If it’s Thursday, it must be Prime Suspect 1973.
This week (so it says in the Radio Times) we’re getting:
a 1970s wedding
“all floaty Laura Ashley dresses and big hats” as Jane Tennison is her sister’s reluctant bridesmaid.
Meanwhile DI Bradfield is obsessing over the East End Bentley family
even though Jane tells him he’s got it all wrong.
The plot in this wonderful adaptation of Linda la Plante’s novel, “Tennison”, is stodgy and predictable so why is Prime Suspect 1973 the highlight of my viewing week?
The costume designer is Amy Roberts who, according to the IMDb website, was nominated for an Olivier Award for best costumes for the 2009 stage production of The Misanthrope starring Damien Lewis and Keira Knightley. Well, Amy certainly deserves an award for the costumes in Prime Suspect 1973. She’s captured the spirit of the era beautifully and the series is worth watching for the costumes alone.
The music draws on some of the more obscure pop and rock hits (and misses) of the period: songs I haven’t heard in decades plus a few of the better known efforts. Mixed in are some original pieces specially composed for the series which blend seamlessly with the authentic sounds of the 70s.
The lighting is the ultimate stroke of genius in the series. A drab lighting pallette conveys the depressed nature of the economic state of the country and reflects the low tech quality of the TV camera work of the day. Brilliant!
A strong cast including a couple of veteran household names (Alun Armstrong and Ruth Sheen) bring real commitment to their roles. They’ve got the attitudes perfectly and the ensemble playing of the various groups within the cast is exemplary.
Every prejudice that manifested all day and every day in the early seventies is captured authentically in this production. The embryonic feminism displayed by Jane Tennison is tempered by the chauvinistic prevailing norms of the era. Shocking levels of racism and homophobia percolate the script presented head on with no compromise. If nothing else, this series is a celebration of progress. Yes, of course, there’s further to go and more to do. But compared with thirty years ago it’s encouraging that attitudes have changed so much.
If you want more blasts from the past check out Cabbage and Semolina, my memories of a 1950s childhood.