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Archive for Sunday, August 19, 2012

BBC America explores U.S. history

August 19, 2012

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If period dramas set where the buffalo roam are called Westerns, then why aren’t shoot-’em-up historical epics set in New York called Easterns? If there were such a genre, it would be an appropriate tag for “Copper” (9 p.m. Sunday, BBC America), the first original production from BBC America.

‘‘Copper” takes place in the last year of the Civil War, a time when Union victory and Abraham Lincoln’s re-election were hardly certain. Tom Weston-Jones stars as Kevin Corcoran, an Irish immigrant police officer from the squalid Five Points slum of New York, who rose to hero status in the Union Army only to return home to find his wife missing and his daughter murdered. These two mysteries provide underlying motivations for the brooding Corcoran.

Corcoran’s war adventures put him in touch with a higher rank of 19th-century New Yorker, including aristocrat Robert Morehouse (Kyle Schmid) and his family. Corcoran also befriended Matthew Freeman (Ato Essandhoh), a medical genius forced to work as Morehouse’s valet in the war. Freeman allows Corcoran to pass off his medical insights and forensic discoveries as his own, since no one would believe them coming out of the mouth of a black man.

‘‘Copper” is richly textured and exciting to watch. In many ways, its setting reminded me of some of the novels (“Burr” and “1876”) of Gore Vidal, who died last month. It’s a boisterous, if violent, reminder that history was made by men and women of passions and complex motivations not unlike our own.

Sunday’s other highlights

• The Steelers and Colts meet in preseason NFL action (7 p.m., NBC).

• The newly merged resistance team faces a major test on the season finale of “Falling Skies” (8p.m., TNT).

• Lily and Elam unite in vengeance on “Hell on Wheels” (8 p.m., AMC).

• Jessica finds it harder to follow Bill’s zealous mission on “True Blood” (8 p.m., HBO).

• Business prospects look bleak on “Breaking Bad” (9 p.m., AMC).

• The staff hosts a mock debate on “The Newsroom” (9 p.m., HBO).

• Merc’s star sinks while Matt beds down with a face from his past on “Episodes” (9:30 p.m., Showtime).

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