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LYNN NEARY, host: From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Lynn Neary.

MELISSA BLOCK, host: And I'm Melissa Block.

Time again for our film critic Bob Mondello's recommendations for your home viewing queue. This week, to prepare for the start of NBC's new TV series "Prime Suspect," he suggests you order up the DVDs of the original BBC series that starred Helen Mirren.

BOB MONDELLO: 1991, a police procedural. The star - smart, forceful, assertive and a woman, which was a big deal.


HELEN MIRREN: (as Jane Tennison) Look, I am the only officer of my rank who is continually overstepped, sidestepped, whatever. Just give me the chance to prove that I can do it.

JOHN BENFIELD: (as Michael) You don't have to prove yourself to me. Let me think about it.

MIRREN: (as Jane Tennison) Well, that's not enough, Michael. I'm getting sick to death of this so-called metropolitan police survey being thrown at me.

BENFIELD: (as Michael Kernan) Now, inspector, is not the time to thrust your women's rights down my throat.

MONDELLO: Things would get better, but not right away. Detective Tennison always had to be the toughest guy in the room, even when that room was the morgue.


MIRREN: (as Jane Tennison) Excuse me. Where's the toilet?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #1: Oh, feeling a bit queasy?

MIRREN: (as Jane Tennison) No, but I think he is.

MONDELLO: Helen Mirren's Jane Tennison grew with the series, but from the start, was a bit of a klutz in her personal life - alienating boyfriends, drinking too much. Somehow, at home, she was in over her head with the family stuff that her colleagues assumed women were good at, though at work, she certainly got that stuff righter than the men did.


JACK ELLIS: (as Tony Muddyman) I don't know why you're so bothered. It's just another runaway, another dead prostitute.

MIRREN: (as Jane Tennison) She's someone's daughter, Tony.

ELLIS: (as Tony Muddyman) Yeah, yeah, yeah.

MONDELLO: The series must have had a really good casting director because you keep seeing faces that would later be famous - a skinny youngster in a leather jacket, for instance, who plays the boyfriend of the victim in the first episode.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE #2: (as Michael) We agreed not to see each other so much. God, I can't believe she's dead.

MONDELLO: Recognize that voice? It's Ralph Fiennes, pre-"Schlindler's List," pre-"English Patient," pre-everything, really. It was his first appearance on screen.

The series got darker across 15 years and dealing with prostitutes, pedophiles and torturers took its toll. Jane Tennison never got to have a family of her own, but she's got descendents, women who might not have gone into law enforcement had she not gone there first.

Temperance Brennan in "Bones," Brenda Leigh Johnson in "The Closer," and now Jane Timoney in the new "Prime Suspect." Big shoes to fill.

I'm Bob Mondello.

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