Ripper Street is a BBC series that begins in 1889, six months after the five murders committed by Jack the Ripper, when the police start finding bodies of dead women in the same slum where the original murders had occurred. Copper, BBC America’s first show, was a disappointment, and Ripper Street has some similarities, even though one is located in New York during the Civil War and the other is in London. Both are set in the slums and have a lead character who is in a relationship with the owner of a brothel. Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (Macfayden), the series lead, is fixated on Jack the Ripper. Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg), a doctor and former Pinkerton detective, lives in a brothel run by his girlfriend, who fled the United States with him. Both Reid and Jackson have secrets, which makes me honestly wonder if it is possible for writers involved in historical-themed shows to successfully pitch a show based on the history alone without resorting to the promise of a hidden secret that will unravel slowly across the episodes.
Actually, it may be unfair to compare Copper to Ripper Street. Copper’s cast is mainly made up of unknowns, but Ripper Street has actors I have actually heard of, in particular Matthew Macfadyen, Clive Russell and Jerome Flynn. If the show focuses only on Jack the Ripper, it will be boring, but a look at the slums of London during the Victorian era has a great deal of potential. Jack the Ripper has been done to death but period shows set in Britain have been rare, aside from Downton Abbey and Mr. Selfridge, which started recently. Reviews in the UK, where the show premiered a month ago, have been favorable, so it should be worth watching while waiting for the final season of Spartacus to start.