On the surface, BBC America’s newest show Copper does everything they can to transport the viewer back to 1864 New York City: the costumes, buildings, pubs even the music strive to portray the era as accurately and credibly as possible. Unfortunately, the actual story and performances seem to have been sacrificed in the process.

Copper revolves around lead detective Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones), who is dealing with the loss of his daughter and disappearance of his wife. In the pilot, Corcoran finds the lifeless body of a little girl, beaten and raped, and the search for the killer takes him into the upper crust of New York society. It is in this quest that he learns that there are two sets of rules in the system: one for the rich, and one for everybody else. Sadly, the acting is so underwhelming that one is not compelled to care even in this tragic scenario.

A promising subplot follows the racial tension that gripped the city in the 1860s Corcoran is friends with Matthew (Ato Essandoh), an African-American doctor whom he fought with in the Civil War. Matthew’s wife wants to leave to escape the race riots, but Matthew decides to stay to help Corcoran with his case. Despite demonstrating potential, the subplot falls flat due to stiff acting and an odd lack of urgency or struggle.

With the exception of Matthew and his wife, there isn't much going on with the other side characters. Corcoran’s partner, played by Kevin Ryan, believes he’s in love with a prostitute he’s been frequenting, although there is no chemistry between them, and Franka Potente plays a madam who Corcoran takes up with, but does not appear in the show for long.

The script is vague as to whether Copper will be a regular procedural show or a complex drama with a bigger picture — and, while the pilot episode hinted at both, it supplied no clue to favor one way or another. Copper's creator, Tom Fontana, who incidentally has successful experience in both types of shows thanks to Homicide: Life on the Street and Oz respectively, and the show’s Academy Award-winning director, Barry Levinson (Diner), both bring pedigree to the table, but based on its opening act, Copper seems destined for desk duty.

'Copper' premiered on August 19, 10pm, on BBC America.

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