Cold Case



Mature crime drama lacks grit and pizzazz.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Police staffers offer positive role models and work together as a team. But some characters and plot twists rely on questionable choices (in one episode, for example, a mother lets herself be lobotomized so she can be with her son). Villains, witnesses, and some female characters are one-dimensional and stereotyped.


Shootings, stabbings, robberies, and more. Some blood.


Much innuendo, plus occasional mild sex scenes between characters who are sometimes partially clothed.


Fairly tame ("ass," "bitch," "bastard").

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some characters drink and use drugs.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this crime drama suggests more violence than it shows but does depict bloody bodies and murder scenarios, including some involving children. Villains and witnesses are frequently one-dimensional and stereotyped. Although a woman is the central character, she show's female characters are also often somewhat stereotyped.

What's the story?

COLD CASE pits a hard-working Philadelphia detective, Lilly Rush (Kathryn Morris), against previously unsolved crimes. Lilly is now armed with modern forensics, although she has to deal with witnesses and suspects whose circumstances have changed with time. The only woman in her department, Lilly is surrounded by a crew of standard-issue cops: mentor Lt. John Stillman (her boss, played by John Finn), trusty partner Scotty Valens (Danny Pino), tough guy Nick Vera (Jeremy Ratchford), and crusty old Will Jeffries (Thom Barry), who improbably remembers many of the crimes in Lilly's dusty files. In each episode, the team solves one old case. Aspects of the crime are shown in short, repeated flashbacks that illustrate what happened years earlier (when the case was fresh) and what's happening among characters now.

Is it any good?


The theme of this series -- that opening old wounds can involve many emotions but often leads to closure -- could be emotionally complex and gripping. But the show takes the easy way out, creating "complexity" by juggling lots of characters and generating "excitement" through hackneyed dialogue and unrealistic plot points. Highly predictable, the plots are populated with two-dimensional characters whose motivations are explained rather than revealed. Not much thinking goes into solving the cold-case crimes on this show -- after witnesses quickly spout key points, the suspects often simply spill the beans. Each case is neatly and completely solved by the end of the episode, leaving the series stars to tuck those dusty files right back into the archives.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the nature of closure -- do these characters find comfort when the crime is solved? What other emotions do the characters have during the story or at its conclusion? How does what happened in the past seem to have affected these people's lives since then? Should people who committed crimes long ago and have since reformed still be held accountable for their actions? Also, are these characters behaving in realistic ways? Would suspects reveal their roles in a crime just because they were asked? What makes dialogue believable?

TV details

Cast:Jeremy Ratchford, John Finn, Kathryn Morris, Thom Barry
TV rating:TV-PG
Available on:DVD, Streaming

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written bychristo26 May 17, 2010

Distorted portrayal of Philadelphia...

I've lived in Rittenhouse Square, West Philly, Fishtown, Society Hill -- and this shows portrayal of residents education and emotional IQ is pathetic. The most recent show about a mother who lost most of her children (she is black, but that doesn't matter to this post's concern) and some Chicanos was terrible -- the bizarre characters don't resemble anyone I've met, and I've been in the poorest black/chicano neighborhoods. Aside from the show being overly-dramatic and poorly written, the portrayal of Philly is simplistic and plain silly. Don't waste your time.
Kid, 7 years old May 15, 2010

Grow-up Show

My Mom Likes This Show
Teen, 13 years old Written bylilcheer February 19, 2009

I love this show!

I think the reviews were way too "hard" i watch it every time its on and i have never seen people kissing, or any bad scenes. of course they have the person murdered at the end but its not gory at all. as for language, i dont hear anything. a few times they say he-- but other than that, its a great show.


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