They smoke a lot of cigarettes on "Prime Suspect."
I missed the BBC police procedural starring Helen Mirren when it ran on PBS' "Masterpiece Theater" in the early '90s, and have searched for it ever since.
After a couple of misses in streaming land, I at last found the show on Hulu and clicked it up.
Mirren's beleaguered detective Jane Tennison does most of the smoking. Creepy serial killer Gary Marlow - another English poetry reference - also lights up an alarming number of cigs, especially when Jane at last breaks him into confessing. The cigarettes give "Prime Suspect" a film noir haze. There's a lot of drinking too; the Brits float on booze.
The lads in the London police station resist Tennison when she's put in charge of investigating the murders of several young women, a couple of them prostitutes. But Mirren with her steely determination wins their admiration. The extreme reversal of fortune is somewhat implausible, but Mirren and her cast of British theatrical actors carry it off.
John Bowe stands out with his portrayal of the charming Marlow, who has the creepiest mother fixation since Norman Bates. Zoe Wanamaker steals the show as his combustible common law wife. The cast with their slangy British accents cast a harsh light on London's bloke culture.
Tennison's battles against misogyny resemble those of S. Epatha Merkerson's Lt. Anita Van Buren in "Law and Order," New York City's counterpart to "Prime Suspect." Van Buren is also subjected to the insidious racism of New York City's police department. But the London cops' lad chauvinism is more ingrained.
"Prime Suspect's" London appears sunnier and less menacing than "Law and Order's" Manhattan. But the subterranean garage where Marlow's car is discovered, the site of his torturing and murdering his victims, is more revolting than "L&O" murder scenes, no matter how many rats scurry by.
The London detectives' legal system contrasts with New York City's. No Miranda rule in Britain, although Marlow does receive legal representation. And Jack McCoy doesn't have to wear a wig, as does the London prosecutor.
Even with its convoluted plot and English slang, "Prime Suspect" was worth the wait.
Too bad that Mirren's Jane couldn't have met Jerry Orbach's Lenny Briscoe. Two lonely souls solving crimes with wit and intuition: They would have made beautiful music. That could be another spinoff: "Law and Order: Prime Suspect."