Cold Case Files (2017)

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Cold Case Files (2017) TV Poster Image
Sensational docuseries reboot best for serious crime buffs.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Attempts to find answers to unsolved murders. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Families devastated, investigators frustrated. Local people help. 

Violence

Details about crimes like kidnapping, sexual assault, murders; suffering. Bloody images, disturbing reenactments. 

Sex

Prostitution, sexual assault mentioned. 

Language
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Alcohol, drug use sometimes discussed; cigarette smoking visible. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Cold Case Files, a reboot of the popular 1990’s series, is about tackling unsolved violent crimes. Violence includes beatings, sexual assaults, and murders (including those committed against children), as well as disturbing reenactments and archive footage. Cigarette smoking is visible, and drinking, drugs, and prostitution are discussed. All of this is offered in context, but it’s really meant for older viewers. 

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What's the story?

Narrated by Danny Glover, COLD CASE FILES follows the efforts of investigators to solve some of the 120,000 unsolved crime cases in the United States. The reboot of the 1999 series features interviews with the victims’ families, detectives, and law enforcement officials on the case discussing what led up to the person’s disappearance and the subsequent investigation. Throughout it all, family pictures, archival footage, and reenactments of specific events are also shown. The leads that are followed, the dead ends they hit, and other details are discussed. It points to what details point investigators in the right direction years later, and, when applicable, notes the impact having these crimes solved has on the perpetrators, investigators, and most importantly, those who care about the victim. 

Is it any good?

The series offers painstakingly slow and sensationalized discussions of murders and other violent acts to make methodical, detailed detective work more interesting for the viewer. But despite the drama, which is amplified with the use of shadowy images and ominous music, it highlights the commitment of people -- ranging from investigators to volunteers -- have shown to solving these cases in order to bring closure to the victims’ families. 

While it exercises restraint when describing some of the more horrific details of the violent acts committed, Cold Case Files isn’t an easy series to watch. It is even harder when it focuses on those crimes committed against children. However, if you’re seriously into crime-solving docudramas, this one offers some real-life investigative twists and turns. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about sensationalism. When does a documentary cross the line from being informative to using the information to entertain viewers? Is this appropriate? Does Cold Case Files cross the line?

  • Shows like Cold Case Files focus on criminal behaviors, including very violent crimes. What kind of impact can this potentially have on viewers, both young and old?

TV details

For kids who love true crime

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