Prequels aren’t just for Star Wars. If a series about a detective is beloved by viewers, why not go back and explore the sleuth’s younger days? You get to see a favorite character in a new, dewier light, and it’s an excellent opportunity for period sets and costumes. It’s been done with venerable, opera-loving Inspector Morse in Endeavor.
Now, to my delight, there’s Prime Suspect: Tennison, a 3-episode series on the fledgling days of Woman Police Constable (yes, that was the title) Jane Tennison, set in 1973 in Hackney, London.
It’s jarring to see Jane so vulnerable, so fresh, so up for it. Even in the first of the seven series of the original Prime Suspect, Detective Chief Inspector (better title by then) Tennison was worn down and fairly embittered. In Tennison, we see how she got that way. My one criticism is that the writers go much easier on the male officer characters than the original Prime Suspect did. In Tennison, the higher-ups do not show Jane much professional respect, but they are gentler to her in 1973 than they were 20 years later. Perhaps it’s because in those years she became more of a threat to their status, or perhaps it’s just that this series is a bit more optimistic about human nature.
It’s a great series, and with only three episodes, it’s sized perfectly for a full, luxurious Lazy Sunday. There is bonus enjoyment if you are old enough to remember 1973, which is portrayed beautifully, without nostalgia or mockery.
Right now the show is streaming on PBS.
P.S. Don’t miss this bit on 70s fashion for Tennison. No spoilers.