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

Date September 22, 2011
A Few Thoughts on 'Prime Suspect' and 'Pan Am' (More to Come) 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...

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

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

Read more http://www.aoltv.com/2011/09/22/a-few-thoughts-on-prime-suspect-and-pan-am/

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