Tuned In: 'Copper' walks the beat in 1800s New York

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- BBC America puts the emphasis on the America in its name with "Copper," the network's new scripted drama about a New York cop circa 1864.

Barry Levinson ("Rain Man") and Tom Fontana ("Oz," "Homicide: Life on the Street") executive produce "Copper" (10 p.m. Aug. 19), which stars British actor Tom Weston-Jones as detective Kevin Corcoran, who attempts to bring justice to the mean streets of New York with an assist from Matthew Freeman (Ato Essandoh), an African-American doctor Corcoran met during the Civil War.

"This is the anti-'CSI' in the sense that there is no DNA, there are no machines," Mr. Fontana said. "It's all about the detectives having to use their minds and assess the situation. ... What's great about Freeman bringing in [this new science is], it's all untested and not even really believed."

Mr. Essandoh said his first reaction, based on American history, was that it wasn't believable for there to be an African-American doctor in this era. But he looked it up and learned there were six or seven black doctors in New York during that period.

"That's where I found my anchor," he said. "That's where I found the reality."

Mr. Fontana said "Copper" may be a period drama but it's also timely.

"It's a time of great divisiveness and what greater example of division is there in this country [than the] Civil War," he said. "There is also immigration, there is also racial [discrimination], there is also poverty, educational problems, the treatment of children, all things that I think we're still dealing with now they dealt with then."

Although BBC America has co-produced series in the past, "Copper" is the network's first from-scratch, commissioned scripted drama. Richard De Croce, senior vice president of programming for BBC America, said the network first responded to the "Copper" script.

"It is the tale of America and New York as a boiling pot before it became a melting pot," he said. "Immigrants from the UK and Ireland populate the world. For the channel at this point in its history, it felt like a great time to tell a story like this about cultures in the United States."

Secret's out on 'Dexter'

At the end of the sixth season of Showtime's "Dexter," Dexter (Michael C. Hall) was spotted stabbing a killer, wrapped in plastic atop a church altar, by his cop sister, Deb (Jennifer Carpenter). This was one big reveal. Dexter's secret was out to his sister.

The show's seventh season premiere, airing Sept. 30, picks up right where it left off with Deb's reaction to learning her brother is capable of murder.

"It is, without a doubt, the most fundamentally game-changing development we've had since we started telling this story," Mr. Hall said. "[In the past], Dexter's secret was his own and it's not anymore. It's been so invigorating to play these scenes with Dexter preoccupied in ways Dexter's never been required to be preoccupied. To be in the seventh season of a TV show and to have that genuine sense is pretty remarkable."

Mr. Hall said it feels like the show has earned this reveal and executive producer Scott Buck said it will be played out as realistically as possible.

"We don't shy away from [the notion that] there is no easy solution from being in this circumstance," Mr. Buck said. "We knew we would eventually tell the story [of Deb finding out] but because it is so dramatic and changes the nature of the show we didn't want to consider it until we were closing in [on the end of the series]."

"Dexter" is expected to run one more season beyond the upcoming season.

"Deb finding out makes an end game feel more palpable and the plan is to do this season and a final eighth season," Mr. Hall said, although Showtime Entertainment president David Nevins said he would not close the door on a ninth season if there's more story to tell. "The story of the two of them negotiating their relationship in this place requires about that much time so it feels about right."

Mr. Hall praised his co-star, Ms. Carpenter, who is also his ex-wife, although some tabloid reports suggest they're back together.

"I've never had a better scene partner than Jennifer," Mr. Hall said. "Her generosity and the volatility of her performance, the sense of danger that she brings to that dynamic, the sense of commitment, the sense of investment. I'm astonished watching her."

One reporter asked an admittedly silly question, but it was worth it for the actors' responses: What would you do if you learned your sibling was a serial killer?

"Call the police," Ms. Carpenter said.

"I would think it was ironic given my day job," Mr. Hall quipped.

Channel surfing

BBC America will co-produce 10 episodes of "The Musketeers" from the novel by Alexandre Dumas for airing in 2014. ... Joy Behar returns with her own show, "Joy Behar: Say Anything!," at 6 p.m. Sept. 4 on Current TV, and the network will develop a prime-time show for comedian/commentator John Fugelsang to air this fall. ... A raft of returning reality shows and their season premiere dates: Discovery's "Survivorman" (9 p.m. Aug. 19), TV Guide Network's "Nail Files" (9 p.m. Aug. 19), "A&E's Beyond Scared Straight" (10 p.m. Aug. 23) and "Gigolos" (11 p.m. Aug. 30, Showtime). ... Syndicated daytime talk show "Anderson" will be renamed "Anderson Live" when its second season begins Sept. 10 with a greater focus on live features and rotating co-hosts on a new set. ... CBS has pulled its summer dating show "3" from its schedule after just two low-rated episodes.

On the web

Read more coverage from the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Tuned In Journal at post-gazette.com/tv.


A portion of this column originally appeared in Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Post-Gazette TV writer Rob Owen is attending the Television Critics Association summer press tour. Follow RobOwenTV at Twitter or Facebook. You can reach him at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com.


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