CBS may put 'Cold Case' in deep freeze

Sunday, February 14, 2010 at 11:45pm

From the time it debuted in 2003 the Jerry Bruckheimer procedural drama Cold Case has been a solid performer for CBS on Sunday nights — though perhaps not hot enough to garner more than another season.

The show about a squad that tackles old cases deemed "cold" in homicide parlance has proven a showcase for two things: period piece clothing and vintage songs. The program uses music to pace storylines and bolster settings better than any other on network or cable, and has frequently done themed episodes tying a case to the work of particular artists.

Unfortunately, in this era of cost containment, Cold Case's licensing fees make it one of the most expensive productions around. Plus by nature of its lengthy existence, its top stars now earn generous weekly salaries, and the show skews older with each season.

Last year it narrowly escaped cancellation, with CBS opting instead to terminate Without A Trace, a decision that rankled many fans and still seems questionable. In addition, with Cold Case now in syndication on independent and network affiliate stations and airing weekdays on TNT, the feeling persists that CBS will bid it farewell at the end of the year to introduce some new material on Sundays.

So, if this is the last season, Cold Case is going out in style. Sunday night's program at 9 takes viewers back to 1971, with a case that involves an unsolved murder at a rundown circus. It was co-written by co-star Danny Pino and uses music from The Doors to accompany the action. The relationship between Pino's Richie Valens and main star Kathryn Morris also might undergo some changes as the season winds down.

Bruckheimer's stable may be losing another program as well.

Ratings for his newest drama The Forgotten, which stars Christian Slater as the head of a volunteer crew that discovers the identities of unknown murder victim, has never attracted much of an audience during its first-year run. Tuesday's episode ( at 9 p.m.) focuses on a derailment and whether one of the victims was killed before or during the accident.

With all three CSI programs sure bets for renewal and other shows in various stages of development plus several feature films on tap over the next few years, the Bruckheimer combine remains among Hollywood's most prolific. His studio has been dominant in network circles over the last decade, and Cold Case was among the shows that helped cement his fame and reputation.