Buffalo Trace

Buffalo Trace
From a few years ago, me mugging with the bronze buffalo sculpture at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Civil War Makes a Comeback: "Copper" and "Hell on Wheels"

I've stumbled across two period TV series that I really like, and you likely haven't seen. Both are set in the 1860s with anti-hero protagonists. Both are gritty looks at the era.

Copper and cathouse madam: I had to Bing Franka Potente to figure out what I had seen her in.

The first is a production of BBC America called "Copper." 

From "Gangs of New York."
 It takes place in the last year or so of the Civil War in New York City's Five Points area. It's the same setting as Martin Scorsese's "Gangs of New York," sort of continuing where that movie left off. Although it is about the Irish, Copper isn't from the perspective of the gangs, but from that of the police. I think it's probably a fairly accurate depiction of how the police of that time operated.

You've got a likeable, but unconventional police detective, prostitutes, Confederate spies, a black CSI doctor, a robber baron and an orphaned sociopath. What more do you want in a TV series? A comedy it's not.

Anybody you know?

Because it is a BBC production, I don't recognize more than two or three cast members. One -- the cathouse madame -- I had to Bing to figure out she was Jason's girlfriend in "The Bourne Identity." I recognized her, but just couldn't place her.


  Tom Weston-Jones plays detective Kevin Corcoran. If I've ever seen him in anything else, I don't remember it.

Every TV series needs a hottie. Anastasia Griffith fills the role for "Copper."
 The series is currently in its second season. I watched the first season on Netflix as I recorded and stored the first couple of episodes of the current season. They are 10-episode seasons, so catching up didn't require a great investment of time.

I am enjoying it, but it isn't exactly family fare.



Likewise the second series I bring to your attention. Called "Hell on Wheels;" it is set during the building of the first Transcontinental Railroad in the late 1860s. The story revolves around the portion of the railroad being constructed from the east.

Airing on AMC, it's third season begins August 10th. I've only seen season No. 1 that I downloaded from -- where else? -- Netflix. 

Mr. Meaney.
 Produced in the U.S. and Canada, the cast and guest stars are more recognizable, but still not household names. The guy who will probably be most familiar is Colm Meaney who was in "Star Trek: The Next Generation" along with numerous other TV shows and movies. He plays the railroad owner. The rest of the cast are relatively unknowns.


The lead character is Cullen Bohannon, a one-time slave owner and Confederate officer, who goes west after the war in search of the group of Union soldiers that killed his wife and son. Hell on Wheels is the name of the traveling camp of railroad workers, hookers and assorted hangers-on that continually relocates as the railroad line progresses westward. In season one Bohannon -- think of nearly every western character Clint Eastwood has played -- manages to get himself hired as the track foreman.

He kills most of the Union soldiers he was searching for, makes friends with a black railroad worker and flirts with the series resident hottie as he sort of oversees dozens of blacks and Irish laying the track.


Anson Mount plays Bohannon. He has been acting for a few years, but it wasn't until I saw a photo sans his full beard and long hair that I was tickled by a glimmer of recognition. I still don't think I've seen him in anything. 

Dominique McElligott -- I'd never heard of her either -- in the roll of hottie for "Hell on Wheels."
 Both these shows are well worth a look-see. I enthusiastically give them two thumbs up.

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