Now that Prime Suspect, one of the best female-fronted police procedurals ever created, has been remade for American audiences — and will debut on TV Thursday Sept.22 on NBC (see our 10 reasons you should be watching here) — it's time to celebrate four other great female detective series from the U.K.. Three of them have recently been released on DVDs in their entirety by Acorn Media.
Many critics agree that Helen Mirren's turn as Jane Tenneson on the long-running British TV series, Prime Suspect, is hands down the greatest female police detective ever. The series won more than 20 major international awards and set the standard for police procedurals that has affected American TV for years. This re-released debut series opens as the American remake does, with Jane seizing the opportunity to head a murder investigation — after years of repeatedly being overlooked by male superiors. Prime Suspect: Series 1 is rife with big name guest stars (Tom Wilkinson, Ralph Fiennes, Zoë Wanamaker) but no matter, all eyes are on Helen Mirren as she battles crime, sexism, and her inner demons. Prime Suspect: Series 1 and 2 have recently been re-released solo, but queer fans would be best served by buying the complete 7 season Emmy-winning series, Prime Suspect: The Complete Collection, for $99. Purchase here.
Based on the best-selling mysteries by Ann Cleeves, Vera follows the eponymous crotchety and cantankerous middle-aged investigator in the Northumberland Villages of England, a woman who happens to be brilliant at police detecting. Two-time Oscar nominee Brenda Blythyn is Vera Stanhope, a demanding and sometimes arrogant cop who looks more like your disheveled mom than, well, any of the women on Law & Order. But she's smart and tough, demands a lot of her long-suffering employees (almost all of them men), and does it all in sensible shoes. This new set of four feature-length episodes offers great character-driven crime drama. Even better, DCI Stanhope is never particularly coded as straight (no boyfriends, no kids, no lust for men), so even though she's not out, it's quite easy to view the character as a lesbian. $52. Purchase here.
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Chief inspector Janine Lewis is a character you'd never see on American primetime television. She's a pudgy, slightly slovenly, harried mother of four who balances solving gruesome crimes in Manchester, England with the stresses of family life. She's clearly straight (if the four kids didn't tip you off, her lusting over her handsome colleague will) but wickedly wry and easy to identify with by women of all orientations. In Blue Murder: The Complete Collection, actress Caroline Quintin (from Men Behaving Badly) tackles socially timely issues: the murders of a rock star, a cheerleading coach, and an illegal Belarusian émigré. Mixed in with the gritty mystery is good natured ribbing at work that makes Lewis feel real and relatable. $86. Purchase here.
Now in its fifth season, the most popular TV program in Britain is a DVD must-view. New Tricks: Season 5, out Sept. 27, follows sexy Amanda Redman as Superintendent Sandra Pullman, a woman who leads a ragtag crew of slightly curmudgeonly old cops who tackle abandoned cold cases. Every cop (including Pullman) is battling internal issues of some sort (hers is a shady family history). A sexy 42 years old, Redman was already popular with lesbians in the U.K. after her steamy sex scenes with Manouk van der Meulen in the 1998 mini-series, Close Relations. (Google it: you won’t be disappointed.) If you’ve missed this series on BBC America, now’s the time to catch up. $37. Purchase here.