BBC America brings a fantastic period drama "Copper" to the smallscreen, airing tonight.
"Copper," combines the story of one lawman with the rise of the Irish power base in both the political ranks and the police academy with the feel of an American Western, specifically the lawlessness that pervaded New York City circa 1864 in the midst the Tammany Hall graft machine.Tammany was sold as a friend to the working people, especially the destitute immigrants who inhabited the five points of New York 'Copper's' setting, especially those from Ireland. Tammany became associated with the immigrant vote, and was a veritable powerhouse of Irish politics in New York City. And in the time before social welfare programs, Tammany politicians provided alms for the poor.
What Copper does beautifully is transport you back to this seedy and often cruel world where the flip side of New York builds it's power base, and our star, Irish-born cop Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones), uses his work in a cathartic way to forget his own grief and misery.
In the period before, during and immediately after the Civil War, New York saloons were generally the center of local politics, and election contests could literally turn into full scale brawls. Our Corcoran is in the middle of the fray, where under-aged whores matter-of-fact sell themselves, and freed black slaves try and establish some normalcy of life amidst a sea of ethnic Caucasians who are busy doing battle with each other, only unified in their distrust and often times outright hatred of blacks.
The setting for this rich slice of Americana is brought to us by Barry Levinson, the man who wrote and directed the classic film "Diner" - a beautiful and funny coming of age tale set in his hometown of Baltimore.
The below the line craftspeople for 'Copper" have vividly brought this colorfully contentious New York's Five Points neighborhood alive with expert set decoration, production design, makeup and wardrobe. Massive kudos to them all.
This is also BBC America's first original scripted drama, filmed in Toronto.
The series, premiering tonight, introduces us to Corcoran whose own disposition is quite at home with the criminal elements, not quite right after returning home from the war to find his wife missing and his daughter murdered. His Irish temper is full mast when he is in pursuit of those who harm children.
The murder of a young girl leads him on the trail of powerful people.
Corky, his friend Robert and a freed slave named Matthew Freeman (Ato Essandoh) work together in trying to piece the crime and who do it together. Freeman is a pathologist who can provide illuminating information via autopsies, especially when the police wish the body to be buried and forgotten.
Matthew and his fearful wife, Sara (Tessa Thompson), are an interesting secondary thread in this tapestry.
The economics of the time have created a frontier mentality that dominates American history everywhere in the 19th century, as intense competition and fractious divisions abound based on ethnicity and race, and in the world of 'Copper,' these trials are the backdrop for this compelling drama.
The supporting characters each are exceptional, Essandoh, Schmid, Anastasia Griffith as Elizabeth Haverford and especially Franka Potente as Eva, a clever brothel madam and saloon owner with whom Corky finds carnal release.
A no miss recommendation, "Copper," 10 p.m. Sunday on BBC America.