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Cold Case

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Cold Case
Promotional poster
Created byMeredith Stiehm
Theme music composerHelmut and Franz Vonlichten with intro by Michael A. Levine
Opening themeNara
ComposerMichael A. Levine
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons7
No. of episodes156 (list of episodes)
Executive producers
Production locationsPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania
Running time42–45 minutes
Production companies
Original release
ReleaseSeptember 28, 2003 (2003-09-28) –
May 2, 2010 (2010-05-02)

Cold Case is an American police procedural crime drama television series. It 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, usually homicides.


The show is set in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and it 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 (or bodies found) 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.

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 era of the murder, which dramatized the testimony. Through the flashbacks, the show examined many issues related to 20th century history, including racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, abortion, and police brutality.

The show was 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. At the end of the episode, when the killer or killers were exposed and confronted, the confession would be in a flashback scene depicting the murder. The police would be shown arresting the killer and walking them into custody. The victims would sometimes also reappear as fading visions to one of the police officers.


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.[1] 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, 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.[2]

Cast and characters[edit]

  • Kathryn Morris as Lilly Rush, a Homicide Detective. Lilly first investigates a cold case during episode 1 of the series, and later continues to do so at her own request. In this capacity, Rush becomes the lead detective of the cold case 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[edit]

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.[3]


Japanese adaptation[edit]

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.[4][5] A second season was broadcast from October 13, 2018, to December 15, 2018,[6] and a third season was broadcast from December 5, 2020, to February 13, 2021.[7] The second and third seasons are filmed in 8K and downscaled to 4K for broadcast.[8][7]

Russian adaptation[edit]

Company Star Media produced Russian adaptation of the series (broadcast in Russia under the title Detective Rush) named Without Prescription.[9] The show consists of 25 episodes.[10]


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).[11] 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.[12]

Cold Squad controversy[edit]

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.[13][14] 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.[15][16] 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 Stiehm, 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."[13]


SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
123September 28, 2003 (2003-09-28)May 23, 2004 (2004-05-23)
223October 3, 2004 (2004-10-03)May 22, 2005 (2005-05-22)
323September 25, 2005 (2005-09-25)May 21, 2006 (2006-05-21)
424September 24, 2006 (2006-09-24)May 6, 2007 (2007-05-06)
518September 23, 2007 (2007-09-23)May 4, 2008 (2008-05-04)
623September 28, 2008 (2008-09-28)May 10, 2009 (2009-05-10)
722September 27, 2009 (2009-09-27)May 2, 2010 (2010-05-02)

U.S. television ratings[edit]

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 Ranking Rating Viewers
(in millions)
1st 2003–2004 Sunday 8:00 p.m. September 28, 2003 May 23, 2004 #17 9.3[17] 14.18
2nd 2004–2005 October 3, 2004 May 22, 2005 #14 9.7[17] 15.10
3rd 2005–2006 September 25, 2005 May 21, 2006 #17 9.3[17] 14.24
4th 2006–2007 Sunday 9:00 p.m. September 24, 2006 May 6, 2007 #16 8.9[17] 13.98
5th 2007–2008 September 23, 2007 May 4, 2008 #28 7.1[18] 10.89
6th 2008–2009 September 28, 2008 May 10, 2009 #20 7.5[18] 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[19] #29 6.3[18] 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 rating in season four.

In season five, the show averaged a 2.9 rating and just under 11 million viewers and ranked 28th. In season six, 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.[20] 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.[20]

On May 18, 2010, CBS announced the cancellation of the series after seven seasons and 156 episodes.[21]

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 on CBS, and also on Ion Television in the U.S. and on Viva in Canada.[22] Sleuth also aired the series occasionally. In 2011, the show aired on MyNetworkTV.[23] 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. As of 2022, reruns are often shown on TNT channel.

Home media and streaming[edit]

After the program's debut in 2003, the show was not 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 United States released all episodes of Cold Case to stream for the first time, in a high-definition digital format, with full subtitles and all contemporary music from the original CBS broadcasts left intact.[24] The streaming ended in December 2020. The show returned to the service in September 2021.[25]

Cold Case was made available for streaming on Max as of June 19, 2023.

All seasons of Cold Case are also available to stream on Amazon Prime in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Latin America and India.

The series also airs on Quest Red in the United Kingdom and available for streaming on Discovery+.

Awards and nominations[edit]


  • 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 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, Sandy Getzler, & Timothy Stepeck (2005)[26]


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.[27]

Track listing
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
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[edit]


  1. ^ https://elisemorris.com/. Retrieved April 20, 2024. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ "Pearl Jam Turns "Ten" Buzz". Billboard. March 19, 2009. Retrieved April 11, 2009.
  3. ^ Thom Holbrook (May 2007). "Crossover: CSI: NY and Cold Case". Poobala. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
  4. ^ Blair, Gavin J. (20 April 2016). "Japan's Wowow and Warner Bros. to Co-Produce Local Version of 'Cold Case'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  5. ^ "連続ドラマW コールドケース ~真実の扉~|WOWOW". WOWOW. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  6. ^ "連続ドラマW コールドケース2 ~真実の扉~|WOWOW". WOWOW. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  7. ^ a b "WOWOW開局30周年記念 連続ドラマW コールドケース3 ~真実の扉~|WOWOW". WOWOW. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  8. ^ Abe, Kunihiro (2 October 2018). "8Kドラマ「コールドケース2」4Kサイマル配信。WOWOWで13日から10週連続実施". AV Watch. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  9. ^ "Star Media ended production on Russian adaptation of American tv series 'Cold case'".
  10. ^ "Page of series Without prescription on Star Media website". Archived from the original on 2012-08-18. Retrieved 2019-07-18.
  11. ^ "Corporate – Awards". TG4. Archived from the original on May 27, 2010. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
  12. ^ "Cold Case meets Ros Na Rún". YouTube/TG4. Archived from the original on 2021-11-07. Retrieved June 2, 2010.
  13. ^ a b Doyle, John (12 November 2003). "Cold Squad, Cold Case: Similar, or what?". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2 January 2022.
  14. ^ Bob Sassone (September 18, 2006). "The strange case of Cold Squad". TV Squad. Retrieved February 21, 2008.
  15. ^ Ian Edwards (November 10, 2003). "Cold Squad on Bruckheimer Case". Playback. Retrieved February 21, 2008.
  16. ^ Dan Brown (December 4, 2003). "The genius of Ratchford". CBC News. Retrieved February 21, 2008.
  17. ^ a b c d 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.
  18. ^ a b c Tim Brooks (6 September 2011). "Top Rated TV Programs By Season (2007-2011)". Television and Record Industry History Resources. Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  19. ^ "Valens Joins Forces with Rush to Find Her Abducted Drug-addicted Sister, and Jeffries Looks into a New Lead on the Case of a Murdered Teenaged Girl That Has Haunted Him for 17 Years, on the Seventh Season Finale, and Conclusion of a Two-part Episode, of "Cold Case," on Sunday, May 2". CBS Press Express. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
  20. ^ a b "Cold Case: CBS TV Show's Cancelled, No Season Eight". TV Series Finale. 22 May 2010. Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  21. ^ Hibberd, James (May 18, 2010). "CBS cancels seven shows, including "Ghost", "Case"". The Hollywood Reporter.
  22. ^ James, Newton Howard (June 22, 2011). "CBS canceled shows including ghost, case". IGN.
  23. ^ "Home". MyNetworkTV. 2012. Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  24. ^ Frederick, Brittany (May 5, 2020). "Cold Case complete series now streaming on Roku". Retrieved July 29, 2020.
  25. ^ "Roku".
  26. ^ "Cold Case - Emmy Awards, Nominations and Wins | Television Academy". Emmys.com. Retrieved 2022-09-01.
  27. ^ "Cold Case Soundtrack page at Lakeshore Records". November 11, 2009. Archived from the original on October 31, 2013. Retrieved November 11, 2009.

External links[edit]