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Prime Suspect: Tennison On Masterpiece

Legendary Crime Drama ‘Prime Suspect’ Returns With ‘Tennison’

New three-part series premieres Sunday, June 25, at 10:00 p.m. on KCTS 9.

June 21, 2017

What makes a great detective tick? What if we could turn back the clock on a famous fictional sleuth like Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes or Jane Tennison and relive the first years of their career? Would we be surprised by their naivety, or the archaic crime-solving culture that they work in? Who inspired their work ethic and mentored them as they developed their skills? Are the seeds of their future brilliance and tenacity apparent from the very beginning?

We will have the pleasure of discovering the answers to these questions when Prime Suspect: Tennison, a new three-part crime drama.

A prequel to the ground-breaking Prime Suspect (1991-2006), which starred acclaimed British actress Helen Mirren in the key role, Tennison introduces us to 22-year-old Jane Tennison, a rookie policewoman beginning her career as a WPC with the Metropolitan Police Service in Hackney, East London. Stepping into Mirren’s (very big) shoes is young actress Stefanie Martini (Doctor Thorne). Also included in the cast is a stellar line-up of British actors: Sam Reid (The Astronaut Wives Club) as Jane’s mentor, DCI Len Bradfield; Blake Harrison (Houdini and Doyle) as Bradfield’s volatile sergeant, DS Spencer Gibbs; Jessica Gunning (Law & Order UK) as Jane’s colleague and friend, WPC Kath Morgan; and Alun Armstrong (Little Dorrit, Bleak House) as crime family kingpin Clifford Bentley.

Adapted for the screen by Glen Laker (Vera and Home Fires) and directed by David Caffrey (Monarch of the Glen), Tennison is based on the eponymous bestselling book by award-winning crime novelist Lynda La Plante. Set in 1973 — a time when women were slowly being integrated into the police force — Tennison opens as Jane begins her first days on the job, carrying out routine tasks like typing reports, answering the phone and serving tea to senior officers. Jane is attentive and eager to learn. DCI Bradford quickly notices her potential, giving her a chance by including her in the investigation of the murder of a young prostitute. In addition to learning her job and dealing with the sexism of the predominately-male police force, Jane is faced with a perplexing ethics issue involving a coworker, disapproval of her career from her parents at home and a growing attraction to DCI Bradford, her superior officer.

Actress Helen Mirren originated the role of Jane Tennison in 1991, playing the character for seven seasons over the course of 15 years, until 2006.

Actress Stephanie Martini portrays rookie police officer Jane Tennison in the new “Prime Suspect” series.

Tennison has great genes to spring from. While Prime Suspect is one of the most respected and beloved television crime dramas ever, earning Time magazine’s “100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME,” multiple BAFTA Awards, Emmy Awards, Golden Globe Awards and a Peabody Award, it is the skillful writing of Jane Tennison’s innovative character and Helen Mirren’s memorable portrayal that have had a longstanding impact on television, inspiring future generations of crime-solving female detectives like Deputy Chief of Police Brenda Leigh Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) in the American series The Closer. Helen Mirren was nominated six times for Primetime Emmy Awards for her portrayal of the smart, driven, no-nonsense DCI, winning three times; Kyra Sedgwick was nominated five times for an Emmy and won once in 2010. Viewers, critics and industry members alike admire and reward strong women who break that stubborn glass ceiling and excel in their profession. Tennison gives us a chance to learn the fascinating backstory of a character that will grow into one of the archetypes of television crime drama. For actress Stefanie Martini, the role of Jane Tennison could be as pivotal as it was for Helen Mirren. 

Driven by an intriguing main character, a compelling crime story and a strong 1970s soundtrack, Prime Suspect: Tennison tops my list of new crime dramas premiering on Masterpiece


Laurel Ann Nattress

Writer, blogger, and editor of Jane Austen Made Me Do It, Laurel Ann Nattress is a champion of Georgian civility, British culture and Masterpiece PBS. Visit her at and follow her on twitter as @Austenprose

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