Writer’s Room: Just Desserts

Series writer Kevin Deiboldt talks fruitcake.

Writing the fruitcake murder was a fun challenge – lighter in tone than most of our other cases, much more absurd. And, just past our halfway point of the season, we hoped it would allow the viewers to take a breath (albeit small) before we charge down the stretch towards the finale. The cap to this fruitcake murder, of course, is the big explanation scene – one of my favorites in the script.

In the original outline, it was much simpler – O’Brien going over his notes at the Precinct, realizing that Devery poisoned himself. Even with Corcoran there to discuss it with him, I had a hard time giving the scene any energy. It read way too expository. So I moved it to the bar, with the hope that letting them relax a bit (one thing we rarely see) would add some life. Better, but still dull. Having O’Brien go over the notes was making our detectives look slow – only figuring out the case after they went back over everything. We needed a third person to explain the case to. Enter Maguire.

Now, we had some verve. Adding Maguire allowed Corky and O’Brien to mess with him – to laugh and smile (two things we never see) as he struggled to follow along. The only thing holding the scene back was the explanation itself – an extensive, static, monologue. I needed to make it more dynamic, more interesting to watch. It occurred to me: we should use the drinks. (The poetic version of this story has me figuring out the sequence in person, some late eve – whiskey, beer, glasses in hand. This may or may not be accurate.) Once the props and pantomime were added, the scene finally clicked.

It was a blast to watch the guys film it. Dylan – who we put through the wringer in this episode, doing a masterful job the entire time – nailed it, which was no mean feat. Tom brought up Byrnes’ dead brother, so I added that in. Kevin struck the right balance of puzzled, amused and annoyed. They made it look a breeze, laughing and drinking as they wrapped up the case. Just as I hoped.

Now, there are GIFs of it on the internet. Tare an’ouns.

Have questions or comments for Kevin? Leave them below! And for more of Kevin’s ‘Copper’ musings, check out his personal blog, Ithaca Mafia, and follow him on Twitter at @Kluv32.

  • fineprintJK1

    Just did a lovely post a few moments ago – now gone!

  • http://www.facebook.com/peter.koenig.35 Peter Koenig

    Well done, this episode. Much better to use the atmospheric sets and costumes and the considerable skills of a gifted cast in an overtly fictional plot than to blunder about in the bog of ahistorical nonsense that characterized some prior episodes. If any of the writers actuallt read these postings: (1) what’s yer beef with the late Bishop Onderdonk? You know he’d been dead for years before Corcoran thrashed him, right? And that he was relieved of his duties as Bishop in 1845? And that he never molested any housemaids? (2) in which regiment did Corcoran serve in the Civil War? You wrote it was the “71st New York” … which 71st NY was it? The one that was in PA and northern VA during the Draft Riots, or the one that fired on the rioters? This is a good show, when it plays to its strengths, history not being one of them.

    • RSTANZGB22

      I can’t speak for the writers, but I am not surprised they do not post on here… you’ve been railing for weeks now, accusing them of being prejudiced (!!!) and mercilessly criticizing their “historical nonsense” at every opportunity… hardly the best way to invite an intelligent discussion on the topic.

      This is a *fictional* television show, with fictional characters, in a historical setting… It has never promised to be a documentary, or a historical biopic… simply a compelling show for entertainment purposes. It just seems you want historical accuracy above all, whereas I (and others, I suspect) enjoy it as storytelling that uses Five Points, 1864 to color the drama of the characters.

      The irony here, of course, is that that fiddling with historical facts and using them for dramatic purposes is a time-honored tradition that dates back hundreds of years. No one seems to take issue with a gentleman by the name of Bill Shakespeare and his historical liberties… many of which could be considered much more egregious than fudging a regiment number or using real-life dismissal of a Bishop to tell a tale.

      I do not believe you will get what you want from this show (historical infallibility)… I would imagine, for the creators, the drama of the story holds position above everything else. Which is something this fan, for one, does not mind in the least!

      • http://www.facebook.com/peter.koenig.35 Peter Koenig

        I watch the series – for its entertainment value. That value would be enhanced, not diminished, by avoiding the occasional historical mis-steps.
        Of these, I respectfully consider the slanderous subplot involving Bishop Onderdonk to be inexplicable. Seriously, and without rancor: the Bishop was removed from official functions in 1845, and died in 1861; not even his most virulent opponents ever accused him of the conduct posited by the writers as fact. Now, I understand the anti-Protestant prejudices of the protagonist, which are entirely accurate for an individual of his background in this time period. What troubles me is that the writers adopted those prejudices as their own. It is particularly ironic, under the curcumstances, given that Onderdonk was a leading figure in the Oxford Movement; he was a “high church” Episcopalian, persecuted and hounded from office (by a cabal of pro-slavery clergy, BTW) for having been “too Catholic.”
        Incidentally, the transcript of Bishop Onderdonk’s church hearing – he was never accused of a crime, much less tried in a secular court – is available online, as is the text of his 1845 response to the charges. He was relieved of his duties as Bishop (but not dismissed) on a split vote along pro- and anti-Oxfordian lines. If it had been a criminal proceeding, he could not have been convicted of anything. The subplot was totally at variance with the facts, even if one accepts the entirety of the evidence against the Bishop.
        If the writers wanted to feature such a subplot, they should have, at very least, created a fictional character.
        As to Corcoran’s regiment, the writers could simply have chosen another unit, or left Corcoran’s regiment unspecified. As for Shakespeare, I suspect that most who know his history plays also understand that he was fundamentally a Tudor apologist. One need not have read Paul Murray Kendall to know that.
        Most viewers of Copper, in contrast, now believe that Bishop Onderdonk ravished Irish Catholic housemaids on a regular basis, and paid thugs from the collection plate. If you were already familiar with the Oxfordian controversy in the antebellum church, you are one of the few. If you do not mind the gratuitous libel, well, there is little I can say.

  • fineprintJK1

    Can you get my original post back? (earlier today) It’s worth hunting for!

  • fineprintJK1

    Will try and re-create my earlier post, now apparently lost in “cyber-space’. Basically said that reading your comments, and having the chance to view the original script was indeed a treat. That it was recently my Birthday, and this posting was, for me, an additional Birthday present. Also said that I put a high priority on the writing – it can be the reason for me to stay/go, as a viewer. Not to diminish the rest of the production – actors (a fantastic bunch!) bring the words to life, and the job of the costumers and designers set the scene to take you back to the time in question. Great efforts by all concerned – a jewel in the crown in the BBC line-up. Best of luck! (P.S. – we’ll see if this one “takes!”)

  • disgusted

    One of the most depraved
    shows I have ever seen on TV. Tossing a murdered naked (who took his clothes
    off?) man (albeit a pervert) into a pen of hungry pigs to be devoured. Who
    writes this stuff!

    • http://www.facebook.com/peter.koenig.35 Peter Koenig

      Nasty it is – but also historically plausible. Some aspects of life in the mid-19th century were depraved by modern standards. Some aspects of modern life are depraved by modern standards. If you are disgusted, then don’t watch – you have every right not to do so, and to express your disgust.