Cold Case


Created by Meredith Stiehm

Written by Meredith Stiehm and others

Kathryn Morris, John Finn, Jeremy Ratchford, Thom Barry, Danny Pino and Tracie Thoms

‘Cold Case’ premiered in 2003 on the CBS network and is now in its fifth season. 98 episodes have aired to date. At its peak in the second season the show attracted an average audience of 15.1 million, but the viewing figures have remained fairly constant throughout. The average for the fifth season so far is 13.2 million. It is not available on DVD, despite a concerted ongoing campaign by fans of the show. I would imagine this is because of copywrite and royalty payment issues regarding the many well-known songs used in the show.

The premise of the show is similar to the BBC series ‘Waking the Dead’, which was first broadcast in 2000. A group of police detectives in Philadelphia investigate “cold cases”, involving an unsolved homicide (or suspected homicide), when new evidence comes to light. The show uses flashbacks to tell its story and incorporates flashback scenes within scenes, showing us characters as they were at the time of the crime and as they are now. The longest stretch of time covered in an episode in 88 years, with one character portrayed as a 6-year-old child and a 94-year-old woman.

Each episode opens with a song applicable to the period in which the crime occurred and ends with a montage sequence set to another appropriate song. For example, one episode, about a case from 1975, opens with ‘Tin Man’ by America and ends with ‘Landslide’ by Fleetwood Mac.

The closing montage sequences really do have to be seen to be believed. They are both hilarious and affecting in equal measure – primarily hilarious.

I first started to watch the show because it stars Kathryn Morris, who I remembered from a horror film called ‘Sleepstalker’. Morris seems to be the palest woman in the world; she is remarkably pallid. She plays Detective Lilly Rush, whose attitude towards different cases is often influenced by the affect on her of growing up in a severely poverty-stricken and dysfunctional one-parent family environment with an alcoholic mother, although the show only really scratches at the surface of characterisation.

I’ve only watched random episodes, primarily from seasons three and four, but it has become a show I currently look forward to seeing each week.

All American “police procedurals” are much of a muchness. Each one has its own “quirk”, something to make it stand out from the others. By way of examples, ‘Law And Order: Criminal Intent’ has Vincent D’Onofrio’s singular portrayal of Detective Robert Goran, who possesses extraordinary levels of intelligence, but comes from a family background with a history of severe mental illness and displays the symptoms of a high functioning autistic. ‘Bones’ has futuristic 3-D holographic forensic equipment and a quirky martial-arts performing forensic anthropologist.

Cold Case’ has its flashback scenes-within-scenes and the ludicrous cheesy montages that act as “closure” for all involved.

There is no particular reason to watch ‘Cold Case’ in preference to any other procedural and it’s certainly no match for the wonderful ‘Waking the Dead’, but I like it – very much.


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