Ellen Gray: 'Boss' to meet adversary

Sanaa Lathan (left) plays Mona Fredricks in "Boss," which stars Kelsey Grammer (right) as fictional Windy City mayor Tom Kane.
Sanaa Lathan (left) plays Mona Fredricks in "Boss," which stars Kelsey Grammer (right) as fictional Windy City mayor Tom Kane.
Posted: August 17, 2012

* BOSS. 9 p.m. Friday, Starz.

THE IRRESISTIBLE force of Kelsey Grammer's fictional Chicago mayor Tom Kane returns Friday for a second season as Starz's "Boss."

Sanaa Lathan's job will be to at least attempt to become the immovable object in his path.

Lathan ("Alien vs. Predator") is joining a show she admitted wasn't even on her radar until Grammer's Golden Globe.

"When he won for best actor [in a drama], I was like, 'What is this show?' ... Maybe a month later, [the opportunity of a role] came up and so I checked it out," Lathan said earlier this month.

As soon as she'd watched the first episode, "I knew that I wanted to be a part of it," she said.

"Boss" creator Farhad Safinia has put Lathan's Mona Fredricks in a tough spot.

"The show is so populated by slippery, shifty, completely unreliable, corrupt characters that I think what might be interesting ... is when you have someone with such a strong center, as Mona's character, come up against someone like Kane," he said.

"When someone may seem incorruptible, how does Kane get around that? It's a tough thing for him to deal with because every other person he's ever come across is so easily manipulated," Safinia said.

"I was kind of nervous, actually, going into it because of what I had seen with the first season and how intimidating the actual character was," said Lathan, the daughter of former actress Eleanor McCoy and longtime producer and director Stan Lathan.

"They wanted to make sure that I wasn't intimidated as an actress to go head to head with somebody like Kelsey. And you know, I said, 'No,' but I definitely was a little nervous. But immediately that was dissipated the first day, because he's just a kind man," she said.

No shine for 'Copper'

If you've come to see BBC America as the home of British TV in the U.S., prepare to be a little confused by "Copper," which premieres at 10 p.m. Sunday as the network's first original scripted series and is set in New York.

And if shows like "Homicide: Life on the Street" and "Oz" have led you to expect something utterly contemporary from producers Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson, prepare to be even more confused: "Copper" is a cop show set in 1864 New York, starring a British actor named Tom Weston-Jones as an Irish-American Civil War veteran turned New York police detective who's using an African-American doctor (Ato Essandoh) as his unofficial medical examiner.

Unfortunately for "Copper," you won't be allowed to remain confused for long, since the first two episodes are so full of clunky explanations that it's impossible to forget for a moment you're watching a TV show. No, not even when Weston-Jones' Detective Kevin Corcoran gets naked with one of those hookers 19th-century dramas can't get enough of.

Corcoran's (other) backstory may bear passing resemblance to that of Anson Mount's "Hell on Wheels" vigilante Cullen Bohannon ("Wheels" being another show whose dialogue makes me weary in a way the speechifying on "Deadwood" never did).

And yet it may be the story line in these two episodes that's most put me off "Copper." Focused on the sexual exploitation of children, it manages to be both horrifying and salacious in a way that might give viewers - and producers - of a more contemporary show pause.

Or at least I'd like to think so.

Still, Fontana and Levinson have earned a second look, and I'll be checking back on "Copper" to see what it has to say once it's finished explaining itself.

'Animals' with bite

Speaking of second looks, USA's "Political Animals," a show I wasn't crazy about when it launched that's since become a guilty pleasure, finishes its six-week run at 10 p.m. Sunday with a strong episode that's so truly surprising I can't wait till people see it so we can talk about it.

Contact Ellen Gray at 215-854-5950 or graye@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @elgray and read her blog at EllenGray.tv.

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