Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Copper: NYPD Blue, Circa 1864
back to pre-Miranda New York. The Civil
War has turned for the Union, but social strife remains a constant fact of life. For the accused, there is no right to remain
silent. “Start talking or start praying”
Det. Kevin Corcoran tells one uncooperative witness, cocking his pistol. There is a certain elegant simplicity to the
direct approach. In fact, interrogations
are probably the only straight forward part of police work in Copper (promo here), BBC America’s
first original (non-imported) dramatic series, which premieres this Sunday
bravely served the Union Army, only to find his young daughter murdered and his
wife missing on his return home. In
1864, the primary responsibility for a cop like Corcoran is collecting the
Captain’s payoffs. While his personal
investigation is his primary interest, the brooding officer tries to do some
legitimate police work here and there, since he has the gun and badge. During the course of the first two episodes,
Corcoran becomes understandably emotionally invested in the case of a young
girl murdered by a sexual predator.
Corcoran will risk his life and career to protect the victim’s twin
sister from the uber-connected suspect.
Fortunately, he will have some help from Five Points’ finest
of Copper is indeed set in that
neighborhood so squalid, it no longer exists.
The morally ambiguous Morehouse family, with whom Corcoran has some
complicated history, expects to be the ones to profit from this anticipated urban
renewal project. Meanwhile, Manhattan’s
African American community is moving north.
This includes Dr. Matthew Freeman, the only competent doctor in New York
willing to act as Corcoran’s secret pathologist. As one might expect, the thorny racial relations of competing Irish immigrant and free African American communities take center stage in the third outing.
1864 was a tough year in our nation’s history, but Copper seems to take perverse glee in reveling in New York’s degradation. Nor does it even attempt to disguise its
overt class warfare. At least in
episodes one and two, the wealthy are not just venal robber barons. They are also largely pedophiles.
the heavy handed social commentary, Copper
works well on the procedural level. MI-5’s Tom Weston-Jones is refreshingly
hardnosed as the relatively honest anti-hero.
It appears Copper will not be
about solving mysteries per se, but figuring out how to dispense justice within
a corrupt system. That is actually a potentially
rewarding twist on the police drama that worked so well for the cool but
and co-writer-creators Tom “Oz”
Fontana and Will Rokos compellingly establish Copper’s lead protagonist in the first three installments,
but the supporting characters still need a bit of fleshing out. Of course, that is not uncommon at this
stage. They have ten episodes to work
with, after all. Still, Tanya Fischer’s
Molly Stuart, the you-know-what with a heart of at least semi-precious metal,
seems to warrant keeping an eye on.
There is some real potential in Copper.
It is an impressive period production and when justice is served, it is
served satisfyingly cold. Yet, it risks
overdoing the Jacob Riis progressive tut-tutting in the early stages, already
showing a tendency to fall back on clichéd stock villains. Engaging but uneven, Copper is an easy choice while Masterpiece
Mystery is rerunning Inspector
Lewises, but it may have a hard time holding it audience when Wallander returns. Whether it continues to develop and make good
on what appears promising remains to be seen.
Regardless, Copper begins this
Sunday (8/19) on BBC America.
Labels: BBC America, Copper