Monday, December 04, 2006

Betty's in Love Again

Oh, Helen Mirren! Won't you ever leave Betty's heart alone?
Betty first went gaga for Dame Mirren as a manor maid in Robert Altman’s Gosford Park. Then she couldn’t stop recommending Helen's super-sensitive face and diction in one of this year's great movies,The Queen. Now she’s digging Helen's tough, magnetic and whip-smart Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennyson in the show that mothered The Sopranos, and maybe all cinematic television: Prime Suspect.
This gritty 1990s BBC drama can’t be beat. If you like your detective shows laced with tough politics around gender, race, class, credibility, morality, careerism and the Protestant work ethic, then this is the program for you. Bonus points for the tour of England you get free with any rental - Manchester, the London suburbs and rarely-visited neighborhoods like Brixton, and introductions to words like "bedsitter" and "marm". Helen's hair, penetrating eyes and features always look sexy-serious, and she really owns this show, even as she's getting painfully trampled and pushed around by her higher-ups at the police station, not to mention the witnesses she interviews on the murder trail. Tom Wilkinson and a gutsy, fragile Ralph Fiennes memorably co-star in the first season. Watch out for those gnarly plot twists and turns!

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