Tuned In: 'Copper'
BBC America branches out with its first from-scratch series, set, not in England, but instead in late 19th century New York.
"Copper," a mix of "Deadwood" and "CSI: 1864," is the creation of Will Rokos ("Southland") and Tom Fontana, who was behind "Oz" and the 1990s masterpiece "Homicide: Life on the Street."
"Copper" (9 tonight) does not reach "Homicide" levels of greatness in its premiere -- really, what show could? -- but tonight's pilot at least suggests it may offer "Oz"-level attention to character development once it gets up on its feet.
The 10-part series is set in 1864 in New York's Five Points neighborhood, where Irish-American cop Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones, "MI-5") tries to keep the dirty, dusty streets of New York safe from criminals -- and from other cops who believe themselves above the law.
The big challenge in the premiere is telling Corcoran apart from his partner, Francis Maguire (Kevin Ryan). Both have long, wavy hair. Maguire has a milky eye, but it's difficult to pick that out in night scenes, which form the bulk of the premiere.
Corcoran's first case involves the murder of a young girl he believes to be the prostitute he gave an egg to earlier in the day -- but she looks cleaner dead than she did alive. For assistance in finding a cause of death, Corcoran turns to Matthew Freeman (Ato Essandoh, "Damages"), an African-American doctor he met during the Civil War.
Freeman does the whole "CSI" crime lab routine, albeit in a rudimentary fashion, adhering clay to a dummy's head and hitting it with assorted objects until he finds a walking stick that makes a mark like one on the girl's body.
"The head of the walking stick was equal or greater in density to bone," he reports. "It may be silver or it may be ivory."
Corcoran's investigation leads him to the home of his wealthy friend, Robert Morehouse (Kyle Schmid, "Blood Ties"), another of Corcoran's Civil War compatriots. It seems likely that Corcoran's efforts to bring the killer to justice will stretch over multiple episodes if not the whole first season. He may even get assistance from the lead suspect's sophisticated wife (Anastastia Griffith, "Damages").
The premiere also alludes to Corcoran's backstory, which involves a missing wife and a deceased daughter, whose grave Corcoran visits. He and his cronies also make routine visits to Eva's Paradise, a kinder, gentler whorehouse (or so viewers are told) run by Eva Heissen (Franka Potente, "Run Lola Run").
With so many previously established relationships on display, "Copper" can go in multiple directions. The friendship between Corcoran and Freeman is most interesting from the start, particularly given Freeman's plan to move to rural northern Manhattan with his skittish wife (Tessa Thompson).
And the mystery of Morehouse's background also intrigues. He clearly has money and refers to a father who seems as if he might be one of New York's power brokers. What sort of past do Morehouse and Corcoran share from their war days?
Corcoran's quest to locate his wife and details surrounding the death of his daughter are less interesting long-term plots, if only because viewers have seen it before and recently, too (see: the lead character on AMC's "Hell on Wheels"). But there's enough to re-commend about "Copper" that it's worth tuning in to see how the series develops.
First Published August 19, 2012 12:00 am