Forget ‘Charlie’s Angels,’ ‘Prime Suspect’ is the remake to watch
BY LORI RACKL TV Criticfirstname.lastname@example.org September 21, 2011 7:32PM
LEFT: “Charlie’s Angels,” starring Rachael Taylor (from left), Minka Kelly and Annie Ilonzeh, suffers from insipid plots and bad dialogue. RIGHT: Maria Bello plays Jane Timoney, a detective you want to root for, in NBC’s “Prime Suspect.”
‘PRIME SUSPECT’ ★★★½
9 to 10 p.m. Thursdays (repeating at 8 p.m. Saturdays) on WMAQ-Channel 5
7 to 8 p.m. Thursdays on WLS-Channel 7
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Remaking a popular television series is a gamble, but that hasn’t stopped two networks from laying their cards on the table.
ABC is resurrecting its ’70s hit “Charlie’s Angels,” and it debuts the same night NBC presents an Americanized take on Britain’s popular police drama “Prime Suspect.”
Both reincarnations revolve around female crime-fighters … and that’s where the similarities end.
“Prime Suspect” is a smart, well-paced procedural (yes, make room for another police procedural) that’s expertly carried by the uber-talented Maria Bello.
“Charlie’s Angels” is proof that angels exist in hell, because that’s where it felt like I was during most of this hourlong drivel.
Set in swinging Miami, “Charlie’s Angels” does its best to pay homage to the Jiggle TV genre its predecessor made famous in the ’70s. But the sexy cast — including Derek Jeter’s ex, Minka Kelly — can’t make up for an insipid plot and bad dialogue.
“You don’t look like cops,” says a 16-year-old hostage.
“We’re not,” Annie Ilonzeh (“General Hospital”) says.
“We’re angels,” chimes in Rachel Taylor (“Grey’s Anatomy”), a good actress in a bad role.
But I’ve got to give “Angels” props for the scene that introduces Charlie’s sole male detective, John Bosley. The camera pans to a paunchy guy who looks like the original Bosley — only to have him step out of the way and reveal version 2.0 (Ramon Rodriguez, “The Wire”), a much hotter Latino version of David Doyle’s classic character.
X chromosomes way outnumber the Ys on “Charlie’s Angels,” but Bello’s character has the opposite problem on “Prime Suspect.”
Bello (who spent a couple of seasons on “ER”) plays New York City homicide detective Jane Timoney. She’s a gritty and talented cop whose new precinct — led by a fantastic Aidan Quinn — is dominated by an impenetrable good ol’ boys club that never learned how to play nice with girls.
Timoney’s whisky-swilling co-workers call her an “empty suit” and like to espouse their theory that she’s slept her way up the cop ladder. They keep squeezing her out of all the best cases, but Timoney is a broad who’s used to getting beat up, both literally and figuratively. When she sees an opening to take over a high-profile murder investigation, she convinces Quinn to give her a shot.
The show sometimes lays on the misogyny a bit thick, but Timoney’s alienation feels painfully realistic, thanks to Bello. And while I’d pay good money for Timoney to stop wearing that gimmicky fedora hat, it’s almost impossible not to root for her by the end of the first episode. (What seals the deal is the restaurant scene where Timoney negotiates child visitation rights with her boyfriend’s ex-wife; it’s an instant classic.)
Producers Alexandra Cunningham (“Desperate Housewives”) and Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights”) spearheaded the redevelopment of Britain’s beloved “Prime Suspect” for American audiences. Since we Yanks crave more instant gratification than our British counterparts, crimes that took multiple episodes to solve overseas will be wrapped up more quickly on the American version.
Another major difference is that the highly lauded U.K. “Prime Suspect” starred future Oscar and Emmy Award winner Helen Mirren. Big shoes to fill, but Bello does her proud.