Zack & Nick's Culture Cast

Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!

Copper: Season 1

This past summer, I got lunch with a co-worker of mine who started to tell me about Copper, a BBC America-produced drama.  I was intrigued with the premise, so I sought it out on Netflix Streaming.  I finished watching the first season back in August, but I’ve been just too lazy to sit down and write up my thoughts.  Despite the length of time I’ve had to process it, I am still undecided about this program (a notion my co-worker shared).  It has some good, interesting concepts, but I am not sure the show uses them to their fullest potential.


Copper centers on a group of policemen patrolling the Five Points neighborhood of New York City during the 1860s.  This immediately caught my attention.  While there are millions of cop shows out there, the setting of Copper completely stands out for one, significant reason: it takes place during the Civil War.  Unless it is about the Civil War itself (such as battles and whatnot), the vast majority of period pieces that focus on life during the 1800s that I’ve encountered tend to take place after the war.  I felt that it brought a new look at what was going on during that time period.  The war is ever-present in the series, but it is always in the background as a looming threat.  The war is there, but it really isn’t directly affecting the characters in any direct way (at least, until the end of the season).  It is a nice, refreshing take on an era so mined.

While the general setting is brilliant, I don’t feel the show really follows through to match it narratively.  The storylines, while interesting in their own right, seem fairly standard in their own right.  I guess I just didn’t quite know what to expect, but considering this was produced by a branch of the BBC, I was hoping for something a little more edgy and deeper.  Instead, we have somewhat generic stuff of where our lead’s wife disappeared to (a season-long storyline which culminates in a nonsensical revelation), a possible Confederate invasion of New York, and forced romantic tension of who is sleeping with who.  You mean to tell me this was the best they could come up with in such a rich setting?

Also, considering the time period was still such a nasty world to live in, I was expecting some of that nastiness to shine through.  Though we do get some of that (one of the main settings is a brothel), things are fairly sanitized.  Again, this surprised me considering shows which don’t hold back and show things exactly as they are, such as Dexter and Breaking Bad, are critical darlings partly because of it.  Just surprising, that’s all.

I don’t want to come off as too harsh.  The show isn’t bad by any means.  It just isn’t anything revolutionary.  In many ways, the writing feels like Copper is a show from the mid-to-late 90s.  It has the feel, pace, and stylistic touch to it.  It is difficult to really put into words, but if you see it, you’ll know exactly was I mean.

Copper is worth checking out just for the setting alone.  It might click with you better than it did with me.  I was on the fence on whether or not I was going to tune into the second season.  Originally, it was going to be one of those things only if I bothered to remember it.  However, while I was writing this piece, I discovered that the show was recently cancelled.  Might as well stick it out.



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