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Copper needs some polish to bring out its shine

- August 17th, 2012

kyle schmid small

Let’s jump the gun on Copper.

The Toronto-shot series, set in 1860s New York, doesn’t debut in Canada until next weekend – Sunday, Aug. 26, to be specific – on Showcase.

But because it debuts in the United States this weekend, Sunday, Aug. 19, on BBC America (why would Canada be later? That always bothers me), and there will be reviews aplenty from American critics, I thought I’d weigh in now with some general thoughts on the ambitious series.

I’ve seen the first two episodes, and I guess I can sum up my feelings this way: It’s not love at first sight for me. But there’s enough going on to stick with it for a bit longer, to see if the things I don’t like eventually are outweighed by the things I do.

Set in New York’s vicious Five Points area in the 1860s, Copper stars Tom Weston-Jones as Kevin Corcoran, an Irish-American cop and Civil War veteran. Corcoran isn’t really a hero in the traditional sense, but he reflexively seeks justice for the powerless while simultaneously trying to solve the mystery of what happened to his wife (missing) and his daughter (deceased).

Think Gangs of New York from the perspective of a police detective, rather than a gang member.

I am fascinated by this time period, as many amateur history buffs are, and I really was cheering for Copper to be great. At first glance, though, it has something of a split personality.

It’s a bit bland. Then, almost like a machine becoming self-aware, it’s as if Copper can sense itself being bland, and it responds with shockingly violent and graphic scenes, seemingly out of the blue, to stir itself.

The look of Copper is slightly distracting, too. I know the intent was to make this brutal neighborhood seem claustrophobic. But even in the most claustrophobic cities, when you’re outside it feels as if you’re outside. Copper almost always feels as if you’re on an indoor set. Instead of the desired effect of claustrophobia, it often just seems grey.

On the positive side, the best part of the first two episodes was the Robert Morehouse character, played by Kyle Schmid (pictured above). Robert is the wayward son of a wealthy curmudgeon, equal parts seeking his father’s approval and determined to carve his own path and be nothing like his old man. Robert’s relationship with every single other character he comes across in the first two episodes has the potential to be fascinating, largely due to Schmid’s precocious spark in the role.

So overall, Copper didn’t aggressively frisk me right from the start, as I’d hoped it would. But I remain cautiously curious, and will continue to monitor Copper’s “arrested” development.

(By the way, I’ll be writing more about Copper in Sun Media outlets next week. To read about the chat I had with Weston-Jones at the recent Television Critics Association tour in Los Angeles, click here.)

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Olympics? When did those start? Emerging from the Television Critics Association tour bubble

- August 5th, 2012

Russell Brand scrum

Charlie Sheen scrum

TCA TLC: Random thoughts at the conclusion of the Summer 2012 Television Critics Association tour in Beverly Hills, Calif.  See if you can spot me in the scrums pictured above with Russell Brand of Brand X with Russell Brand (FX, FX Canada) and Charlie Sheen of Anger Management (FX, CTV) – kind of a “Where’s Dumbo” thing.

Person I never anticipated I’d speak to: Sarah Palin poolside at the Beverly Hilton. Her husband Todd is in a reality show about snowmobile racers. Just kidding, it’s called Stars Earn Stripes (NBC, Global).

Most bizarre panel session: Kelsey Grammer of Boss (Starz, Super Channel) takes a non-emergency, personal phone call from his wife for 90 seconds as an entire ballroom full of journalists waits for him.

Most electric session: Normally blase critics genuinely were excited to see the stars of Downton Abbey (PBS, Vision TV). Hugh Bonneville’s “Free Bates” T-shirt was the topper.

Best interview in a post-panel scrum: Sophia Bush of Partners (CBS, Citytv). Intelligent, thoughtful, fun, swears like a sailor, will talk about anything.

Best interview at a party: Let’s call it a three-way tie between Elisha Cuthbert of Happy Endings (ABC, Citytv), Matt LeBlanc of Episodes (Showtime, The Movie Network, Movie Central) and Kiefer Sutherland of Touch (Fox, Global).

Misplaced arrogance: A dude in a tank top and a trucker cap calls critics “ignorant” for daring not to take his TV series 100% seriously. The series is called Finding Bigfoot (Animal Planet).

Nice girl: Canadian Emily VanCamp of Revenge (ABC, Citytv) sends word to reporters before our set visit that she isn’t feeling well, so please don’t be offended if she doesn’t shake hands. Awww. You could tell she was under the weather by her crackly voice, but she patiently and pleasantly answered questions for a long time.

Coolest party: The folks behind Copper (Showcase, BBC America) – filmed in Toronto, set in 1860s New York – turned a West Hollywood restaurant into an 1860s whore house, complete with come-hither actresses-as-hookers in the balcony. Saw a picture afterward of what the restaurant normally looks like and it was virtually unrecognizable.

Sad moment: Just before I interviewed Michael C. Hall of Dexter (Showtime, The Movie Network, Movie Central), I realized I was very near the exact spot in the hotel where, one year ago, I interviewed Davy Jones of the Monkees. Jones passed away last February.

Best individual panel performance: Toronto native Stephen Amell of Arrow (CW, CTV Two). Charming, engaging, speaks in sound-bytes, told stories people could use. Good-looking show, good-looking guy. Star in the making.

Panel at which the reporters were most prickly: The panel for The Newsroom (HBO, HBO Canada) with Aaron Sorkin and Jeff Daniels. Apparently a high percentage of TCA members take this series very seriously and very personally.

Panel at which the main panelist was most prickly: Showbiz mogul David Geffen, who supposedly was there to “promote” the PBS documentary Inventing David Geffen, would have preferred to be anywhere else on earth. He seemed completely bored, even exasperated, with the subject matter, namely himself.

Panel at which one of many panelists was most prickly: At the panel for Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars (ABC, CTV), Bristol Palin (Sarah and Todd’s daughter) was equal parts bold and cold. Keeping politics out of it, when I spoke with Sarah and Todd Palin (pictured below at the NBC party), there seemed to be genuine warmth there. They were cordial and pleasant and friendly. I actually found Bristol to be icy.

Breaking news: Fox president Kevin Reilly announces Mariah Carey is joining American Idol (Fox, CTV) as a judge, then gets her on the phone immediately to give a statement to reporters.

Right place, right time: Being seated beside Whitney Cummings of Whitney (NBC, CTV) and Love You, Mean It (E!) when she first found out about the Kristen Stewart cheating scandal. Cummings gleefully exclaimed, “That whore!” (Not to be confused with the whores at the Copper party.)

Coincidental “in the TCA bubble” benefit: I was completely, blissfully oblivious to the first half of the Olympics. Checked in just in time to see Usain Bolt, though. That dude is Usain in the membrane.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Todd and Sarah Palin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is the caller there? Kelsey Grammer dialed in at the Television Critics Association tour, day 13

- August 2nd, 2012

kelsey on the phone

Television Critics Association tour, day 13.

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Kelsey Grammer may be perplexed by the lack of Emmy love for his performance in Boss, but he has won the unofficial award for longest personal phone call ever taken on stage at the Television Critics Association tour.

It occurred during the TCA panel for Boss, a dark drama that originates on Starz in the United States and airs on Super Channel in Canada. The second season debuts on Aug. 17.

During the panel Grammer’s phone went off. This happens from time to time to panelists, but they usually either don’t answer it, or they quickly say, “Have to call you back,” and hang up.

But it became apparent Grammer was talking to his wife, and the conversation went on for 90 seconds or so – it felt longer, with an entire boardroom full of journalists stopped dead, waiting for him to finish. It did not sound like an emergency in any way, as Grammer had a grin on his face throughout the call (photo above).

Afterward, there were differences of opinion among reporters about what had occurred.

Some thought Grammer was just rude, or that it was an ego move in a “my time is more valuable than your time” kind of way.

Others (I’m more in this camp) thought Grammer just got caught on the phone with someone who kind of wouldn’t stop talking. He might not even have realized right away that the proceedings had come to a halt. Yes, it was inconsiderate to the group. But it’s not as if he began his day plotting to be inconsiderate to the group, unless I’m really misreading it.

Anyway, near the end of the panel, Grammer got asked specifically about the phone call.

“Well, there are some things that are more important than others, and the well-being of my wife sits atop the charts,” Grammer said.

Starz later felt the need to issue a press release about it, trying to spin it into a story about family values.

On a side note, if you’re Kelsey Grammer’s cell-phone service provider, there’s a built-in commercial in this, get on it.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Eyes wide open: Jeff Daniels of The Newsroom dishes on his new understanding of cable news

- August 2nd, 2012

jeff daniels at desk

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Having portrayed a cable-news anchor on The Newsroom, Jeff Daniels better understands the business, for better and for worse.

“I can see when there’s breaking news, right now, this hour, that’s when these guys are really good, on both sides of the aisle, on the right and on the left on cable news, they’re both on it,” said Daniels, who is pictured above and whose series airs on HBO Canada.

“It’s when they start to have time, they start to spin, that it goes into columnists on the air for an hour. Which is okay. But the problem I see is that speculation becomes fact. And that didn’t used to be.”

Part of the problem, Daniels says, is there’s so much time to fill.

“They’ve got another four minutes,” said Daniels, offering an example. ” ‘Jerry, you’re outside the courthouse, we know you weren’t inside, but can you tell us what you think might have happened?’ ‘Well, I don’t want to speculate, but I think what might have happened was … ‘

“Then they do (speculate), because they have to fill two minutes. And then somebody reports it as fact two hours later and everything gets distorted.

“They’re all fighting that. They don’t always win.”

On a different subject, Daniels said there’s “more hope than ever” for a Dumb and Dumber sequel, despite delays and Jim Carrey’s exasperation. See the column I wrote about that for Sun Media and QMI Agency here.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

This is a raid! Copper arrests the Television Critics Assocation tour on day 12

- August 1st, 2012

Copper cast

Television Critics Association tour, day 12: Cable comes to town.

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Tom Weston-Jones hadn’t seen the first episode of Copper until yesterday. Why is that noteworthy? Uh, he’s in it. He’s the main guy, actually.

Filmed in Toronto and airing later this month on Showcase in Canada and BBC America in the United States, Copper is an ambitious period piece set in the dangerous Five Points neighbourhood of New York City in the 1860s.

So did the finished product look a little different than what Weston-Jones – who plays lead character Detective Kevin Corcoran – had imagined?

“It always does,” said Weston-Jones, who is pictured above, fourth from left, with the rest of the Copper cast. “And it’s always a strange thing watching yourself back. I would find it incredibly strange if an actor were to say, ‘Oh, I love watching myself, I think it’s great, I just love everything I do.’ ”

That brought to mind one of my favourite expressions: “How ’bout that me?”

“Yeah, exactly,” Weston-Jones agreed with a laugh. “Taking it with a pinch of salt is what I try and do.

“But ignoring how weird it is to watch yourself, I watched it and really did enjoy it. I was very pleasantly surprised. I love the music that has been applied to it, and I love the way that it all has been edited together. The way the story is told I think is fantastic.”

The story of the evening was a Copper party set at a bordello.

Wow, Showcase and BBC America REALLY are committed to promoting this series.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv