Sunday night's series of Copper was heavily-touted by BBC America for weeks and months. Last week the cable channel was showing Gangs Of New York, and offering glimpses into the world that producer Tom Fontana was building with Barry Levinson for his new series, 1864 New York.
Last night's first episode, "Surviving Death", set the tone for what could be a stellar, intriguing series, with just the right amount of sex, crime, violence, and period flavor to keep the right demos riveted. Will this bring the Civil War into style, or at least the Reconstruction? How will the writers deal with the assassination of President Lincoln?
The opening theme an ominous Irish rave-up that brought to mind the Dropkick Murphys "I'm Shipping Up To Boston" -- last used theatrically for Martin Scorcese's The Departed -- is set against sepia images of vintage newspaper clippings, crime reports, and various gruesome splatters. Fontana crime noir, check.
The interesting thing about New York City in 1864, is that it's not too different from New York City in any other era, at least in the way it's depicted . There is poverty, crime, children in peril, cops -- dirty and clean, plus rich privilege getting away with literal murder.
The idea of a lead character, one Detective Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones), a Civil War vet who returns from the battlefield to find his young daughter dead and his wife missing, gives Corcoran a forward thrust that can last for years, and it could if the series lasts.
NYC cops in 1864 are the kind that shoot first and identify themselves last, take bank robbery loot off the dead bad guys, settling up with the underbelly of society before returning the stolen goods to the bank. Corcoran is no different. He will not be the avenging angel on Copper.
You get the sense that a few Civil War flashbacks will be in order this season. What did he see that is coloring his detective work? His partner, Detective Francis Maguire, will be his voice of reason too, if he doesn't get killed himself. He's the whoring kind.
Not only does he consort with prostitutes, including the very welcome madam Eva (Franka Potente), but he's also not immune to brutality or using somewhat ghoulish means to get to the bottom of a child's murder. His war buddy, an African American doctor named Matthew Freeman (Ato Essandoh) will be indispensable on Corcoran's journeys.
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Copper strikes all the right TV drama flashpoints too, like gratuitous side boob and bare man ass, plus enough dislodged brains and gore to sate the manly masses, all within the first ten minutes.
"Corky" (a nickname on the show that makes me shudder) is going to be fighting rich privilege for this whole series, and going up against the very people who are helping build New York City industry, even if under nefarious means. Nefarious means by 2012 standards though. In 1864 this was a way of life, even if it meant a fat cat getting away with braining a child prostitute.
My only complaint about the show so far is the "My Lucky Charms" accents on all the coppers, though I am sure this is a necessary evil of the period. And stop calling Corcoran "Corky". It gives me the creeps, and reminds me of Life Goes On.
Also, if you become enamored with 19th century crime culture, the BBC America site is letting you "Mugshot Yourself", a fun tool that helped me waste an hour of my life after the show's first airing last night.