BBC America’s new original series Copper seems an odd foray for a cable network built on rerunning some of the best programming from across the pond, though Copper is itself a bit of an amalgam of foreign and American interests (although in this case, Irish rather than British). It’s 1864 New York, and Irish immigrant police detective Kevin “Corky” Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones, MI-5) is exactly the type of ruggedly handsome, clever, morally complex hero with a tragic backstory you would expect to anchor such a work. And as of the first two episodes, Weston-Jones does an adequate job in charming viewers enough to take an interest in Corcoran as a protagonist and hero as he fights against (and occasionally participates in) a corrupt police force in a corrupt city.
Copper comes out of the box with violence and grit and doesn’t easily let up. It relishes portraying the slums of the kind of day where you could punch a man carrying the corpse of a dead child for interrupting you being pleasured (or about to be) by another child. There’s plenty of liquor, fighting and busty whores; this is a series for adults, and Copper doesn’t let it be forgotten. Though it could be compared to — and does borrow from — series covering roughly the same time period and themes (Hell on Wheels, Deadwood), it owes the most to Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, taking place just after the New York Draft Riots of 1863 which acted as the climax of that film, and in the same Five Points slum. But for more on why Copper may be worth a trip into the gutter, hit the jump.