It's hard to imagine that a female TV detective in 2011 would face sexism — Mariska Hargitay's Det. Benson seems to be doing just fine on SVU— but NBC's reboot of the BBC's Prime Suspectwill still show Maria Bello's Det. Jane Timoney taking some harsh criticism from her male peers.
The original series, which ran sporadically between 1991 and 2006, starred Oscar winner Helen Mirren as a female detective thriving in the world of male policemen in England. Producers say the sexism won't come off as strongly in the reboot. "Obviously it's 2011," executive producer Alexandra Cunningham said at NBC's fall TV previews on Monday. "There's no institutionalized sexism. There's human resources; women have recourse at work when things happen, but when you make those choices, you do become the person who made those choices. So Maria's character is someone who's just going to buckle down and do her job and ignore those kind of things.
"Some of the characters will react to her in a traditionally sexist way and other characters will not like her because of the person she is, because she's rude and uncompromising and ambitious," she continued. "So we're going to explore it in that way and try to make it more realistic because sexism is more subtle in the modern world."
Cunningham said she wanted to create content that all audiences could enjoy. "There's so much great stuff in there that we obviously want to use as touchstones... but we also want fans of the original to be able tune into ours and enjoy it on its own level," she said. "So I wouldn't want to take anything that people would feel that they've seen before and wouldn't be surprised by."
Bello, who said she hasn't seen the original series in a few years, but remembered it being dark, added that as soon as she read the script, she knew "it was such a different show." The one similarity she'd wish to still be true? "I wish my body looked like Helen Mirren's," she joked.
Neither Bello nor Mirren's strong cops are necessarily earnest, but this new Jane won't necessarily follow the destructive path as her British predecessor, who struggled with alcoholism in later seasons. "We've seen alcoholic cops a lot... but [it's] maybe not as groundbreaking to do now, so we're going to find our own journey to go on with Jane," Cunningham said. "Every cop I know who's not actively in AA, the drinking is just sort of a part of everyday life and a way that they cope, so it will be part of the show, but I don't know that we'll show Jane descending into alcoholism in the same way."
Prime Suspect premieres Thursday, Sept. 22 at 10/9c on NBC.