Copper Review: Law and Order

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The premiere of Copper marks the BBC’s first attempt at a developing a show geared toward American audiences, something I didn’t realize anyone had any interest in. With recent hits like Sherlock and Downton Abbey, why fix the formula if it isn’t broken?

Then again, why not?

Copper Premiere Pic

With the American appetite for British content experiencing a revival, now is the perfect time to experiment. Yet, it seems that in the alchemy of creating Copper, the BBC added a pinch too much America and left out some of the elements of British TV imports – subtle wit, standout performances and nuanced writing – that make them so enjoyable.

But that doesn’t mean that I think Copper is bad; I just don’t think it’s as exuberantly watchable as Downton Abbey or Doctor Who. Theoretically, Copper is solid ground for the BBC; it plays to its strengths. It's a period piece, and you know how we Americans love historical drama, especially if everyone has British accents, even if it’s ancient Rome (HBO, I’m looking at you). But don't expect too many Brits on Copper.

Detective Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones) is an Irish police detective, or copper, in the notorious New York City neighborhood of Five Points. Weston-Jones plays the honor-bound, lawman-with-a-code Corcoran convincingly, if not a little impenetrably. Happily, there were moments when I caught a glimpse of the snarky, disillusioned, but principled character that Corcoran could be, and I hope we see more of him.

As far as the rest of the cast goes, there’s the brilliant but discriminated against doctor, Matthew Freeman; the kind but strong brothel Madam, Eva Heisen; the society rogue Robert Morehouse, and the smart suffragette Elizabeth Haverford. With so many players to set in motion, we learned very little about most of the cast in this opening hour, so there’s plenty to dive into in the weeks to come. 

As the show progresses, the characters’ backstories will (hopefully) be woven in with the crime of the week, since Copper is, at its heart, a police procedural. As Detective Corcoran unraveled the murder of a young girl, Copper felt, at times, an awful lot like an episode of Law & Order (ironically, the only American show to ever be adapted into a UK version). You would be hard pressed to say whether some of the lines on the Copper quotes pages came from New York coppers circa 1864 or NYPD circa 2004.

But unlike SVU, Copper doesn’t tie up all the loose ends from crime to court. There’s no justice at the close of "Surviving Death", just desperate, dingy reality and the hope that things will turn out better next time. It’s an oddly refreshing outcome to an episode that felt like a formulaic modern day crime drama retrofitted to the 19th century, primitive forensic science and all.  

A (copper) penny for your thoughts!

  • The first fifteen minutes of the Copper premiere was almost entirely violence and sex, and I’ve never seen that much gratuity in any other BBC show. Do you think that was the BBC’s way of saying, “this is an American show”?
  • What is it with the eggs? Det. Corcoran just offered them up to people left and right, but only women ate them (or liked them). Was that a thing in the 1860’s or is it oddly placed symbolism?
  • Will you be tuning in next week for Copper’s second appearance or was once enough?


Editor Rating: 3.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.2 / 5.0 (41 Votes)

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@MEherald - Five Points during the most of the 1800s was a major league slum. Look at the photographs of Jacob Riis if you really want an eye opener.


I was looking forward to seeing Copper but turned it off after 10-15 minutes. Plenty of blasphemy, out of context explicit language, gratuitous sex, a 'child' prostitute offering to 'pleasure' the lead and crooked thieving coppers - no thanks. It was like watching a sewer running.


It was ok.

Lindsey kempton

Donald, that's exactly my point. HBO, AMC, and the like all have incredibly violent and sexually explicit programs, but they are created for American audiences. The BBC, on the other hand, usually gears their shows to a British audience and the level of violence and sex is remarkably lower. Is it just a coincidence that the only BBC program with gratuitous levels of sex and violence is made for America? I don't think so.


.........The first fifteen minutes of the Copper premiere was almost entirely violence and sex, and I’ve never seen that much gratuity in any other BBC show. Do you think that was the BBC’s way of saying, “this is an American show�?.......... Seriously, have you watch anything on HBO/Starz/Shotime/AMC highest rating series lately?


Was looking forward to a period drama about this time in America but was disappointed by the production values. The whole thing was obviously set on a sound stage, (even thought I saw the vibration of a green screen backdrop at one point), Not what I expect from BBC quality, honestly. Costumes too clean, and set too dirty. Plus, really(?), "poor people" running to gather a bucket of compost from the gutter...? If we had our working poor in such bad straights in Five Points, acting like feral rats, we never would have had an industrial revolution. Poverty does not mean a lack of dignity or intelligence.
The writing was interesting, but am bewildered by the British fascination with the American stereotype of the Wild West Mentality, "Everyman for himself, and outsider saves the damsel"... show more show less

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Copper Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

Morehouse: Corcoran cut off my leg and saved my life.
Corcoran: Luck of the Irish.
Morehouse: Don't be so modest, Corky. He saved my life and got himself a detective's badge.

Look around you, Corky. Since the riots, my people have been moving out of Five Points. My wife, her brothers were hung by the neck from those two lampposts.