Rough Justice

Series historical adviser Daniel Czitrom examines the corrupt political and criminal justice system prevalent in late 19th century New York City.

The charming new Tammany Hall fixer, William “Wild Bill” Eustace (Billy Baldwin).

The charming new Tammany Hall fixer, William “Wild Bill” Eustace (Billy Baldwin).

The shocking death of Tammany bigwig Brendan Donovan presents a stark example of how readily the police could dispense rough justice on their own terms. Along the way they also torture one of Donovan’s goons and strong arm his real estate agent. Police often found themselves frustrated by a criminal justice system that failed to imprison or punish lawbreakers. In a city full of corrupt judges, bribed juries, witnesses too frightened to testify, and, above all, political connections that allowed even the worst criminals to go free—for many cops the only sure justice was that found at the end of a nightstick. But rough justice was not a police monopoly. Bill Eustace, a Tammany “fixer,” quickly steps in to find Donovan’s murderer, setting off a series of violent encounters between the police and “shoulder hitters” employed by “the Organization.”

View of fight between two gangs, the "Dead Rabbits" and the "Bowery Boys" in the Sixth Ward, New York City. (via Library of Congress)

View of fight between two gangs, the “Dead Rabbits” and the “Bowery Boys” in the Sixth Ward, New York City. (via Library of Congress)

Street gangs had been part of city life since the eighteenth century. Most of them were organized around guarding pieces of city turf or invading those of nearby rivals. With the upsurge in immigration, some gangs identified themselves by ethnic group (e.g. the Irish Dead Rabbits) or by aggressive, anti-Catholic nativism (e.g. the Bowery Boys). Gangs offered boys and young working men a sense of camaraderie and the chance to celebrate values they held dear: physical prowess, masculine honor, athletic competition, protecting women. They often attached themselves to volunteer fire companies, where nasty confrontations sometimes took precedence over dousing fires. In the 1840s Tammany Hall and other political organizations began regularly recruiting gangs to do their dirty work. Ward leaders would hire gangs to break up meetings of rivals, intimidate voters at polling places, stuff ballot boxes, or collect tribute from neighborhood saloons and merchants. By the 1850s Mayor Fernando Wood had made the strategic use of gang muscle a regular part of the political scene. Many politicos had begun their careers as gang members, making reputations that caught the attention of higher ups. A fixer like Bill Eustace would be familiar with their world and unafraid to use them against any foe, including cops. General Donovan might be gone, but a political system that relied upon the threat—and reality—of extra-legal violence lived on.

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  • KMT

    So upset that Copper has been cancelled…this was one of the best shows on TV!!!

  • Laura

    I just started watching this season and am SO BUMMED!!!!! This show is the only reason I even know about the BBC America channel. I will not watch another show on this network now. Really too bad that such a good show was cut short.

  • Mary

    Cancelled?! What? Why? I am so disappointed and angry!

  • Karen A.

    They give nothing a chance. Copper and Ripper Street are two of the best shows on tv. I’m really going to be hardpressed to actually want to watch anything of BBC America now. BIG BIG MISTAKE BBC!A!!!! BIG MISTAKE. I thought this station would be different than regular tv stations. Pbbbtttttttttt!

  • John P.

    This was a great show….I can’t believe you have cancelled it! Is Ripper Street also cancelled? If so, then I am done with BBC America. Quality television but no vision for the future.

  • Nikki Ruggeri

    i’m in Australia, have been advising everyone to look out for this show. if it is cancelled, you have seriously stuffed up. this series was soo much better than Ripper Street. had a lot more guts to it, despite the efforts of the lovely Matthew Macfadyen. you’re crazy to cancel this

  • Angie Menendez

    Just started watching BBC and got my husband hooked ….now you are canceling Copper! So upset!

  • Mcat

    Across the pond they call a season a series; so I could assume that the series finale is actually just the season 2 finale.

  • Avid Fan

    I love this show! It is the best show on television! It has something for everyone. It is feels like I am traveling back in time and really experiencing the sites and sounds of New York City. When I am in the Wall Street, Chinatown and Little Italy neighborhood aka the 6th Ward I am in awe of the buildings that still stand aka Trinity Church.
    The story lines are still relevant to issues that we will deal with today aka. The Tale of Two Cities. The actors are superb! You couldn’t have cast a better lot. Love the main characters Corcoran, Morehouse and Freeman along with their wives, Corcoran’s woman (Eva), his adopted child Annie, Corcoran’s two best friends and elite Patriarch Morehouse’s Father. Can’t wait for the next episode! Any plans for a movie?

  • Michael Scott

    I was hooked from the first episode. Controversial and cutting edge scripts and themes, great acting, great music. This rapidly turned into my favourite show on television and only the second show on BBCA I watch. Well, watched. What could seriously possess a network to cancel one of the best shows on tv? And why would I continue to give my patronage to a network that would cancel such a quality show after only two years?
    Highly aggravating when a show gets cut short in its prime without being allowed to tell its full story, and don’t tell me it was an appropriate time to end the show, there were so many characters with depth, from Annie to the doctor to the drug addicted elite to the policeman dealing with personal tragedy and political corruption.
    I say a pox on thee, sir, whoever you are to cancel such a rare gem on the wasteland we call television. I haven’t felt this annoyed since they cancelled Firefly.

  • remmy46723

    My family was hooked on Copper from the 1st showing. I am still in shock that it has been cancelled. I loved that a story was built around the history of this arena and it was done with truth and not the usual cover-up. It was a turbulent and brutal time where many people had no rights. I bet Ripper Street is next on the chopping block. BBC can keep Orphan Black, Top Gear, Kitchen Nightmares, etc., etc., as they do not have what I look forward to watching. Goodbye BBC, you have lost this family’s viewership.

  • Sue Putnam

    My husband and I feel this WAS the best show on TV, and now you cancel it? Too bad!!! I can hardly believe it…. we’re both upset. This could have been a great show for years to come, with a great story line.

  • TJ Smith

    WTH your going to cancel Copper? It’s the only show worth watching on BBC- oh well I won’t have to search for your network anymore, thanks for nothing.

  • Jennifer

    First of all I want to thank the cast, crew and creators of Copper! It was an amazing show and I’m sad to see you go, but I wish you the best in all your future endeavors!!! But I have to say I feel completely blind sided by this. These last few weeks leading up to this episode was all talk about it being the season finale! Now it’s a series finale, that left off with a cliffhanger! I call BS on BBCA!!! It’s completely unfair that you couldn’t even finish out the story line that the creators had come up with for this show. Especially since it was only one more season. Honestly, you are a luxury channel to most Americans and deciding over ratings is just stupid. Think of how many people don’t have your channel that may have considered getting it (myself included) because of the people who love this show. Now that you have unfairly and unjustly cancelled it won’t, because honestly I’m not that interested in your other shows. (Yes, I was considering paying WAAAY more money to my cable company just to get this one stinking show!) Well now that I’ve said my peace, Guess I’ll say GOODBYE BBCA!
    https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/bbc-america-renew-copper-tv-for-season-3

  • Henny Penny

    This seriously sucks that it was canceled. I missed last night’s episode, my kids screwed up my DVR and I can’t find it on the ON Demand. WTF?! I loved this show and now apparently I don’t even get to see the last episode ever.

  • kim wright

    are you kidding? It’s canceled? It is the best drama on television with intense characters and fluid writing. If I were you, I’d reconsider!!!!!!

  • Razu

    Such an amazing show. You should really consider at least making a movie to tie up the loose ends. Please, before the actors move on and before the sets are removed. Finish this story for the fans!

  • Tina
  • Hutch

    We LOVE this show! One of the best on tv…PLEASE reconsider it’s cancellation.

  • iaintlyin

    another superbly done show dying for no apparent reason. but hey, the kardashians and housewives are still on. f tv

  • Arianna

    Such a great show with amazing cast, writing, sets, scripting….It is a SHAME that it was cancelled. This is the only reason I ever watched BBC America – this truly was a hit show, and an outpouring of support should show the exec’s who axed it that they should bring it back – end it properly if you must, but dont pull the rug out from under them and everyone.

  • Arianna
  • Glenda Pitts

    Whoops Daniel Baldwin’s character used term Blah blah which wasn’t used until the 1980′s.

  • Glenda Pitts

    This show is being canceled???? NO NO NO!!!

  • Kendra

    Bring back Copper! Cancelling was a horrible decision.

  • Kathy S

    One of my favorites show and now it’s cancelled:-(. So disappointed.

  • BillyBlue

    This is just some more of that one sided transatlantic bullshit. If an American company went to the UK and launched a successful TV series (fantasy). Got everyone hooked on it, then cancelled, we would be packed up and put on a plane plane back to the States. BBC is either playing a show for twenty years of repeats (As Time Goes By, Are You Being Served…etc) or they put on a great series for one or two seasons….then cancel. We here in the states love BritishTV. We should boycott BBCA.

  • Nathan

    Please bring Copper back!!!!

  • Bobbalou23

    Tom Weston-Deadweight or whoever is the worst actor ever seen on BBC!

  • Dave R

    shame, stupid shows like two and a half men go on and on while shows like Copper get the ax.

  • Stephanie

    Oh please bring back copper! Why would you cut off such a great show with no closure to the story line? Such wonderful writing and acting…what a waste BBCA!!

  • Dana

    This is a heartbreak, my fav show……

  • Christina Gowen

    I love the show Copper. One of the best shows on TV. SHAME ON YOU BCC for cancelling such a great program and leaving all of its fans hanging like you did.

  • WrathofKhan

    I agree. Live in London, just discovered this, went straight to Netflix. SMH. Can’t believe this has been cancelled. Shame on you BBCA!

  • Jamie

    I don’t have a problem with tv shows being cancelled. My issue is that they put so much effort and work into a series and then refuse to give it a proper conclusion. Too many times I’ve gotten interested in a show only to have it removed without an ending. It’s like reading half a book. I say if a show lasts a season or more it should be given a decent burial. It’s called closure.

    I’ll definitely think twice before getting involved in any more series created by this network.

  • butch cavendish

    I loved this show it was the only one I watched on BBCAmerica but now with Copper being canceled I guess I won’t be watching anything else on BBCAmerica sorry BBCAmerica but you’ve lost a viewer.

  • JW

    I am in shock you cancelled this show! The characters were coming into their own and the plots kept getting better! Who can we petition to bring it back?

  • Wildchild

    This Sucks!!!! This is one of the best shows going. I even got my 70 something parents into this show and they are pissed off. What a mistake, PLEASE reconsider and bring it back. I love your shows and this is Almost better then Doctor Who….. And I have loved that show for yearsssssssss. Really guys bring it back it is to good not to and to leave it hanging like that is just mean. At least do one more season if for no other reason then to tie up the loose ends. Sheesh give a yank a break will ya?

  • Erik

    I’m way late on this – but I have just watched the entire first
    season several times, from end to end – just over the course of this
    week alone. Please, consider bringing this show back in some shape or
    form, even if it takes a while. The show could have been given another
    chance – the first season had so much promise, and amazing quality of
    the production, and the last episodes of the second season were entirely
    comparable to the quality of the first season. You have pulled the plug
    too soon.
    This show would have been worth your time
    investment – for another season in the very least, to make your network
    more respectful in the eyes of the viewers, to show that you actually
    carry things through, that you care, and that you try to provide some
    graceful endings for any series you start. You have only displayed the
    lack of commitment to your own programs and your viewers, by carrying
    out this decision in such a neglectful manner. This cancellation was a bad decision – the show had the potential to be very great. Disappointed.

  • Mjohns

    I just now went in this site to see when the new season of copper was starting- and I find out that it’s cancelled! I am appalled and disgusted. My husband and I absolutely loved this show- there was seriously not a single show like it on tv right now. There are hundreds of cop shows- but nothing like this one. We were hooked from day one- and got other friends and family hooked. What I don’t understand, why cancel a show so early without giving it a chance? Not to mention the fact that last season ended on a cliff hanger- I have been looking forward to watching the new season ever since the last season ended. Would be nice if we could at least get an explanation for this ridiculous cancellation. You cancel a great show like copper- but expect us to watch Ripper- no thanks- I’m not getting into another BBC show that will prob be canceled.

    You should listen to this out cry of disappointment by so many and bring Copper back!

  • Pissed off

    BBC America dumbasses!

  • Coville

    This program was one of less than a handful of programs on TV that was intelligent, well written, well acted and well developed. It was only one of two shows in my lifetime that I became addicted to and couldn’t wait to watch the next episode to see what direction it went and what would happen to the characters. Unlike 99% of all other TV programming, I felt that there was a benefit to watching the show in that it didn’t cause brain rot. The tragedy of it all is that it gives us a clear perspective as to what the catalyst is for TV programming, and it certainly isn’t quality; nor even low art for that matter. Quality and ratings be damned, let us push the garbage that yields us low hanging fruit and requires very little of us. Networks come into existence out of demand or the need to fill a void in consumer TV programming. But in the end they all end up pushing the same crap on us. Endless reality TV or some of the most poorly made and produced dramas. I had really hoped that BBCA would be different. The good news is I can cancel my cable subscription and save about $100 per month.

  • Randy

    crazy two of my favorite shows copper and ripper street get the axe these tv/ratings people have no clue!!!!