'Prime Suspect' lead is happy, got it?!!

January 08, 1994|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic

LOS ANGELES -- Don't tell Helen Mirren her character, Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison, is unhappy with her career-driven life.

One male reporter made that mistake during a press conference here to promote "Prime Suspect 3," which will air on PBS in April.

'Do you really think she's unhappy?" Mirren asked the reporter.

"Yes," the reporter replied.

"Yeah, sure, well, that's because you're a man, you know. Hey, she's unmarried. She doesn't have a baby. She must be unhappy, right?" Mirren said.

As the reporter shrank in his chair, Mirren went on to give her take on Tennison, London's first woman to earn the rank of detective chief inspector.

"I see her as driven, obsessive, vulnerable, unpleasantly egotistical and confused, you know, like we all are.

"But she's, hopefully, a very rounded character . . . who is absolutely participating in life. She's out there. She's in life. And, no, certainly not unhappy. Far from it."

Mirren also had some thoughts on why Tennison might serve as a role model for some women, and why "Prime Suspect" was one of PBS' highest-rated shows the last two years with female viewers.

"The response I get from women in all kinds of professions is that what they like about this piece is that it's political without being propagandist," she said.

"It shows what a lot of women in a lot of professions have had to putup with. But it doesn't kind of go on about it. I think a lot of women in a lot of different professions appreciate the fact that what they've had to put up with has been exposed that way -- in an entertaining way."

"Prime Suspect 2," which aired last year on PBS, won the Emmy for Best Miniseries.

Russell Baker a hit

And what does the boss think of Russell Baker so far as Alistair Cooke's replacement on "Masterpiece Theatre"?

"The feedback on Russell Baker has been very positive," executive producer Rebecca Eaton said this week.

"I think there was a certain amount of comment about his hands, which seem to have a life of their own. He's very aware of that and game to try a number of things.

"Some of the mail has been suggestions about what he should do with his hands. One said we should teach him sign language, so he can simultaneously sign. Or, another said have his fingers taped.

"But we're very pleased with him, and the viewers seem to be as well."

Focus on violence

It might turn out to be more a matter of packaging than substance,but NBC News announced yesterday that, starting Jan. 23, it will use all its news programs for one week to focus on the issue of violence in America.

From "Sunrise" through "NBC Nightly News" and its prime-time newsmagazines, like "Now" and "Dateline NBC," there will be special reports on youth violence, the effects of violence on TV, handguns and gangs. NBC News is calling the week "America the Violent: Fed Up and Fighting Back."

'Today's' news anchor

Matt Lauer, an anchorman at WNBC in New York, was named news anchor for the "Today" show, according to NBC News president Andrew Lack.

The news anchor position on "Today" has been vacant since Margaret Larson left last year.

Meet the media

Tim Russert, NBC News Washington bureau chief and host of "Meet the Press," will host a new show on cable channel CNBC starting Feb. 7.

The show is not yet titled, but Russert said it will focus on how the media cover news.

"Call it, 'Meet the Media,' " he said at a press conference here.

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