Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.
For its first-ever foray into original scripted series, BBC America made a surprising choice in centering the show on the period in America during the Civil War rather than a subject impacting the other side of the pond. The new show, Copper, premieres on Aug, 19 and carries a first rate pedigree, produced by no less than Barry Levinson (Diner, Rain Man) and Tom Fontana (Oz, Homicide: Life On The Street). It tells the tale of a brutal Irish immigrant cop (played by Tom Weston-Jones) in New York City and his unique sways of meting out justice in the notorious immigrant neighborhood of Five Points, Rather than a western, Copper is dubbed as more of an “eastern” saga. During a TCA session late this morning, Levinson said, “Here’s the BBC excited to do a piece about America and its history, whereas a (broadcast) network would be much more reluctant to go down that road. What you might consider a foreign company was fascinated with this story”. Added Fontana: “The fact that this is BBC America’s first foray into scripted programming means a lot to us. (BBC America GM) Perry Simon has been incredibly supportive and is also incredibly hungry for this to work. I remember also doing HBO’s first scripted drama with Oz, and that’s very intoxicating, especially for a jaded old idiot like me”.
For Fontana, doing Copper particularly resonated in that it’s something of an anti-CSI with regard to its cop show investigative techniques. “There’s no DNA, no machines”, he observes. “It’s all about detectives having to use their minds and really assess the situation. I also personally just love the fact that we’re writing and doing a series where there are no cellphones”. He added that doing a show about the American Civil War in New York City “is not dissimilar to doing one about our country and our world now. It’s exciting for me to see the parallels”. And the parallels didn’t end with the division of the country for Fontana, adding that immigration, racism, poverty, educational issues and the treatment of children “are things that I think we’re still dealing with that they dealt with then”.