'Cold Case' returns after first-season success
Producers and stars say the public has a growing interest in homicide cases.
By DAVE MASON
Turning back the clock builds the drama on "Cold Case." Executive producer and creator Meredith Stiehm cites an example: In the sixth episode of the first season, Detective Lilly Rush (Kathryn Morris) investigated a murder case from the 1960s, one related to gay-bashing.
"And that's the one we still hold up as the one to emulate, the one that really works and had the effect that we wanted for the show," Stiehm said. "It was a story that couldn't have been told back then [in the 1960s] because we could tell it now in hindsight because we have terms like 'gay-bashing.' And I think the past to present, usually with the cases that are much older, it works much better. You really feel how time has affected a case or affected the characters."
On "Cold Case," Rush and partner Scotty Valens (Danny Pino), Philadelphia police detectives, investigate unsolved murder cases from the past.
The popularity of shows like "CSI" has extended to "Cold Case," which ranked as the fourth-highest-rated show on TV in the latest Nielsens. TV and movie mogul Jerry Bruckheimer produces both series for CBS.
The producers and stars credit the success of "Cold Case" to the storylines, the characters, the public's growing interest in homicide cases and the way that Bruckheimer's TV shows are filmed.
Morris ("Minority Report," "Paycheck," "As Good As It Gets") said she's amazed by the response she has seen to her character, the only woman in this fictional version of the Philadelphia homicide squad. "It's not just about being a cop. It's almost like I feel like I've become almost a spokesperson for the single working woman," she said.
Morris said fans have told her they're glad to see a woman in a man's world, as well as a woman who cares about the present-day loved ones of those murdered in old, unresolved cases. Rush gets her greatest satisfaction from giving those people some resolution to their grief.
Morris said fans also tell her they like seeing a female character whose main focus in life is her work, just like a man's tends to be.
But "Cold Case" keeps its main focus on the cases, rather than the characters, and Stiehm said that won't change.
In July, "Law & amp; Order" creator and executive producer Dick Wolf told reporters his least favorite episode of his series involved the kidnapping and murder of the daughter of Detective Lennie Briscoe (Jerry Orbach). He said it was a mistake to steer away from the series' focus on solving crimes.
But the "Cold Case" stars and producers say there's room to show how the detectives' emotions and backgrounds affect them when they're investigating cases.
"I think some of our best episodes are when the detectives have a real point of view about the case," Morris said. "And we also have personal stuff going on that's filtering into the pressure at work."
Cold-case detective squads weren't formed until the 1990s, and they came about because of the science of DNA, Stiehm said.
"The majority of cold cases are cases where they have old blood or semen or something, and they can solve them that way. But we're less interested in those cases that are a simple science test than we are on the ones where it took going back and getting people to talk when they wouldn't talk before and exploring how to psychologically get people to open up."