season, especially Prime Suspect. Awful

September 29 2011 at 12:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Mo, The Pan Am dialogue is all , like, 2011 or 1994. Totally out of whack, y'know?

September 26 2011 at 10:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The dialogue on Pan Am is all 2011 / maybe 1990 . Like, way out of whack, y'know.

September 26 2011 at 10:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I liked the show's attention to detail of the 60's era, however, I think it will take another show or two to click for me. I do think it has possibilities.

September 26 2011 at 11:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have mixed feelings about the show. Will watch the next episode to decide if it is worth watching.The review on Christina Ricci is a little bit premature since she had hardly anything to do on this 1st show.

September 26 2011 at 10:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

really liked Pan Am ....exciting ....and fun.... hope it stays on

September 26 2011 at 10:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

PRIME SUSPECT WAS HORRIBLE. Bello is stiff as the somewhat hardened tough girl, but is so unconvincing, especially with that silly fad-like hat and smart lip comments. The duh-yuh stereotypical NY cop adversaries are keystone-cop like and the dialogue is so tired. Considering the times, the characters were so unreal and unprofessional as a whole...except of course for her.....well the whole thing smacks of uninspired filler. There have been so many shows based on the idea here that, when combined with the bad acting, and boring dialogue, it makes this a waste of time and short-lived. All but those who get off on the "hat" will surely pass this up after their first viewing. Person of Interest, on the otherhand, is well written, inspired, and the acting is top notch with, to me, with no noticable gimmicks like Bello's hat. By the way, I hardly find her performance inspiring. If I had to use a word for it ,I would say plastic. I found Unforgetable interesting and has great acting, as is Revenge..

September 24 2011 at 5:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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