Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Jane Tennison (Helen Mirren
) plays a straight-laced police officer who has been passed over time and time again for promotion due to her lack of penis. When another DCI dies while investigating the murder of a prostitute, Tennison takes her chance. However things take a turn for the bizarre when the body in the prostitute's room isn't actually the prostitute and the real hooker is nowhere to be found. But solving the case won't be the difficult part — it will be getting the men in her department to stop trying to sabotage her.
Written by crime novelist Lynda La Plante and one of the first police dramas to star a female in the lead role, the first season mostly deals with sexism in the workplace. However over time the program slowly evolved to tackle other issues from institutional racism to sexual perversion. Running themes also include Tennison's growing dependence on alcohol and her attempts to juggle her working and personal lives. It won three Prime Time Emmy Award for Outstanding Miniseries (and a Best Actress trophy for Mirren) as well as Golden Globes, BAFTAs and Peabodys.
A US remake
starring Maria Bello aired for half a season in 2011-2012.
- Actor Allusion: Tennison to a profiler (who has a photo of the female victim posing with a gun): "Putting together a calendar?".
- The Alcoholic: Tennison.
- The Atoner: Bill Otley owns up to his bad behavior as part of his AA recovery, and counsels Tennison on her own drinking.
- Back for the Dead: Sgt. Bill Otley.
- Bittersweet Ending: In series 1, Tennison feels like she's nailed the prime suspect — George Marlow — as a serial killer and yet, despite the evidence and a confession, the very last moment shows him in court pleading "Not Guilty" to all charges.
- CPR Clean Pretty Reliable: In series seven, averted with Bill Otley's death.
- Disposable Sex Worker: Mentioned in Season One when Jane interviews the fellow prostitute friends of one of the victims, who are not pleased that their friend's murder was given little attention at the time because of her profession.
- Everybody Smokes: It's the 90s. Of course they do.
- I Know You Know I Know: Tennison plays this game in Series 5.
- Serial Killer: The first season begins with the murder of a prostitute. Then it turns out they misidentified the body and the real prostitute is missing. Then they find her decomposed body, killed in the same way as the first victim. Then older cases start looking suspiciously familiar...
- Shoot the Dog: The Street in Series 5. Literally.
- Smoking Is Cool: Pretty much everyone smokes.
- Spiritual Successor: Although it does have a Trans Atlantic Equivalent (see below), it's widely acknowledged that The Closer was heavily influenced by Prime Suspect.
- Title Drop: Pretty much every episode: "S/he is our prime suspect."
- Trans Atlantic Equivalent: Remade in 2011 by NBC, starring Maria Bello as Jane Timoney. Was widely expected to suck by fans of the original; the pilot, however, indicates that it may be one of the more effective British-to-American translations of modern television, mostly via not trying to be its predecessor.
- What Did I Do Last Night?: At the beginning of the final series, a drunken Tennison picks up a man at a bar, only to wake up the next morning alone and with a nasty bruise.
- Your Princess Is in Another Castle: The first episode has the main officers almost wrap up a case in the first twenty minutes. That is until the first DCI topples over.