The beloved BBC American television show Copper was abruptly cancelled last month, after its second season. The sudden demise of the show has caught most its fans off-guard and left many with unanswered questions.
Premiering last August on the then new BBC America channel, Copper seemed destined for longevity. Created and directed by executive producer Tom Fontana with Academy Award winner Barry Levinson and Tom Kelly, the series shined a light on the gritty underbelly of the Five Points district of mid-nineteenth century New York, where crime and punishment lurked hand in hand. The underbelly of New York, the Five Points neighborhood was densely packed with poor and immigrant masses (many of them Irish). Copper centered on Kevin Corcoran, an Irish immigrant policeman trying to solve the crime that tore apart his family. Initial reviews were lukewarm, but many found potential in the character development, overarching storylines and numerous similarities with Martin Scorsese’s film Gangs of New York. Irish America’s Tom Deignan applauded Copper, writing in the October/November 2012 issue that the show “paints a vivid portrait of Irish American life,” adding that “they highlight the journey from the horrors of the Famine to the complexities of the 21st century crime fighting and family dynamics.” Buzz for the show grew to a crescendo when it premiered to 1.1 million viewers, the largest audience for a BBC America series debut.
The question that haunts the cancellation of the series is, what went wrong? Fan excitement seemed on the rise leading into the show’s second season. According to BBC America executives, Copper was cancelled due to low ratings and tepid reviews. A Newsday review remarked of the second season that it was an intriguing cop show in Civil War New York,” but “neither the cop part nor Civil War part are entirely convincing.” Other critics voiced concern over the portrayal of Irish Americans in the story as further perpetuating stereotypes.
All quibbles aside, the show seems to have connected with a large and impassioned group of fans. BBC America offices and personnel have been inundated with letters, petitions, and emails calling for the reinstatement of the series. Numerous Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube pages like “Save Copper” have been set up in an effort to voice their anger over the show’s cancellation and an effort to bring back the series.
The final episode of the series – filmed long before the cancellation was announced – carried little to no resolution for any of the characters (or audience) with a look finally at the Civil War battlefield and a gaping cliffhanger that prefaced more things to come. It was clear that the cast and writers were anticipating a third season which further adds to fan discontentment. While no formal word has been issued by BBC America over the fate of a possible reboot, there may be a silver lining for Copper fans. The show’s executive producers and creators are considering a film version that would examine life in America after the Lincoln assassination. Only time will tell if the series lives on, but it is certain the she show won’t soon be forgotten.