'Copper' review: NYPD blue and the gray

THE SHOW "Copper"

WHEN | WHERE Second-season premiere Sunday at 10 p.m. on BBC America

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Back for 13 new episodes, "Copper" is about an Irish immigrant detective, Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones), who works the treacherous Five Points section of Manhattan after leaving service in the Army of the Potomac; and a black doctor, Matthew Freeman (Ato Essandoh), his friend and battlefield surgeon on the front lines.


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In the wake of the Draft Riots, New York is on edge, Corcoran's personal life is in turmoil (his daughter has died) and now he must cope with the betrayal of a murderous ex-colleague, Det. Francis Maguire (Kevin Ryan). Meanwhile, there is literally a new sheriff in Dodge (so to speak) -- Gen. Brendan Donovan (Donal Logue) is now in charge of the cesspool that the 6th Ward has become.

MY SAY When one of the medium's finest writers (series creator Tom Fontana) gets behind a series, it's not a bad idea to pay attention. But as a "Copper" newbie, I'm still struggling to figure out what all the love was about last season (per BBC America, this was the network's highest-rated original drama).

The Fontana stagecraft is here in abundance, notably dialogue that seems about as effortless as breathing, and a fully realized Five Points that is so squalid, so detailed in its destitution that the only touch missing is the rats skittering away into the darkness. But the series also feels like a period drama that's often lukewarm about the period it's set in.

The Civil War is convulsing out there somewhere, but the history part still seems incidental -- or put another way, "Copper's" New York isn't a city riding the crest of a great historic moment so much as one riding the crest of just another wave of cop dramas set there. As a ""copper" with real idealism wearing a very white hat, Weston-Jones' Corcoran may be easy to read, but not all that interesting to read either. At least Logue's Donovan injects intrigue, mystery and a certain degree of malice. The color of his hat is indeterminate.

BOTTOM LINE Intriguing cop show in Civil War New York -- though neither the cop part nor Civil War part are entirely convincing.

GRADE B-

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