Cold Case

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Cold Case
Promotional poster
Created by Meredith Stiehm
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
Composer(s) Michael A. Levine
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 7
No. of episodes 156 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Meredith Stiehm
Jerry Bruckheimer
Jonathan Littman
Production location(s) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Running time 50 minutes
Production company(s) Jerry Bruckheimer Television
CBS Productions (2003-2006)
CBS Paramount Network Television (2006-2009)
CBS Television Studios (2009-2010)
Warner Bros. Television
Distributor CBS Television Distribution
Warner Bros. Television Distribution
Original network CBS
Picture format 480i (SDTV),
1080i (HDTV)
Original release September 28, 2003 (2003-09-28) – May 2, 2010 (2010-05-02)

Cold Case is an American police procedural 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.

On May 18, 2010, CBS announced that the series had been canceled.[1] The series aired in syndication, and also on Ion Television in the U.S. and on Viva in Canada.[2] Sleuth also aired the series occasionally. In 2011, the show aired on MyNetworkTV.[3]


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. The oldest case for example took place in 1919. A living witness was seven years old at the time but in 2007 when investigated was now 95. However, if the crime took place in the recent past (i.e. within the last 10 years) the same actor would be used with minor differences, unless it was a child or adolescent. However, 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 a young detective in another.

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 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, 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 (who also performed the theme for NFL on CBS), 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, Bruce Springsteen, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, The Doors, John Mellencamp, Johnny Cash, Bob Seger, Aerosmith, 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.[4] 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:

  • "Best Friends" – Episode: "Best Friends"
  • "One Dress Left" (performed by Allison Miller) – Episode: "Beautiful Little Fool"
  • "300 Flowers" (performed by Allison Miller) – Episode: "Beautiful Little Fool"
  • "Scarlet Rose" (composed by Gary Haase and sung by Alexa Khan) – Episode: "Static"
  • "Goin' Off" (Written by Jeff Lucky and performed by Danièle Watts) – Episode: "Read Between The Lines"
  • "Read Between The Lines" (Written by Jeff Lucky and performed by Danièle Watts) – Episode: "Read Between The Lines"


Name Portrayed by Occupation Division Seasons
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Det. Lilly Rush Kathryn Morris Senior Detective
Homicide Main
Lt. John Stillman John Finn Lieutenant
Homicide Main
Det. Scotty Valens Danny Pino Senior Detective Homicide Main
Det. Nick Vera Jeremy Ratchford Senior Detective Homicide Main
Det. Will Jeffries Thom Barry Senior Detective
Asst. Supervisor
Homicide Main
Det. Kat Miller Tracie Thoms Junior Detective/
Senior Detective
formerly in Narcotics/
Det. Chris Lassing Justin Chambers Senior Detective Homicide Main

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. The CSI shows and Cold Case all air on CBS and are produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. None of the characters from CSI, however, appeared on Cold Case.


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).[5] 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 Gaelic, much to the surprise of Jeremy Ratchford's character. The promo tied in with a murder investigation in Ros na Rún.[6]

Similar series

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

Cold Squad controversy

After its launch, television critics noted similarities between Cold Case and a similar Canadian series called Cold Squad which debuted five years earlier.[7] 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.[8][9] Both shows air in Canada (and on the same network, CTV). The law firm headed by 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, confirmed it agreed to represent[clarification needed] the Cold Squad producers, who claim the CBS series is a knock-off 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's law firm commented in a statement: "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 Episodes Originally aired Nielsen ratings
First aired Last aired Ranking Viewers
(in millions)
1 23 September 28, 2003 May 23, 2004 #17 14.18
2 23 October 3, 2004 May 22, 2005 #14 15.10
3 23 September 25, 2005 May 21, 2006 #17 14.24
4 24 September 24, 2006 May 6, 2007 #16 13.98
5 18 September 23, 2007 May 4, 2008 #28 10.89
6 23 September 28, 2008 May 10, 2009 #20 12.00
7 22 September 27, 2009 May 2, 2010 #29 9.86

U.S. television ratings

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 Rating Viewers
(in millions)
1st Sunday 8:00pm September 28, 2003 May 23, 2004 2003–2004 #17 9.3[10] 14.18
2nd October 3, 2004 May 22, 2005 2004–2005 #14 9.7[10] 15.10
3rd September 25, 2005 May 21, 2006 2005–2006 #17 9.3[10] 14.24
4th Sunday 9:00pm September 24, 2006 May 6, 2007 2006–2007 #16 8.9[10] 13.98
5th September 23, 2007 May 4, 2008 2007–2008 #28 7.1[11] 10.89
6th September 28, 2008 May 10, 2009 2008–2009 #20 7.5[11] 12.00
7th Sunday 10:00 pm (September 27, 2009 – November 15, 2009)
Sunday 9:00 pm (November 22, 2009 – January 17, 2010)
Sunday 10:00 pm (February 14, 2010 – May 2, 2010)
September 27, 2009 May 2, 2010[12] 2009–2010 #29 6.3[11] 9.86
  • In season 3 episode "A Perfect Day" Cold Case set a series rating record by attracting an audience of 19.36 million viewers.


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 about 12 million viewers. In Season 6, the ratings sank lower, to an average of a 2.7 rating; CBS made a choice between renewing Without a Trace and Cold Case. They chose to keep Cold Case. In Season 7, 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.[13] On November 22, 2009 CBS scheduled Cold Case at 9:00 pm. The ratings increased to 10 million viewers, but it was not enough to keep Cold Case. On February 14, 2010, Cold Case returned to its original schedule, at 10:00 pm.

CBS announced the show would not be renewed for an eighth season.[13]

Awards and nominations


  • Top TV Series – (2004)
  • Top TV Series – (2005)
  • Top TV Series – (2006)
  • Top TV Series – (2007)
  • Top TV Series – (2008)
  • Top TV Series – (2009)
GLAAD Media Awards
  • Outstanding Individual Episode (In a Series Without a Regular Gay Character) – For episode "Best Friends". (2006)
Image Awards
  • Outstanding Directing in a Dramatic Series – Paris Barclay (2006)
Imagen Foundation Awards
  • Best Actor, Television – Danny Pino (2010)


ALMA Awards
  • Outstanding Actor in a Drama Television Series – Danny Pino (2008)
ASC Awards
  • Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Regular Series (For episode "Time To Hate") (2004)
Excellence in Production Design Award
  • Television - Single Camera Television Series (For episode "Factory Girls") (2005)
CDG Awards
  • Outstanding Costume Design for Television Series - Period/Fantasy (2005)
  • Outstanding Costume Design for Television Series - Period/Fantasy (2006)
  • Outstanding Costume Design for Television Series - Period/Fantasy (2007)
GLAAD Media Awards
  • Outstanding Individual Episode (In a Series Without a Regular Gay Character) (For episode "A Time to Hate") (2004)
  • Outstanding Individual Episode (In a Series Without a Regular Gay Character) (For episode "It's Rainning Men") (2005)
  • Outstanding Individual Episode (In a Series Without a Regular Gay Character) (For episode "Daniela") (2005)
  • Outstanding Individual Episode (For episode "Forever Blue") (2007)
  • Outstanding Individual Episode (in a Series without a Regular LGBT Character) (For episode "Boy Crazy")
  • Outstanding Art Direction for a Single-Camera Series – Corey Kaplan (production designer) (For episode "Factory Girls") (2005)
  • Outstanding Art Direction for a Single-Camera Series – Sandy Getzler (art director) (For episode "Factory Girls") (2005)
  • Outstanding Art Direction for a Single-Camera Series – Timothy Stepeck (set decorator) (For episode "Factory Girls") (2005)


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.[14]

Track listing
No. Title Length
1. "Late Returns"   3:06
2. "The Good Death"   4:12
3. "The Park"   1:08
4. "Detective's Reprise"   1:40
5. "Sister Vivian's Flashback"   1:04
6. "Yo, Adrian (featuring Elin Carlson)"   1:13
7. "Churchgoing People"   1:52
8. "Gwen & Rush"   0:56
9. "The Professor"   3:15
10. "Sadie's Blues (featuring Carmen Twillie)"   3:47
11. "Forever Blue"   4:59
12. "Bad Night (featuring Robbyn Kirmsse)"   2:02
13. "Fireflies"   1:51
14. "Carl's Recollection"   3:42
15. "Saving Sammy"   3:30
16. "Freely's Flashback"   2:07
17. "8:03 am"   2:45
18. "Rush & George"   2:56
19. "The Badlands (featuring Jason Ralicki)"   2:48
20. "The Window"   1:58
21. "Train Station"   1:04
22. "300 Flowers (featuring Robbyn Kirmsse)"   2:48
23. "Best Friends"   2:13
24. "Baby Blues"   3:12

See also


  1. Hibberd, James (May 18, 2010). "CBS cancels seven shows, including "Ghost", "Case"". The Hollywood Reporter.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. James, Newton Howard (June 22, 2011). "CBS canceled shows including ghost, case". IGN.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Staff (2012). "Home". MyNetworkTV. MyNetworkTV, Inc. Retrieved 19 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Pearl Jam Turns "Ten" Buzz". March 19, 2009. Retrieved April 11, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Corporate – Awards". TG4. Retrieved May 3, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Cold Case meets Ros Na Rún". YouTube/TG4. Retrieved June 2, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Bob Sassone (September 18, 2006). "The strange case of Cold Squad". TV Squad. Retrieved February 21, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Ian Edwards (November 10, 2003). "Cold Squad on Bruckheimer Case". Playback. Retrieved February 21, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Dan Brown (December 4, 2003). "The genius of Ratchford". CBC News. Retrieved February 21, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Brooks, Tim; Earle Marsh (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows (1946—Present): Ninth Edition. United States: Ballantine Books. pp. 1697–1698. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Tim Brooks (6 September 2011). "Top Rated TV Programs By Season (2007-2011)". Television and Record Industry History Resources. Tim Brooks. Retrieved 19 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Cold Case: CBS TV Show's Cancelled, No Season Eight". TV Series Finale. TV Series Finale. 22 May 2010. Retrieved 19 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Cold Case Soundtrack page at Lakeshore Records". November 11, 2009. Retrieved November 11, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links