I like “Prime Suspect,” starring Maria Bello, a lot

I almost bailed out after the first few minutes because it had too much cop stuff, and seemed too derivative of NYPD Blue.

As a general rule, I am tired of cop shows. One reason is the way that they routinely portray police brutality. Cops get confessions out of suspects through threats of beatings, and sometimes actual beatings. And in the world of cop shows, that’s OK. In the real world, it’s a terrible thing.

But my dislike of cop shows isn’t primarily a matter of principle. It’s just that they seem to be all the same.

There’s the discovery of the body, often by a couple of interesting characters we never hear from again. That’s in the prologue, before the credits.

After the credits, the main characters, who are detectives, arrive on the scene. They are briefed by uniformed officers, examine the murder scene, and discuss the B-story, which is unrelated to the main murder — somebody’s relationship or career problems or whatever.

After the first commercial, there’s the scene where the coroner shows the detectives (and the audience) the interesting wounds on the body (don’t watch this scene while eating dinner).

There’s the confrontation with the by-the-book lieutenant.

There are the interviews of the suspects and witnesses in the interrogation room.

There’s the scene where the cops, wearing bulletproof vests, run from room to room in an apartment with guns drawn, shouting “CLEAR!” “CLEAR!” “CLEAR!”

It’s like Taco Bell: Same four ingredients, mixed up in different ways and called different things.

I can get into a cop show anyway if there’s something else going on I enjoy. The Closer is one of my favorite shows, and I was a huge fan of NYPD Blue.

I also loved Homicide.

And Prime Suspect seems to have many of the same qualities as Homicide, being about flawed people doing the best they can. Prime Suspect also looks a lot like The Closer — at least the first couple of episodes of The Closer, when Brenda was still fighting for her place. But where Brenda candy-coats her toughness with Southern charm, Maria Bello’s detective covers her toughness with another layer of toughness, with New York “fuck me? no fuck you” attitude.

Also, Maria Bello. I’m a huge fan of hers. She was particularly fantastic in The Cooler, with William H. Macy and Alec Baldwin. [1. I was at a corporate cocktail-party for work around 2005 where I was chatting with the wife of a colleague, and learned that this woman had actually been a roommate of Maria Bello in New York, back when Bello was still a struggling actress. I had just seen The Cooler and loved it, and I said so, and my brain sent these words down to my mouth: “And she was really something in that scene where she dances for William H. Macy! Hubba hubba!” But fortunately at that point, my brain started to visualize a conversation with HR about workplace-appropriate discussions, not to mention a conversation with my colleague about appropriate discussions with his wife — he’s much bigger than me. Not to mention a discussion with my wife (which I’m probably going to have anyway after she reads this). So my brain sent down a signal, “ABORT! ABORT! ABORT!” and instead my mouth just said, “I really liked The Cooler. She was good in that!” And thus disaster was averted.] She’s great in everything she does. I’m just going to pretend The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor didn’t happen.

So far, it’s my favorite program of the new season. Although I think I only watched one other new program, 2 Broke Girls. I didn’t care for that one, although I might give it a half-dozen episodes to find its legs and then come back and give it another try. Assuming it lasts that long.

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