|Created by||Meredith Stiehm|
|Theme music composer||Helmut and Franz Vonlichten with intro by Michael A. Levine|
|Composer||Michael A. Levine|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||7|
|No. of episodes||156 (list of episodes)|
|Production locations||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania|
|Running time||42–45 minutes|
|Original release||September 28, 2003 –|
May 2, 2010
Cold Case is an American police procedural crime drama television series which ran on CBS from September 28, 2003, to May 2, 2010. The series revolved around a fictionalized Philadelphia Police Department division that specializes in investigating cold cases.
The show is set in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and follows Detective Lilly Rush (Kathryn Morris), a homicide detective with the Philadelphia Police Department, who specializes in "cold cases", or investigations which are no longer being actively pursued by the department. Rush was initially partnered with Detective Chris Lassing (Justin Chambers) in the first five episodes and then with Detective Scotty Valens (Danny Pino) for the remainder of the series. They work under Lieutenant John Stillman (John Finn) and are assisted by other detectives from their squad—Nick Vera (Jeremy Ratchford), Will Jeffries (Thom Barry), and beginning in season three, Kat Miller (Tracie Thoms).
Usually, each episode would focus on a single investigation. All cases involved murders committed in Philadelphia, although investigations occasionally required travel outside the city. Cases were also spread out over much of the previous century, with some as recent as a year or two old and others dating back to the 1910s. Generally, an investigation would begin when the police received a new lead, or "new direction", on a case. This might be the discovery of a body, a new lead such as an alibi witness not found in the original investigation, new evidence pointing to the innocence of the accused, or a critical piece of evidence such as a murder weapon (e.g., one investigation began when a gun received in a gun buyback program was linked to a murder through ballistic evidence). In some cases, the lack of a body meant that it was originally unclear if a crime had even occurred, with people instead believing that the victim had merely left town.
Over the course of the episode, the detectives would interview witnesses associated with the crime and piece together the story of what led the victims to their death. These interviews were accompanied by flashback sequences to the time of the murder which dramatized the testimony. Witness testimony, even from people who would later be revealed as the killer, was almost never false. At most the guilty party would lie by omission, leaving out critical details, or stopping their narrative before they implicated themselves. The witness testimony was also generally presented in chronological order so that it formed a cohesive linear story for the audience.
The show was also distinguished by "double casting" in which the characters and witnesses would flash back and forth in the scene representing them as they looked at the time of the crime and in the present day. This was done with different actors as children or much younger selves especially if the year in question was well in the past. If it was judged that the character was not likely to have altered in appearance significantly except for weight and gray hair, the same actor would be used. This was not just with the guest actors themselves but sometimes with the detectives as well if they had any involvement in the original investigation. Detective Jeffries, for example, had flashbacks to himself as a child in two episodes, and as a young detective in another. Sometimes the twist in the story is that the prime suspect is the most obvious suspect [In one case the killer is exactly the same person thrown in jail for it in the first place.]
At the end of the episode, when the killer/s were exposed and confronted the confession would be in a flashback scene depicting the murder. The scene would show the details with exceptions having to do with the utter heinousness of the underlying motive of the crime such as rape or sexual assault. The police would be shown arresting the killer and walking them into custody. The killer and other characters in the story would be seen as flashing back to their younger selves and as now. The spirit of the victim would be seen either by Lilly, one of the other detectives or a loved one of the victim. This would be accompanied by the playing of a song meant to symbolize the period in which the killing took place.
Through the flashbacks, the show examined many issues related to 20th century history, including: racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, abortion, and police brutality. Some of the cases were based on real life events or victims, akin to the "ripped from the headlines" style from shows like Law & Order.
The theme song is an excerpt from "Nara" by E.S. Posthumus, with an introduction by series composer Michael A. Levine that begins with an otherworldly wail from vocalist Elise Morris. Besides Levine's original music, each episode makes extensive use of era-appropriate music for flashbacks to the year in question. Some episodes contain music only from one artist such as Ray Charles, U2, Radiohead, Bruce Springsteen, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, The Doors, John Mellencamp, Johnny Cash, Bob Seger, Aerosmith, Pink Floyd, Tim McGraw, Bob Dylan, Santana, Frank Sinatra and John Lennon. Pearl Jam's music was used in the two-part season-six finale, the first time one artist's music has been used for two full episodes. In one episode, the music from the movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show ("Creatures of the Night" starring Barry Bostwick) and in another episode ("Wilkommen") only music from Cabaret was used. In the series finale, music from The Rolling Stones was used, and for the first time, it featured an unreleased song.
Original Songs of the series:
Main article: List of Cold Case characters
Danny Pino appeared as Valens in the CSI: NY episode “Cold Reveal”. This episode connected Cold Case to not only CSI: NY, but also to CSI: Miami, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: Cyber, and Without a Trace.
A Japanese remake of the series, Cold Case: Shinjitsu no Tobira (コールドケース 〜真実の扉〜), set in Yokohama, was broadcast on cable network WOWOW Prime from October 22, 2016, to December 24, 2016. A second season was broadcast from October 13, 2018, to December 15, 2018, and a third season was broadcast from December 5, 2020, to February 13, 2021. The second and third seasons are filmed in 8K and downscaled to 4K for broadcast.
Company Star Media produced Russian adaptation of the series (broadcast in Russia under the title Detective Rush) named Without Prescription. The show consists of 25 episodes.
In 2005, John Finn, Kathryn Morris and Jeremy Ratchford appeared in a satirical promo on the Irish-language television station TG4. The commercial won a gold medal in the "Best Drama Promos" category of the 2007 Sharks International Advertising Awards Festival of Ireland (Sharks Awards). The promotion features John Finn and Kathryn Morris in character interrogating a murder suspect (Peader Cox) from the TG4 soap Ros na Rún who refuses to speak in English; both detectives then begin talking in Irish, much to the surprise of Jeremy Ratchford's character. The promo tied in with a murder investigation in Ros na Rún.
At the launch of Cold Case in July 2003, a Canadian journalist asked the launch panel about similarities between Cold Case and a Canadian series called Cold Squad which had debuted five years earlier. Cold Squad fans accused the American series of copying the Canadian program's basic premise and characters. In 2003, the Cold Squad creators considered seeking legal redress against the Cold Case producers over copyright issues. Both shows air in Canada (and on the same network, CTV). In November 2003, the law firm O'Donnell & Schaeffer, which had successfully represented Art Buchwald in his copyright-infringement suit against Paramount and who has defended the James Bond franchise against copycats, confirmed it agreed to represent the Cold Squad producers, who claim the CBS series was a copy of their own hit show. The Globe and Mail reported that Meredith Stehm, the American series creator, attended a TV writing seminar at the Canadian Film Centre in 2002 where the Cold Squad concept was discussed. O'Donnell lawyer, Carole Handler stated: "Our clients are very concerned about many striking similarities and have retained counsel to investigate the situation and, if necessary, to take appropriate action."
Main article: List of Cold Case episodes
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||23||September 28, 2003||May 23, 2004|
|2||23||October 3, 2004||May 22, 2005|
|3||23||September 25, 2005||May 21, 2006|
|4||24||September 24, 2006||May 6, 2007|
|5||18||September 23, 2007||May 4, 2008|
|6||23||September 28, 2008||May 10, 2009|
|7||22||September 27, 2009||May 2, 2010|
|Season||Timeslot||Season premiere||Season finale||Ranking||Rating||Viewers|
|1st||2003–2004||Sunday 8:00 p.m.||September 28, 2003||May 23, 2004||#17||9.3||14.18|
|2nd||2004–2005||October 3, 2004||May 22, 2005||#14||9.7||15.10|
|3rd||2005–2006||September 25, 2005||May 21, 2006||#17||9.3||14.24|
|4th||2006–2007||Sunday 9:00 p.m.||September 24, 2006||May 6, 2007||#16||8.9||13.98|
|5th||2007–2008||September 23, 2007||May 4, 2008||#28||7.1||10.89|
|6th||2008–2009||September 28, 2008||May 10, 2009||#20||7.5||12.00|
|7th||2009–2010||Sunday 10:00 p.m. (September 27, 2009 – November 15, 2009, February 14, 2010 – May 2, 2010)
Sunday 9:00 p.m. (November 22, 2009 – January 17, 2010)
|September 27, 2009||May 2, 2010||#29||6.3||9.86|
Cold Case began in September 2003 and quickly became a staple of the CBS Sunday night schedule. The crime drama had a successful first season and, by season two, was averaging a 3.5 rating in the 18–49 demographic and 15.1 million viewers. For the next couple seasons, total viewership fell slightly but the demographic numbers rose, reaching a 3.8 in season four.
In season five, the show averaged a 2.9 rating and just under 11 million viewers and ranked 28th. In Season 6, the ratings sank lower, to an average of a 2.7 rating but climbed up to 12 million viewers and ranked 20th; CBS made a choice between renewing Without a Trace and Cold Case. They chose to keep Cold Case. The real ratings trouble began in the final season when the show's ratings dropped even further to a 2.15 rating in the 18–49 demographic and 9.6 million viewers. One reason for this is that the show aired at 10:00 pm, the ratings dropped 25% to 9 million viewers. On November 22, 2009, CBS made a final attempt to increase the ratings by scheduling Cold Case at 9:00 pm. The ratings increased to 10 million viewers, but it was short-lived because on February 14, 2010, Cold Case returned to its original schedule, at 10:00 pm and the ratings dropped and the show concluded its run in May 2010 ranking 29th and more than two weeks after the series finale aired, CBS announced the show would not be renewed for an eighth season.
On May 18, 2010, CBS announced the cancellation of the series after seven seasons and 156 episodes.
Since it had become customary to end each season with a cliffhanger, season 7's final episode, "Shattered", ended leaving viewers wondering about the fates of several characters. The cancellation of the show left those questions unresolved.
The series aired in syndication, and also on Ion Television in the U.S. and on Viva in Canada. Sleuth also aired the series occasionally. In 2011, the show aired on MyNetworkTV. The show made its debut on the new over-the-air channel Start TV when it launched on September 3, 2018. It also airs on MBC Action.
Since the program's debut in 2003, none of the seven seasons have ever been released on DVD or Blu-ray due to licensing issues related to the use of contemporary music in each episode.
In May 2020, the Roku Channel in the U.S. released all episodes of Cold Case to stream for the first time on its platform, in a high-definition digital format, with full subtitles and all contemporary music from the original CBS broadcasts left intact. The streaming would end in December 2020 after it was extended from an October end date.
Cold Case is currently available for streaming on HBO Max starting June 1, 2021.
As of September 2021, all seasons of Cold Case (with subtitles as well as all music from the original broadcasts) are once again streaming on The Roku Channel.
A soundtrack CD was released in 2008 by Lakeshore Records, featuring incidental music composed by Michael A. Levine from the first four seasons, as well as the song 300 Flowers, sung by Robbyn Kirmsse.
|2.||"The Good Death"||4:12|
|5.||"Sister Vivian's Flashback"||1:04|
|6.||"Yo, Adrian (featuring Elin Carlson)"||1:13|
|8.||"Gwen & Rush"||0:56|
|10.||"Sadie's Blues (featuring Carmen Twillie)"||3:47|
|12.||"Bad Night (featuring Robbyn Kirmsse)"||2:02|
|18.||"Rush & George"||2:56|
|19.||"The Badlands (featuring Jason Ralicki)"||2:48|
|22.||"300 Flowers (featuring Robbyn Kirmsse)"||2:48|