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Cold Case
Cold Case Logo.jpg
Cold Case Intertitle
Format Police procedural
Created by Meredith Stiehm
Written by Timothy Slater (Senior Writer)
Starring Kathryn Morris
Danny Pino
John Finn
Jeremy Ratchford
Thom Barry
Tracie Thoms
Theme music composer Helmut and Franz Vonlichten with intro by Michael A. Levine
Opening theme Nara
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 7
No. of episodes 150 (List of episodes)
Location(s) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Running time 45 minutes
Original channel CBS
Picture format 480i (SDTV),
1080i (HDTV)
Original run September 28, 2003 (2003-09-28) – present
External links
Official website

Cold Case is an American police procedural television series which premiered on September 28, 2003 on CBS. The series revolves around a fictionalized Philadelphia Police Department division in Pennsylvania that specializes in investigating cold cases. The series currently airs in syndication on TNT. The seventh season of Cold Case began on September 27, 2009.[1]



Each episode of Cold Case follows a formula that begins with a flashback scene that establishes the year—sometimes the actual date—in which the crime took place, as well as a set of characters in a seemingly mundane situation. The flashback features a different style of direction from the rest of the episode, whether it be the colors, lighting, shading, or camera angles. Flashbacks often match a style from the era of the crime, such as a black-and-white flashback depicting the 1950s. The next scene generally shows one or two of the characters introduced in the flashback scene dead at some future point in time.

The show then flashes to the present day, with the detectives of the homicide division of the Philadelphia police department prompted to investigate an old case gone cold following, for example; a revelation of new evidence, discovery of the victim's physical remains, or a witness who has decided to come forward. The detectives then give the cold case a new look and begin researching the victim and interviewing their friends, acquaintances, and family.

During the cold case investigation, those who were introduced in the flashback at the beginning of the episode have aged (in one case, a seven-year-old witness to the crime is interviewed by the detectives when she is 95). Gradually, the detectives gather enough evidence to determine the killer, who is usually then arrested. In contrast to many procedurals, such as the CSI series, Cold Case stresses cooperative interviews with potential witnesses who each fill in a part of the story, usually in chronological order. There are few adversarial interrogations and very little use of forensic evidence. Violent confrontations with suspects are rare.

At the end of each episode, the detectives mark the case as "closed," putting the evidence box back on the shelf, while an apparition of the murdered person(s) looks on, although the apparition may appear to a friend or family member of the murdered person instead. The apparition fade away smiling in most cases, indicating that their spirit is finally put to rest. Sometimes they may make scenes about the apparition victim's future, had they lived. In one recent case, the evidence box is being shipped out of state as it became evident that the crime took place outside of Pennsylvania. This happened with the episode "Wednesday's Women," where the crime took place in Mississippi in 1964.

The problems in the detectives' personal lives are also featured, though the main emphasis of every story is on the victim and the search for the killer. Most notably, Detective Lilly Rush grew up in a severely dysfunctional, poverty-stricken home with an alcoholic mother. As the show goes on Lilly's mother grows worse. In one of the latest seasons Lilly's mother passes away, due to her poor health due to her addiction.

The show usually casts a young actor for the flashback sequences and an older actor for the shots in the present, and cuts back and forth between the two to show how the character has aged. The same actor could be used if the crime is in the recent past, or if the character is not likely to have changed much in appearance except for added weight and grey hair.

While all of the information shown in the flashbacks is true, what the characters say in the present day about the flashbacks is not necessarily true and, in fact, is often used for misdirection of the audience.


The theme song is an excerpt from "Nara" by E.S. Posthumus (who also performs the theme for the NFL on CBS), with an introduction by series composer Michael A. Levine. 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 U2, Bruce Springsteen, Nirvana, Elvis Costello, The Doors, John Mellencamp, Johnny Cash, Pink Floyd, Tim McGraw, Bob Dylan, 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.[2] In one episode, the music from the movie "The Rocky Horror Picture Show", as well as the music from Caberet was used. Due to licensing costs, there are currently no plans for any DVD releases of the series.

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.[3]


Season Homicide Commander Second In Command Senior Detective Senior Detective Senior Detective Junior Detective
1 Lt. John Stillman
(John Finn)
Det. Will Jefferies
(Thom Barry)
Lilly Rush
(Kathryn Morris)
Det. Nick Vera
(Jeremy Ratchford)
Scotty Valens
(Danny Pino)
Det. Chris Lassing
(Justin Chambers)
2 Det. Josie Sutton
(Sarah Brown)*
3 Det. Kat Miller
(Tracie Thoms)

CSI: NY crossover

On May 2, 2007, one of the Cold Case detectives made a rare appearance outside of the series. In the CSI: NY episode "Cold Reveal", Danny Pino appeared as his Cold Case character Scotty Valens as he traveled to New York when it was discovered that CSI Stella Bonasera (Melina Kanakaredes) was connected to an unsolved case, proving that Cold Case and CSI take place in the same universe. The CSI shows and Cold Case all air on CBS and are produced by Jerry Bruckheimer.


In 2005, John Finn, Kathryn Morris, and Jeremy Ratchford appeared in a satirical promo on the Irish language television station TG4.[citation needed]

Similar series

The investigation of "cold cases" has been used as the basis for several other detective dramas, including:


Cold Squad controversy

Upon its launch, television critics noted similarities between Cold Case and a similar Canadian series called Cold Squad which debuted in 1998, five years before Cold Case[4]. Fans of Cold Squad accused the American series of copying the basic premise and characters of the Canadian version. In 2003, the creators of Cold Squad considered launching legal action against the makers of Cold Case over copyright issues.[5][6] Both shows air in Canada (and on the same network, CTV). The law firm headed by famed entertainment attorney Pierce O'Donnell, who successfully represented Art Buchwald in his copyright-infringement suit against Paramount and who has defended the James Bond franchise against copycats, has confirmed that it has agreed to represent the producers of Cold Squad, who claim that the CBS series is a knock-off of their own hit show. The Toronto Globe and Mail reported that Meredith Stehm, the creator of the American series, attended a seminar on TV writing at the Canadian Film Centre in 2002 where the concept of Cold Squad was explained to her. O'Donnell's law firm 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."


Season Ep. # First Airdate Last Airdate
Season 1 23 September 28, 2003 May 23, 2004
Season 2 23 October 3, 2004 May 22, 2005
Season 3 23 September 25, 2005 May 21, 2006
Season 4 24 September 24, 2006 May 6, 2007
Season 5 18 September 23, 2007 May 4, 2008
Season 6 23 September 28, 2008 May 10, 2009
Season 7 24 September 27, 2009 May 2010

U.S. television ratings

Seasonal rankings (based on average total viewers per episode) of Cold Case on CBS.

Note: Each U.S. network television season starts in late September and ends in late May, which coincides with the completion of May sweeps.
Season Timeslot Season Premiere Season Finale TV Season Ranking Viewers
(in millions)
1st Sunday 8:00 p.m. September 28, 2003 May 23, 2004 2003–2004 #17 14.18[7]
2nd Sunday 8:00 p.m. October 3, 2004 May 22, 2005 2004–2005 #17 15.10[8]
3rd Sunday 8:00 p.m. September 25, 2005 May 21, 2006 2005–2006 #21 14.24[9]
4th Sunday 9:00 p.m. September 24, 2006 May 6, 2007 2006–2007 #23 13.98[10]
5th Sunday 9:00 p.m. September 23, 2007 May 4, 2008 2007–2008 #34 10.89[11]
6th Sunday 9:00 p.m. September 28, 2008 May 10, 2009 2008–2009 #23 12.00[12]
7th Sunday 10:00 p.m. (September 27 - November 15)
Sunday 9:00 p.m. (November 22 - January 17)
Sunday 10:00 p.m. (February 14 - May 2010)
September 27, 2009 May 2010 2009–2010 TBA 11.18 to date


External links


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