Sunday, August 26, 2012
Copper: First New TV Series Of The Season
The fall TV season revs up earlier every year. First up is a new British made series filmed in Toronto and set in New York city circa 1864 titled Copper.
Got all that?
It's the first scripted drama series made exclusively by BBC America --although in Canada it will be premiering on Showcase (Sunday night at 9).
Filming was done in Toronto, hopefully not at the same time as that other period drama, Murdoch Mysteries.
BBC America has high hopes for the series which it is tossing up against such U.S. cable heavy weights as Political Animals and The Newsroom.
Judging by the look of the show I immediately concluded it could only have been made by veteran producer Tom Fontana. It combines very neatly themes he's previously explored in Homicide, Oz and The Borgias --the conflict between good and evil.
That's why the series with its emphasis on the sex and sadism of the day plays very much like an American show with precious little of the intellectual finery we often associate with British teacup drama.
So far the series has yet to find itself --there are several themes fighting for dominance.
Don't get me wrong: Copper is never less than interesting and sometimes it's riveting. But the task at hand is very ambitious --to marry social drama with a gun totin' protagonist well played by Kevin Corcoran as Civil War vet Tom Weston-Jones who functions as an investigator for the corrupt New York police department.
And it's just plain fun spotting the Toronto actors who people the cast including Ron White as the police captain and Rick Roberts as a lascivious robber baron.
If you peer intently you'll notice in passing such city landscapes as Union Station and Victoria College and you'll also admire the fine CGI that recreate gaslit streets just as they might have seemed during the Civil War.
In tone the series most reminds me of the late lamented Deadwood with its attention to period detail and the running undercurrent of violence.
Corcoran is already getting into his character --"Corky" has saved lives on the battlefield and also seen friends die. Now he's set adrift in a morally disreputable world --his wife and daughter have been killed and he's trying to find the killer while sorting out various sundry murders.
One central theme is race --the free blacks of the city are being strung up by immigrant Irish gangs who fear their presence drives down the wages of unskilled labourers.
And Corcoran finds himself often using the services of a brilliant young black Dr. Freeman (Ato Essandoh) who he entrusts with performing the autopsy on a street urchin he suspects has been murdered.
When Copper finds its proper balance it could be terrific. Judging from the first two episodes that exact delicate dramatic counterpoise is still eludes the veteran Fontana.
COPPER PREMIERES ON SHOWCASE SUND. AUG. 26 AT 9 P.M.
MY RATING: ***.