TNT, Magical Elves Probe True Crime Tales with Dick Wolf’s ‘Cold Justice’

Cold Justice

Unscripted skein focusing on unsolved murders is departure for cabler, 'Top Chef' producers

While TNT may know drama with scripted crime shows including “Perception,” “King & Maxwell” and “Law & Order” reruns , the Turner net is only now getting to know the true crime space with the launch of “Cold Justice” from producer Dick Wolf and reality stalwarts Magical Elves.

Each episode of the skein follows Kelly Siegler and Yolanda McClary, seasoned former prosecutor and CSI, as they investigate an unsolved murder case. Though the pair had not worked together before the lensing of “Cold Justice,” producers believe they have struck gold with the duo’s natural chemistry — the same storytelling element that is so crucial for the detectives on Wolf’s “Law & Order” dramas, long a staple of TNT’s air.

“It’s been a longstanding objective to find unscripted programs that match nicely with scripted shows that have already succeeded on our air,” said David Eilenberg, TNT’s senior veep of unscripted. “From ‘Rizzoli & Isles’ to ‘Major Crimes’ and ‘The Closer,’ we’ve had a great track record of success with female-driven shows in the crime and procedural space. ‘Cold Justice’ works well with our endemic audience, and fits nicely into a mold already established on our network.”

Program not only marks a new genre of content for TNT, but also for Magical Elves, which has established itself with glossy competition shows including “Top Chef,” “Project Runway” and “Fashion Star,” along with cable docusoaps.

Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz (known playfully as “the Elves” to some network execs) were interested in producing a true crime show that went beyond procedural storytelling. The inherent drama that comes with diving into cold murder cases — while not glamorous on the surface — was intriguing to them.

“We wanted something that would have an emotional impact and change people’s lives,” Cutforth explained.

The Magical Elves toppers met Wolf in what Cutforth described as a “typical Hollywood thing,” wherein Wolf and the Elves were brought together by their mutual reps at WME.  After TNT programming prexy Michael Wright took a liking to the “Cold Justice” concept, a presentation was shot last summer. That material would end up as the basis for the premiere episode, which bows Sept. 3.

The work of solving a long-forgotten murder case requires a lot of sitting around, shuffling through files and making calls. And in the world of reality TV production, that kind of menial activity can be costly, as producers wait for drama to unfold and waste away their production schedule. Cutforth is quick to correct that assumption, however, stating that the drama on “Cold Justice” is very “organic.”

“When you go to re-open a cold case, there’s a lot of information you have to gather immediately,” Cutforth said. “In fact, for Kelly and Yolanda, their feet don’t touch the ground. They’ve already read up info on the crime, but they have a lot of information to get from the local police. They have to look at the crime scene and bring in key witnesses quickly. In four to five days, they don’t stop for a breath.”

He added, “You don’t have to sit around waiting for drama to happen, and you don’t have to manufacture. The stakes are there — someone got away with murder.”

The production team traversed around the country and stopped in many small towns. But the bulk of the segs were shot in Texas, where Siegler had a hefty load of contacts. “Cold Justice” was also shot in Ohio, Arizona and Tennessee. The Elves felt shooting in small towns was important because financial resources for crime solving are often so limited outside urban areas.

In small towns, Cutforth said, “they can’t immediately do a gunshot residue test, or send off a DNA test like they do in big cities. These things cost money. It’s not as black and white as it appears in scripted television.”

When a case would be solved during the production of an episode, Cutforth said the set was “electrifying.”

“Cold Justice” joins hordes of other true crime shows that are peppered across NBC, MSNBC, HLN, Investigation Discovery and other networks. Eilenberg, however, is confident that “Cold Justice” will stand out.

“A lot — if not all — of those programs are past tense, recreate-driven, whereas this is present tense, going out in the world and trying to solve these crimes in real time,” Eilenberg stated. “It has a different feel to it. The immediacy of what’s going on and the risk attached comes through in the content.”

Both TNT and the Magical Elves principles have their eyes set on the true crime space beyond “Cold Justice,” as well. Eilenberg said TNT is continuing to pursue unscripted procedurals, while Cutforth remarked that Magical Elves “definitely wants to do more in the crime space.”

“We never constrain ourselves in what kind of shows we’ll develop. If it’s creatively exciting, we’ll do it,” he said.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 12

Leave a Reply


Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. Kathi Cutright says:

    You recently helped solved a ten case here in Pocatello. I live just outside of city limits in Chubbuck, ID. My son was murdered seven years ago. He left behind his most prized possession, his four year old son. Can you please help us with this? I, his mother cannot have any type have any closure until I know what happened. Please call me at (208) 417-0018. Thank you very much for your immediate response to this.

  2. christopher says:

    Please yake this crap off the air. They state the obvious and talk to the same people involved in the original crime. The conversations between the two ladies are lame.

    I expect do much more from Dick Wolf.

    God Bless,

    Chris Harrelson

  3. LInda M. De Boe says:

    I greatly enjoy “Cold Justice”. Hopefully someone with the show will see this. I’m not a police offical, but there is a case that greatly disturbed a lot of people 11 years ago and it still does. I’ve included a link to a cold case that I would dearly love for Kelly and Yolanda to sink their teeth into. Father and mother shot to death in home, 9 year old daughter taken, her body found in N.C.

    http://www.Eleven Years Since Short Family Murder in Henry Co., Va

  4. yolanda ross says:

    Will the show do cold cases of entertainment celebrities who may have been cold blooded murdered. If not the show is great so far. I am a avid TV fan of Law an Order& Law and Order Special Victims Unit.

  5. Aimee Franklin says:

    I came here to see if there was information about requesting a future episode. If I was able to request my brother’s case to be reopened, I would be so grateful and I know peace would come to his family.

  6. Bryce Mann says:

    I would like the website to present an 11 year cold case. Thank you

  7. KC says:

    There is a Very Old Cold Unsolved Case in (Oregon) Ogle County, IL. It’s the Mary Jane Reed Case. You can see all the information on the Web Site: “Mary Jane Reed”, she and her boyfriend were murdered in 1948. Very interesting case.

  8. Hello, I’ve been trying to solve my children’s father and my ex-husbands murder since Nov. 20, 1994, a Sunday evening.when he Dale Thompson was shot on the left side of his back in his bedroom. If you go up your left heel 47 inches you will find your 9th Rib area and this is where the bullet entered into his body. The gun belonged to his girlfriend. There was no soot, no tattooing or scorching ch his body or his hands. I was told that it was impossible for him to shoot himself. Just before he was shot and killed someone at his house who he shared with his crazy girlfriend, beat him severely up to where the para-medics thought he was shot on the right side of his face, and under his right nipple, none of that ever happened, he had one GSW to his back and no exit wound. After Dale was beaten up he wrote a note to our son Mike, which read: Mike, I hate her, I hate her , They’re going to shoot me, and then they did. This note I’ve seen by the Montgomery County Coroners office, Dayton, Ohio, by Dr. David Smith MD. who performed his autopsy. From that day forward, everything has been changed, lies by the Homicide, Police Report was lost until May 2012. I’ve written a book called, New Year’s Eve Murder, The Un-Solved Murder of Mr. T, “Murdered by Girlfriend.”. Please someone help me I’ve worked on this for so many years and I have all the information to solve this. I think the reason it has not been solved, his girlfriend Eleanor Gilliam, was involved with Dr. James Davis MD. at the Coroners Office for 35/years and I think Eleanor killed her husband who was a Lt. Lee-Roy Gilliam on Dayton’s Police Department . My life has been threatened please help solve this murder.. 727-799-9596 if you can help me please call. Ex-wife Betty, or e-mail me:

  9. Diana Dean says:

    I would also like to see about getting help with my daughters case. She was 16 years old when she was murdered. She was a 4.0 honor roll student and in the marching band at her high school. This took place in Tulsa Oklahoma. It has been over 15 years and I feel that the county sheriff isn’t working on it hard enough. I also think we need some fresh eyes looking at the case. You may email me at or call me at 918-526-5218. I’m at that number Monday- Friday from 8:30 to 5:30.\

  10. Donna Hanley says:

    Do you take requests for future episodes? There were two teenage boys that were murdered about 15 years ago that has never been solved. Four or more individuals were murdered in association with their murders. I’m sure the boys’ families would like to find who’s responsible. You can contact me via my email address or call me at 591-993-4510.

  11. Claudine Doyle says:

    I would like to know where to submit a cold case. I had a cousin murdered by someone. The day he turned 18 he was to inherit a large amout of money. He was murdered the weekend he turned 18. I have always believed his mother had something to do with it. The case has gone unsolved and uncared about. His mother has never pushed for an investigation. This took pkace in south west Beauguard parish, La..

  12. Michele says:

    Won’t be watching this. From the commercials, these ladies look like Nancy Grace in the field. Any good they may do will no doubt be offset by BS hate and reality show drama.

More TV News from Variety