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Maria Bello: 'Prime Suspect' as tough cop

The cast of

The cast of "Prime Suspect." Photo Credit: NBC

DRAMA PREMIERE "Prime Suspect"

WHEN | WHERE Thursday night at 10 on NBC

REASON TO WATCH Maria Bello is no Helen Mirren. She's Maria Bello. Which, on New York City streets, is plenty powerful.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT The guys gang up on Bello's Jane Timoney, an American cousin to Mirren's Jane Tennison from the British original seen on PBS' "Mystery!" Those were '90s London detectives; these are today's NYPD homicide sleuths, closing ranks against the "invading" babe.

Not that she isn't a tough babe -- we say in the most admiring way -- who'd pull a gun on a cabbie to make him put out a cigarette. So she takes her squad's assigned grunt work and turns it into case-solving, by paying attention and playing a feel for people. (Except maybe pushing too hard on "one of the boys" but fair boss Aidan Quinn.)

Doesn't hurt that Jane has on her side burly ex-cop dad Peter Gerety, who quotes '60s soul man Curtis Mayfield and buys his girl a gun safe for her at-home arsenal.

MY SAY There's texture galore in this city-shot cop hour, eyed by handheld lenses echoing "Homicide's" edge (and director Peter Berg's "Friday Night Lights" intimacy). But NBC's "Prime Suspect" also delivers the network polish of an outgoing star turn that invites the audience in. Bello ("ER") holds herself much less in reserve than Mirren's portrayal, the career-making saintedness of which may prevent some fans from welcoming Bello's robust take on its own terms.

The pilot does overdo the overt sexism and the ex-wife-and-kid problems of live-in lover Kenneth Johnson ("The Shield").

At least Bello's not a personal-life train wreck, now the female-cop cliche it wasn't when Mirren battled the old boys' club.

Plus, NBC's boys are sublime -- from Quinn, who has aged into the character actor he is at heart, to Brian F. O'Byrne as Jane's steeliest of squadmates.

BOTTOM LINE Prime police work and workplace wars.


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