Sorry, Detective, but This 'Case' Should Stay Closed

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Yes, "Cold Case" is from "CSI" producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

Yes, it's a female-lead mystery hour scheduled in CBS' old "Murder, She Wrote"

slot. But "CSI" gives us sharp personalities and style. And "Murder" had Angela

Lansbury.

"Cold Case" has Kathryn Morris ("Minority Report"), whose charm, in at

least the series pilot, has yet to surface. Too bad the show rests squarely on

her shoulders. As a Philadelphia detective dedicated to unraveling years-past

homicides, she's positioned among her tad-too-weary colleagues as a "crusader"

driven by a profound sense of justice. But because there's so little motivation

emanating from Morris, you'll have to take it on faith. (After all, "Touched

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by an Angel" aired in this slot, too.)

The pilot's murder case also is disappointingly derivative and obvious. The

filmmaking is showily self-conscious, indulging in hand-helds and 360-circling

to no narrative effect. And the downpour climax that CBS has been replaying

endlessly in show promos set to Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Who'll Stop the

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Rain" turns out to be a superfluous set-piece adding only production expense

to the proceedings. Clearly intended as atmospheric, it can't reinforce a mood

that hasn't been established to begin with.

Someone must believe the allure of "CSI" lies in its "look" - "Cold Case"

also offers time-tripping flashbacks blending the past incident into present

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time - along with the behavioral "cool" of its central character. But even when

William Petersen plays reserved, his "CSI" cop seems to be seething at his

core. That suppressed fire makes him worth watching. Morris is barely an ember.

The most intriguing demeanor resides in taut-mannered boss John Finn, who

previously nailed the intense-commander routine on "EZ Streets," CBS' 1996

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drama of stylized urban amorality. Such thematic reach and gutsy

characterizations have since dissolved on the network landscape into the

procedural patness trotted out in "Cold Case," a whodunit so methodical its

impact barely registers. Philadelphia's weather isn't the only thing watered

down here.

REVIEW

COLD CASE. Philly homicide cop snoops into closed-case killings. CBS

premiere Sunday at 8 p.m. on WCBS/2.

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