Cold Justice: Tuesday Nights at 10p.m. On TNT
It seems like one of the trends that is starting to gain steam (at least on basic cable) is the proliferation of reality content on networks that up to this point had hung their hat on scripted series. Just this year alone, we’ve seen USA pick up Summer Camp, TBS debut it’s reality series King of the Nerds, and AMC trot out Owner’s Manual. One of the most pronounced shifts towards reality TV, however, has to be TNT, which went from being exclusively devoted to dramas (hence the tagline: We know drama) to unleashing both the Dwayne Johnson vehicle The Hero, as well as tonight’s offering, Cold Justice.
Cold Justice, comes from the brain of Law and Order mastermind Dick Wolf, and unsurprisingly, takes a similar tack to the iconic series. Former crime investigator Yolanda McClary and prosecutor Kelly Siegel travel around the country digging up unresolved cold cases (cases that have been dormant for years) in the hopes of bringing justice to the families of murder victims. The cases themselves range from about five to thirty years old and span from Ohio to Arizona.
So is the real life Law and Order as compelling as it’s drama counterpart? The answer to that question is the most emphatic of nos. While I laud the work that McClary and Siegel do, it’s very clear that the same factors that make them great at solving cases make them incredibly weak TV personalities. Both of them speak with the same clinical monotone, and neither shows a hint of personality at any point (even during their own introductions). This nondescript matter-of-factness extends to the narrator, who speaks in the same exact Ben Stein-like tone.
Similarly, the show relies on a very bland visual palate. The bulk of the show seems to take place in the same one office room, with white walls, white tables, and papers huddled all around. The closest the show does give to a solid visualization is a quick scene involving a turned shoulder in the dingy trailer bathroom that is the scene of the crime. However, the show seems perfectly content to tell (which as mentioned above with the leads– not so much the show’s strength) when it could show, something even most low budget true crime shows manage to find space for in the hour (even a cheesy re-enactment or lazy CGI modeling would do). When it does use visual effects, it mostly comes in the form of a nauseating (and unnecessary) 3-D effect to make words and still photos look like they were literally ripped forward out of the photo and/or page they came from.
To the shows credit, Wolf creates a very realistic depiction of the criminal investigation process. Unfortunately, since the criminal justice process involves a heavy amount of fairly mundane tasks, Cold Justice doesn’t seem to possess any of the interesting qualities that turn procedurals into hits and make the fine people at CBS lots of money. This would be fine if it built to any sort of confrontation, but the shows potential big moments (the interrogations, the DNA results, the big sell to the DA) ultimately fizzle out, thus making for a completely drama free and remarkably unexciting hour of watching people sit in an office and sputter the same points over and over again.
The Final Verdict (no pun intended this time around): Cold Justice is a bland pastiche that quite frankly had me ticking down the minutes to the end of the show. While there have been shows in the past that have offended my sensibilities (LA Shrinks), made me question the logic of the producers (Blood and Oil), and have been comically incompetent (Cult and Zero Hour), this is the first show that I found boring enough that I had to force myself to keep watching it. Skip at all costs and watch grass grow, it will be more entertaining.