02/10/1997 at 01:00 AM EST
PBS (Sun., Feb. 9, & Sun., Feb. 16, 9 p.m. ET)
Her flawed humanity is what makes Det. Supt. Jane Tennison a fascinating hero, but the British policewoman may be all too human in her latest Masterpiece Theatre miniseries. Less than thrilled at being transferred from London to drab Manchester, Tennison (Helen Mirren) repeatedly misreads situations, criminals and colleagues as she strives to nail "the Street" (Steven Mackintosh), a posturing young gang lord with a flair for sadism. Her errors include having sex with her married boss (John McArdle) and prematurely releasing a youth who claims responsibility for a gang member's murder, thus handing the Street an opportunity to have the kid abducted and gruesomely executed. We almost wonder whether Tennison should be reassigned to the police academy—as a student.
By now, though, this cop has such a lock on our loyalty that we squirm when she loses face and pray she won't lose heart. Unlike her character, Mirren's performance is without fault. The suspense takes hold in part two, after Tennison realizes that the Street has a spy somewhere in the department. One complaint: The Street, with his wise-guy bon mots and snarling dogs, is something of a caricature. Mackintosh has a field day, but the role is just too juicy.