Cold Case is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine. As far as cop shows, it’s a rather ludicrous one. It exists in a world where almost nobody ever actually lies to the cops. Almost nobody asks for an attorney, and if they do, the detectives ignore the request despite the fact that they are typically interviewing middle-to-upper class people (another thing… which we will ignore at the moment) whose lawyers would be able to make hay out of it. I guess that takes care of itself, because it also exists in a world where everyone eventually confesses, though that’s hardly unusual in TVLand.

What I enjoy about the show is less the police work, though, and more the following of the victim’s life and the life of those around them. It’s a character drama with a badge, mostly (several badges, actually).

The basic premise, as the title suggests, is that it’s about a bunch of cops picking up old and dormant unsolved cases, ranging everywhere from the 1920’s to a few years ago. One of the tells that a character didn’t do it is if they have some sort of criminal record. By and large, the one who did it is the loving husband who lost his temper, the boss, or something else like that.

Almost almost never did they actually commit much of a crime after the original crime that the team is investigating. This makes the case-closing actually depressing in some respect. Half of the time, the murder was a mistake. Technically murder, but a physical struggle where the victim fell backwards or something. In the case where the guilty one was indeed a criminal, it’s typically the case that they turned themselves around after the incident in question. So, as a matter of justice, maybe it’s a good thing that they’re being put away. But it’s still a little sad for an upstanding National Guardsman or working joe to be taken away long after it might have done society itself any good.

One time they took away a guy who killed his uppity housewife fifty years after the crime occurred. The guy had Alzheimers and barely remembered any of it anyway. Another case – one of those of a physical tussle gone awry – the guy lived his entire life mourning his dead wife until the police take him away.

It’s hard to take a whole lot of satisfaction in that.


Category: Theater

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12 Responses to Cold Case

  1. Scarlet Knight says:

    I have never seen it. I just know about it because CBS reminds you about it multiple times during 60 Minutes.

    I never got into L&O because I root for the wrong people.

  2. Burt Likko says:

    The times I’ve seen it, the cases seemed built around the idea that there must be moral ambiguity; we must somehow always identify on some level with the killer. That may make for good tear-jerkin’ TV, but it isn’t congruent with how crime goes down in the real world — most crimes are committed by people who are, well, criminals, which means they’re easy to dislike, and the reasons for the crimes are typically somewhere between unsympathetic and stupid.

    But here’s something else unusual about the show: the ensemble protagonists are actual cops. Kathryn Rush is quite attractive but I share your gripe that it seems as though any thug in Philly could break her in half over his knee.

    And, the costume, set design, makeup, and music people do a very good job of re-creating the fashions and look of the past times when the crimes were committed. That part of the show is a lot of fun.

  3. rob says:

    — most crimes are committed by people who are, well, criminals, which means they’re easy to dislike, and the reasons for the crimes are typically somewhere between unsympathetic and stupid.

    There was a Law and Order spinoff a few years back that was ‘real crimes, real courtrooms’ or something to that effect. It didn’t last a season for just that reason. Real criminals are boring and depressing. That and while procedural shows are entertaining, actual procedures ain’t.

  4. trumwill says:

    I have never seen it. I just know about it because CBS reminds you about it multiple times during 60 Minutes.

    Reminded, presumably, It’s been off the air for over a year now. Danny Pino (guy on our right) is now on… Law & Order SVU now.

    I never got into L&O because I root for the wrong people.

    I have the same reaction to a lot of civil legal shows. It’s not infrequently the case that I think the Big Corporation they’re suing actually has the right of it.

  5. trumwill says:

    That may make for good tear-jerkin’ TV, but it isn’t congruent with how crime goes down in the real world — most crimes are committed by people who are, well, criminals, which means they’re easy to dislike, and the reasons for the crimes are typically somewhere between unsympathetic and stupid.

    First 48, a documentary show, demonstrates this pretty clearly. The criminals aren’t just not likeable, but they’re actually quite boring. The investigation stuff is interesting, though. I’m not sure if Rob is referring to Arrest & Trial or a more re-enacting show, but I saw A&T once and it was not remarkably interesting.

    But here’s something else unusual about the show: the ensemble protagonists are actual cops. Kathryn Rush is quite attractive but I share your gripe that it seems as though any thug in Philly could break her in half over his knee.

    Towards the end Rush’s (blond in front) lips were bigger than her waist. Not only was she tiny, but she had this sensitive-vulnerability thing about her that made you want to hug her in addition to giving her a sandwich. Tracy Thoms (near left in back) doesn’t really look the part, but at least she carries herself through it. Danny Pino also pulled it off with personality (otherwise, the guy kind of looks like an underwear model).

    Jeremy RatchfordAnd, the costume, set design, makeup, and music people do a very good job of re-creating the fashions and look of the past times when the crimes were committed. That part of the show is a lot of fun.

    Quite so! And the music is cool.

  6. A 4 says:

    An interesting police procedural show I saw a few times when I had cable was “Crime 360.” In a few cities, they follow along with homicide detectives trying to solve crimes, very prominently using a Leica branded crime scene scanning system*.

    Because of the scanning system, they had a focus on forensics and crime scene re-enactment, but it mainly was cops trying to figure out what happened, and who to talk to next. The talking is what caught people. The people they caught were young, violent, dumb, and yes, boring.

    A4

    *The show very clearly shows the Leica system, so I figured it was partly a promotional program for Leica. When I was trying to remember what it was called, I used the name “Leica” as part of my Google search. It looks like the program works:
    http://psc.apcointl.org/2011/09/20/chattanooga-police-department-buys-two-leica-scanstations/

  7. trumwill says:

    That Leica thing seems really interesting.

  8. Scarlet Knight says:

    Well the Giants were on CBS yesterday, and I made a point to listen to Jim Nantz when he read his spots. It turns out that Cold Case is indeed canceled. The Amazing Race is now in the post-60 Minutes slot.

  9. Alan says:

    As a former police detective myself, I cannot watch fictional police shows anymore, because they are so ludicrously unrealistic and apparently don’t bother to have real policemen as consultants. Before I became a policeman I used to love Law and Order… now I realize how incredibly silly it is… especially the episodes where the detectives practically live in the DA’s office and obediently go off and do what they’re ordered to do by the DA’s like servants, as if they were in their chain of command, and as if they ddin’t have 500 other cases pending on their desks that are equally important, which is always the situation in a real city. The X-Files used to be one of my favorite shows in the 90s pre-law enforcement career… now I can’t stand it when I see them enter a room with their pistols pointed up toward the ceiling, Charlies Angels style. The only exception was The Shield, which I (and many of my colleagues) thought really captured how police talk, think, interact… though of course Vick Mackey’s corruption and murder problem was over the top. I think the worst of the shows is CSI… as if police have gigantic CDC-like fully automated labs at their disposal… when in actuality it can take 6 months to a year to get DNA results back from the state lab. Also, in reality, CSI investigators never insert themselves into the actual investigation beyond the evidence collection etc. I could go on and on.

  10. Alan says:

    Another thing, while on this topic, that I find interesting, is that as popular as police shows are, REAL police are often universally reviled. Some of the same people who can’t miss an episode of Law and Order are often the same people who “don’t like cops”. Politicians who very publicly criticize actions of police are often the first ones to have photo ops standing in front of them, or while attempting to court their unions. It’s a love-hate thing, bordering on hypocrisy.

  11. trumwill says:

    Alan, if you have any interest in assisting would-be writer’s attempt to “get it right”, drop me an email (my 8-letter nickname at gmail)! I don’t have anything going on right this moment, but resources are good!

    Absent that (which I have no right to ask of a first-time commenter – welcome, btw!), do you have any resources that you would recommend?

    As I said, I don’t watch it for the cop realism (and CSI takes my suspension of disbelief just a step too far) but for the characters surrounding the story. The Shield was a great show. As was The Wire. Have you seen Southland? Thoughts?

  12. Alan says:

    Sure, no problem. I should tell you I like to write too, though I’ve only done short-stories so far, and not police related.
    No, I haven’t watched Southland. Have heard it’s good though. A few months ago on a lark I bought the first season of Columbo, and though again it was wildly unrealistic, and very dated, I actually enjoyed it. Probably has more to do with Peter Falk’s personality though.

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