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
"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
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
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
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
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
COLD CASE. Philly homicide cop snoops into closed-case killings. CBS
premiere Sunday at 8 p.m. on WCBS/2.