Jerry Bruckheimer's slick streak continues with "Cold Case." The latest master of television's crime wave, Bruckheimer has taken on police work from yet another angle, and the material goes down easily. Show will cross badges with ABC newbie policer "10-8" and NBC drama "American Dreams" in the highly competitive Sunday-at-8 slot.

This review was updated on October 2, 2003.

Jerry Bruckheimer’s slick streak continues with “Cold Case,” a close cousin to his three other Eye web series but not nearly as gripping. The latest addition to television’s crime wave takes on police work from yet another angle, and the material goes down easily. But the payoffs and players aren’t as intoxicating as viewers have come to expect from the “C.S.I.” franchise and “Without a Trace,” other Bruckheimer productions. Show will cross badges with ABC newbie policer “10-8″ and NBC drama “American Dreams” in the highly competitive Sunday-at-8 slot.

Main problem: Skein’s star, Kathryn Morris, is a puzzle. She’s unique and capable, but her energy is low and there’s zero warmth. Granted, nobody’s more bottled up than David Caruso in “C.S.I. Miami,” but his reputation precedes him, and Morris just hasn’t earned the right to be so moody. That said, a central femme is a terrific addition to CBS’ collection of top cops, and her tight method may well appeal to some.

The premise is high concept: Unsolved files are reopened after new evidence emerges. Lilly Rush (Morris) is the Philadelphia investigator attached to the nascent division, and her support team includes colleagues Chris Lassing (Justin Chambers) and Nick Vera (Jeremy Ratchford) and her mentor-boss Tom Stillman (John Finn).

Debut is borrowed from the docket of Martha Moxley and Michael Skakel. In 1976 a beautiful teen is beaten to death at the sprawling home of one of Philly’s most prominent families. Now, years after police hit a dead end, and with witnesses’ mouths sealed shut, a woman who claims to have been a maid at the mansion finds Lilly and has enough credibility for the detective to proceed.

The execution — pilot was directed by Mark Pellington and written by Meredith Stiehm — rises above its giant holes, playing out with a sense of familiarity and relative comfort level that new shows rarely have until hitting their stride. That’s due in large part to Bruckheimer’s quickie approach to the genre: Explain the transgression, study it and solve it all within the hour allotted. No carryover plots, no arcs and the actual offense takes center stage.

That’s not to say a little more personality from Morris wouldn’t help things out. As the only female in the homicide squad, she’s cranky and crabby, but that can be a major turnoff to auds who want less bitterness. And as she goes, so goes “Cold Case,” since she’s featured in almost every scene.

Tech credits are tops, and the premiere episode in particular utilizes an editing tactic that serves the narrative well. As Lilly is examining the current lives of past witnesses, her activities often blend with long-ago images, creating the illusion she has gone back in time to collar the suspects.

Cold Case

Series; CBS, Sun. Sept. 28, 8 p.m.

Production

Filmed in Los Angeles by Jerry Bruckheimer Television in association with Warner Bros. Television and CBS Prods. Executive producers, Meredith Stiehm, Jerry Bruckheimer, Jonathan Littman; producer, Perry Husman; director, Mark Pellington; writer, Stiehm;

Crew

camera, Tom Richmond; editor, Conrad Gonzales; production designer, Corey Kaplan; casting, Gary Zuckerbrood. 60 MIN.

Cast

Lilly Rush - Kathryn Morris Nick Vera - Jeremy Ratchford Chris Lassing - Justin Chambers Tom Stillman - John Finn Will Jeffries - Thom Barry
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