Kevin “Corky” Corcoran is a hard-case detective in New York’s Five Points neighborhood circa post-Civil War. He gives an egg to a starving child and doesn’t require pleasuring in return, so we know he’s a good hard-case detective.
And, like all damaged detectives on TV, Corky has a great loss in his past that drives him to look after the downtrodden. There are a whole lot of them in the grimy, raggedy streets of Tammany Hall-era New York. You can practically smell the period detail.
Also like all TV detectives, Corky is surrounded by a cast of morally sketchy characters who help him for various murky reasons. There’s a hooker (or two) with a heart of gold, and an old war buddy who’s the spoiled son of a powerful magnate. My favorite; the black doctor who Corky goes to for some clever, 19th-century CSI-ing, some involving bread dough and a wooden post.
The show boasts the standard excellent acting, directing, and film quality that’s kind of a baseline at the BBC. There’s class warfare, sexual politics, politics-politics, and slurry Irish accents. But one reviewer described it as a brawling bar fight of series, and it’s true: rough, raw, and bloody, Corky’s methods won’t be to everyone’s tastes. I want to see more.
About the only thing I didn’t like: the soundtrack/score. When the show sticks to source music, like The Sopranos used to, it works. The Irish-ish tunes are perfect for the neighborhood, the time period, and the mood. But then sappy strains creep into some scenes, blaring the message “poignant moment, poignant moment.” One reviewer called it going all steerage section of Titanic. Knock it off, music guys. Just give us the real stuff.
One big drawback to most shows on BBC America: the BBC, like HBO, doesn’t have commercials. So you’re watching a sometimes heavily-edited version of what the Brits see. (Why doesn’t BBC America run these quality shows in 90-minutes slots, adding even more commercials? I mean, how many repeat episodes of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares do they need to make room for on their schedule?)
Bonus: Copper is the BBC America’s first original scripted show. Look, ma, no edits!
Check out a preview and background info on BBCA online. You can even insert yourself into period mugshots, if you think Ma Barker was so hot. New episodes on Sunday night, BBC America. (The first two episodes are repeated Sunday, September 2.)
4.5 out of 5 stars