Tube Talk: Barry Levinson, Tom Fontana team up for ‘Copper’ on BBC America

By Paula Hendrickson
Contributing Writer

Despite never being a huge fan of police dramas, I was addicted to Barry Levinson and Tom Fontana’s classic series, Homicide: Life On the Street. (At least for the first five seasons — after that it got watered down with some new and incredibly uninteresting characters.) The thing I loved most about Homicide was that it was a cerebral cop show — the Baltimore homicide detectives rarely drew their weapons and could go entire seasons with nary a car chase.

No wonder that the moment I heard Fontana and Levinson were teaming up again as executive producers of Copper (Fontana is also a co-creator), I knew I’d give the show a chance. Also intriguing: Copper is the first original series produced for BBC America.

The twist? Copper is a police drama/urban western set in New York City, 1864. It stars British actor Tom Weston-Jones (who starred in the more recent seasons of the long-running British spy drama MI-5) as an Irish-American cop who returns from fighting in the Civil War to discover his daughter is dead and his wife is missing.

With Fontana on the writing staff, I anticipate some intense and dark drama. The fact that a couple episodes were directed by former Homicide star and prolific director Clark Johnson (he played Det. Meldrick Lewis and has directed feature films as well as episodes of series including The Shield, The Chicago Code, The Walking Dead, Homeland and yes, even Homicide) is also enough to make me tune in.

If you want to brief yourself on 19th century lower Manhattan before watching the show, check out Copper’s webpage at You can create your own 1860s mugshot if you want. There’s even a map that highlights historical sites as well as things from “Copper’s World.” You can even view a short video of Fontana touring the Five Points neighborhood where the show is set and explaining how much the area has changed over time — back then, it was a lawless rough-and-tumble neighborhood; today, it’s the home of courtrooms and lawyers.

I haven’t seen a preview of Copper, so I can’t tell you if it’s great, horrible or just OK, but given the show’s pedigree, it’s certainly worth a look or two. The only dilemma: Copper will air Sundays at 9 p.m., which pits the newcomer against tough competition from AMC’s Breaking Bad and Showtime’s Homeland.

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Follow her on Twitter at P_Hendrickson and send your suggestions to

From the Aug. 15-21, 2012, issue

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