Coppers Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones) and Maguire (Kevin Ryan)

One of the most impressive sets I’ve ever been on is the one for Copper. The pre-forensic cop show premieres Sunday night at 9 p.m. in Canada on Showcase.
I had an opportunity to visit the Toronto set back in early May. The producers, Cineflix and BBC America, have build this gigantic recreation of the Five Points neighbourhood of lower Manhattan, circa 1864, inside what was once an enormous car parts factory.

One small corner of the huge Five Points set; five streets, three alleyways

There’s really a tremendous amount of detail on display, with ragged tenement shacks set up on cobblestone streets, bordellos and police stations and even outdoor markets. The amount of cobblestone alone is impressive.

Everything in this shot is inside an old car factory

The series hails from executive producers Barry Levinson and Tom Fontana, revered for their modern day cop show Homicide: Life on the Street. Fontana told me he was looking for something completely different to do (he’s also working on his version of the Borgias saga) and was always curious about the whole Irish immigrant story in New York, especially the flood of arrivals during and after the potato famine. Five Points, he told me, was built over a filled-in, spring fed lake and the muddy and murky place never quite settled. Buildings shifted and the ground reeked. That was one element that was thankfully not recreated on the set.
Initial reviews for Copper have been mixed. A lot was expected from Levinson and Fontana and the duo may be cursed with high expectations. The word “lacklustre” has come up a few times in U.S. reviews. (The series nevertheless opened strong on BBC America Aug. 19). John Doyle in the Globe and Mail calls it “surprisingly bland.”
I don’t think he’s wrong, although I thought the pilot set everything up tidily and gave up the requisite murder of the week. British actor Tom Weston-Jones, as the copper in question, detective Kevin Corcoran, is watchable in a understated, Clint Eastwood-meets-Jim Morrison kind of way.
Fontana and Levinson were proud of the way the set captured the claustrophobic nature of the grim Five Points ghetto but this may also be a turn off for viewers.
For more on Copper, read this feature I wrote for The Canadian Press.

Follow @BillBriouxTV

1 Comment

  1. Any chance of getting the Copper viewers numbers? I know it started during your summer break but i seem to have a thing for crime dramas and historical settings. And well The Borgias, Murdoch Mysteries, and now Copper satisfy both of those. And the US numbers for Copper are looking to be far from impressive even though it was BBC America’s best ever series premiere (to date).

    And if you want to toss in World Without End when you get those that would be nice too. It isn’t on in the US until next month but it was on Showcase the other night.

    Thank you Bill.

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