Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Dramatic Birth of TV's Tough Girl

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Dramatic Birth of TV's Tough Girl

Article excerpt

Byline: TERRY RAMSEY

Drama Connections

10.35pm, BBC1

PRODUCER Don Leaver remembers very well the day he got the script of the first Prime Suspect.

"I had the script in my case and I got home and I said to my wife, 'Listen, I have got to go up to the study, I just want to get a sniff of this. It's a four-hour thing, so I am only going to read the first 10 minutes. Open a bottle of wine and I'll be down for a drink.' "I went up to the study, opened the first page and I sat there for four hours. I read it from cover to cover. I couldn't put it down."

And he wasn't the only one to have that reaction. When Prime Suspect hit the screens in 1991, it grabbed its audience by the throat and kept them gripped over its two episodes. It was talked about in offices, on buses and in pubs.

It would undoubtedly have been discussed at the watercooler, if many of us had such things back then.

This excellent account of how Prime Suspect was created reminds us that not only didn't we have watercoolers, but we didn't have many women police detectives then either.

Writer Lynda La Plante knew all about the old-style blokish series like The Sweeney, Target and The Professionals (as a jobbing actress she had appeared in The Sweeney), and wanted to break the mould by creating a tough female murder-squad boss, DCI Jane Tennison.

She did research with DCI Jackie Malton, one of the few top-level women in the Metropolitan Police at that time. Malton (appearing spookily like Tennison) recalls: "I was a kind of a maverick in the police. I was also a very troubled soul. And I suppose that combination attracted her to me for the character."

The other driving force in Prime Suspect was Helen Mirren, who said she was "gagging" to get the part.

And so a TV legend was born.

The Best And Worst Of Changing Rooms

8pm, BBC1

Goodness, talk about squeezing the last drop of airtime out of this sad old queen of a programme.

It's amazing to think that the room makeover show, with its tacky MDF constructions and rag-rolling nightmares, was once one of TV's biggest hits.

Still, it is entertaining to watch again the clips of horrified victims as they see their new-look room for the first time and break down in tears. …

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