Theme Song: Emotive violins.
Interesting Dated References: A time in our society when slander and libel in a criminal case, namely identifying innocent suspects on the news, didn’t immediately result in millions of dollars in compensatory damage lawsuits being brought against the offending news agencies.
Best Line: “I am being accused of murdering children.”
Social Context: America’s never-ending obsession with the abduction (and possible torture, sodomizing, and/or dismemberment) of young, blonde, white girls, and the ensuing media hubbub. The reason the news and society is obsessed with stories like this is because most Americans secretly fantasize about committing crimes exactly like this and everyone should stop trying to act like they are all normal.
Summary: Mike Farrell (M*A*S*H) plays Frank Staplin, an awesome guy who works in an awesome office and is an awesome architect. Being an architect is the go-to “cool job” writers would give characters in the 80s. Anytime you wanted to project that someone was successful and awesome, you would make them an architect.
Frank really enjoys his life, until this grumpy little “Golden Girl” (read: Girl Scout) stomps her way into his office to try to solicit business. First of all, they actually used to send young girls out on the street to hustle their ass with selling cookies? That’s fucking absurd. Unless you’re a predator, in which case you probably thought it was awesome. Secondly, doesn’t this little kid know you can’t solicit shit in a business?
Because Frank is a nice guy, on his way out of the office, he offers to buy some cookies from the grumpy Golden Girl. Later at home, Frank sees a news report that a Golden Girl is missing and decides to go down to the station to report that he bought cookies from her.
Unfortunately, some nosey biddy who saw Frank in the parking lot with the girl goes and describes his appearance to the police.
Even more unfortunate, Terri Garr is a nosey reporter who proceeds to release Frank’s name and picture as “a prime suspect.” It seems all of Frank’s problems up to this point have been caused by nosey women. And this entire time he’s being held for questioning.
Eventually the shit hits the fan when the police dig up some old charge on Frank’s record. Turns out he was mooning some frat houses in college and got arrested and the charge shows up as a sex crime on his record. People seriously used to get arrested for mooning?
Look at Frank’s awesome shelving system. Look at how small his TV is. Remember when reading and face-to-face genuine communication were important things in the world? Nowadays everyone’s houses are filled with giant TVs, and books have been replaced by shitty pre-made art that says, “LIVE LOVE LAUGH.” So Frank is eventually released and returns home to a nightmare. There are 8-million news trucks on his front lawn, his neighbors won’t talk to him, his wife sent his daughter to be with grandma, and his boss at work is suggesting he move and change his name.
To get away from all that stress, Frank goes to hang out at a playground. Look, I’m not currently being accused of murdering any children, but I sure as shit know lone men shouldn’t go hang out in playgrounds. In fact, when I’m walking my small dogs, I go out of my way to avoid the playground even more because if you don’t you wind up with some kid wanting to pet your dogs and next thing you know their parents are looking at you like you’re trying to abduct and/or fondle their child’s genitals.
The fucking IZOD budget for this wardrobe is out of hand. So Terri Garr is eventually convinced of Frank’s innocence, despite being forced to report the opposite on the news. She and Frank travel around and try to find evidence of his innocence. I even think they start to develop some type of romantic connection.
Eventually Frank realizes it’s hopeless to try to prove his innocence. He regroups his family and explains to them how to say, “Sticks and stones.” Fairly uneventfully, Frank returns to work with some new refreshed attitude about starting over. He never even once mentions suing the pants off the fucking TV station! Everyone just suddenly starts to accept him again.
As a coda, we see Terri Garr has switched TV stations because of the shitty sub-plot I didn’t even talk about, in which she thought her other job was immoral for reporting about Frank, and during this she mentions the police found the killer.
Prime Suspect isn’t terrible, but being it was made-for-television, it certainly suffers from a super quick, bowtie wrap-up. You’re in the middle of the shit and Frank’s life is ruined, and then in the span of two minutes everything is okay and he’s back to work.
Poster and Box Art: Prime Suspects comes in a box that is somehow bigger than the biggest VHS porno box your step-dad had hidden way up high in his closet in that weird leather briefcase-thing. I really don’t even know how they made the box this big.
Availability: For some reason Prime Suspect was issued on DVD and given a totally hilarious cover that makes it look exactly like The Usual Suspects. Look at it! It’s almost exactly the same! Angled red type! Line-up! Did the people marketing this DVD think everyone would get so confused they’d actually buy it thinking they were getting The Usual Suspects? Seriously.