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Cold Case

Cold Case

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 cancelled the series after seven seasons.[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] Since September 3, the show made its debut on the new over-the-air channel Start TV. This show also still airs on MBC Action.

Due to the use of contemporary music in each episode, none of the seasons are presently available on DVD, due to music licensing issues.

Cold Case
Created byMeredith Stiehm
StarringKathryn Morris
Justin Chambers
Danny Pino
John Finn
Jeremy Ratchford
Thom Barry
Tracie Thoms
Theme music composerHelmut and Franz Vonlichten with intro by Michael A. Levine
Opening themeNara
Composer(s)Michael A. Levine
Country of originUnited States
No.of seasons7
No.of episodes156(list of episodes)
Executiveproducer(s)Meredith Stiehm
Jerry Bruckheimer
Jonathan Littman
Production location(s)Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Running time42–45 minutes
Productioncompany(s)Jerry Bruckheimer Television
CBS Productions
(seasons 1–3)
CBS Paramount Network Television
(seasons 4–6)
CBS Television Studios
(season 7)
Warner Bros. Television
DistributorWarner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution
Original networkCBS
Picture format1080i (HDTV)
Original releaseSeptember 28, 2003 (2003-09-28) –
May 2, 2010 (2010-05-02)


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, 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, 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"

Cast and characters

  • Kathryn Morris as Lilly Rush, a Senior Detective assigned to the Philadelphia Homicide Division.

  • Justin Chambers as Chris Lassing, a Detective. Lilly's original partner (Season 1).

  • Danny Pino as Scotty Valens, a Detective. Lilly's second partner.

  • John Finn as John Stillman, a Lieutenant and the Head of Philadelphia Homicide Division.

  • Jeremy Ratchford as Nick Vera, a Detective assigned to Homicide.

  • Thom Barry as Will Jeffries, a Senior Detective, and Philadelphia Homicide Division's Assistant-Supervisor.

  • Tracie Thoms as Kat Miller, a Narcotics Detective who later joins as a Homicide Detective (Seasons 3–7).

Fictional universe


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.


Japanese adaptation

A Japanese remake of the series was broadcast from October 22, 2016 to December 24, 2016.[5] A second season was broadcast from October 13, 2018 to December 15, 2018.

Russian adaptation

Company Star Media produced russian adaptation of the series (broadcast in Russia under the title «Detective Rush») named «Without prescription»[6]. The show consists of 25 episodes[7].


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).[8] 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.[9]

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.[10] 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.[11][12] 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 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."


SeasonEpisodesOriginally airedNielsen ratings[13][14]
First airedLast airedRankRatingTied with
123September 28, 2003 (2003-09-28)May 23, 2004 (2004-05-23)179.3N/A
223October 3, 2004 (2004-10-03)May 22, 2005 (2005-05-22)149.7The Apprentice
323September 25, 2005 (2005-09-25)May 21, 2006 (2006-05-21)179.3N/A
424September 24, 2006 (2006-09-24)May 6, 2007 (2007-05-06)168.9CSI: NY
518September 23, 2007 (2007-09-23)May 4, 2008 (2008-05-04)287.1Deal or No Deal — Monday
623September 28, 2008 (2008-09-28)May 10, 2009 (2009-05-10)207.5The Bachelor
722September 27, 2009 (2009-09-27)May 2, 2010 (2010-05-02)296.3Private Practice

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 Maysweeps.*
SeasonTimeslotSeason premiereSeason finaleRankingRatingViewers
(in millions)
1st2003–2004Sunday 8:00pmSeptember 28, 2003May 23, 2004#179.3[15]14.18
2nd2004–2005October 3, 2004May 22, 2005#149.7[15]15.10
3rd2005–2006September 25, 2005May 21, 2006#179.3[15]14.24
4th2006–2007Sunday 9:00pmSeptember 24, 2006May 6, 2007#168.9[15]13.98
5th2007–2008September 23, 2007May 4, 2008#287.1[16]10.89
6th2008–2009September 28, 2008May 10, 2009#207.5[16]12.00
7th2009–2010Sunday 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, 2009May 2, 2010[17]#296.3[16]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, due to the writer's strike, 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.[18] 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 it's run on May 2, 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.[18]

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)

  • Outstanding Individual Episode (In a Series Without a Regular Gay Character) – For episode "Best Friends". (2006)

  • Outstanding Directing in a Dramatic Series – Paris Barclay (2006)

  • 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 Raining 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.[19]

Track listing
"Late Returns"3:06
"The Good Death"4:12
"The Park"1:08
"Detective's Reprise"1:40
"Sister Vivian's Flashback"1:04
"Yo, Adrian (featuring Elin Carlson)"1:13
"Churchgoing People"1:52
"Gwen & Rush"0:56
"The Professor"3:15
"Sadie's Blues (featuring Carmen Twillie)"3:47
"Forever Blue"4:59
"Bad Night (featuring Robbyn Kirmsse)"2:02
"Carl's Recollection"3:42
"Saving Sammy"3:30
"Freely's Flashback"2:07
"8:03 am"2:45
"Rush & George"2:56
"The Badlands (featuring Jason Ralicki)"2:48
"The Window"1:58
"Train Station"1:04
"300 Flowers (featuring Robbyn Kirmsse)"2:48
"Best Friends"2:13
"Baby Blues"3:12

See also

  • The Enigma Files, UK / BBC Two, 1980

  • Cold Squad, CAN / CTV, 1998

  • Cold Case Files, USA / A&E, 1999 (true cases)

  • CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, USA / CBS, 2000

  • Waking the Dead, UK / BBC One, 2000

  • New Tricks, UK / BBC One, 2003

  • NCIS, USA / CBS, 2003

  • Solved, USA / ID, 2008 (true cases)

  • Zettai Reido, Japan / Fuji Television, 2010

  • Cold Justice, USA / TNT, 2013 (true cases)

  • To Catch a Killer, CAN / OWN, 2014 (true cases)

  • Signal, South Korea / TVN, 2016


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