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A delve into your dusty DVD collection can unearth unexpected treats

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I had pretty much had enough. I’m not a sports fan. I realise that the weather is fantastic and it shouldn’t matter that there’s nothing for me to watch on television at the moment, but actually, it really does. After a long day of activity – entertaining the kids on their summer break – I like to relax with an absorbing and enjoyable piece of drama on T.V. So, as none of the channels can presently oblige my needs, I have begun to delve into my old DVD collection. There are some great boxed sets in there that I haven’t watched in years. This week I alighted upon the full six series of Prime Suspect which ran from the early 1990s. I’ve watched them all, of course, but I felt it was long enough ago that I might get some pleasure out of returning to them once more. I was right.
Starting with the second instalment, being still fairly familiar with the first iconic series which had introduced the fabulous Helen Mirren as DCI Jane Tennison, I quickly remembered why this series of crime stories had become such a classic. The plot was ground-breaking in many respects, highlighting the endemic sexism and racism which existed within the Metropolitan Police during that time. The writing, acting and direction are superb and although slow-moving in places, it is the attention to detail and procedure in Prime Suspect which spawned a mass industry of copy-cat television programmes and crime novels.
But what really grabbed my attention in the re-watching of this second series was the use of the clay modelling technique to recreate the head of the victim, Joanna Fagunwa, from the remains of her skull. I found this fascinitating and haunting when I first watched the programme back in my teens as it was the first time this method had ever been used in a British crime drama. Of course, it has now become part and parcel of the forensic drama’s repertoire of techniques. In Prime Suspect 2, it had been unique and watching it again, it had the same mesmerising effect on me as it did all those years ago. Perhaps more so, because now, I recognised the face that had been sculpted out of the clay. The beautiful features were quite clearly those of the British actress Nina Sosanya, who has been seen most recently in the BBC2 comedy W1A, with Hugh Bonneville. I have enjoyed her work over the years, especially in the Channel Four series Teachers, but I never realised that her first television role had been to play the beautiful and elusive seventeen year old Joanne, whose fate had such terrible repurcussions for all those who had loved her, and for the investigative team setting out to discover who was responisble for her death.
I am waiting eagerly for the new season of dramas to begin on T.V, so that normal service can be resumed. But in the meantime, I will keep digging into that old DVD pile, hoping to root out yet another evocative, long-hidden gem.

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