A&E’s latest contribution to the burgeoning True Crime genre of documentary shows is a fresh take on an old favorite for many. The Bill Kurtis-helmed Cold Case Files originally ran for seven years, generated a syndication-worthy 125 episodes, and garnered a handful of Emmy nominations and wins. The show’s methodical examination of infamous unsolved murders and emphasis on forensic science and detectivework earned it praise from both television critics and law enforcement officers; it’s been said that the show is even used as introductory training for new detectives.
However, because of unforeseen problems with copyright and distribution rights, the original run never went into syndication, and the franchise has been dormant since 2006. So the recent announcement that A&E is rebooting Cold Case Files has largely been met with enthusiasm. But, because the original show is considered a landmark of the genre, and reality-styled shows of all sorts have become the norm since it went off the air, the biggest question hanging over the reboot is one of quality: How real is Cold Case Files?
Initial coverage indicates that fans of the original, as well as devoteés of serious crime and police documentaries can rest easy. For one thing, though Bill Kurtis is no longer narrating Cold Case Files, the show’s new producers have signed Danny Glover to do the job. For another, it’s clear the network values the franchise, and is well devoted to taking is seriously. Upon news of the reboot, Elaine Frontain Bryant, A&E’s head of programming, was jubilant: “Cold Case Files remains one of A&E’s most beloved and successful series of all time,” she told Hollywood Reporter. “The new creative team has infused the franchise with a rejuvenated approach to storytelling at a time when true crime investigation is capturing the nation’s attention more than ever.”
Plus, as HR’s article notes, Cold Case Files‘ reboot is being co-produced by Blumhouse Productions, which is best-known to fans of the genre for HBO’s recent true crime miniseries The Jinx (a double Peabody Award-winner). Blumhouse has also produced several mainstream movies, including Paranormal Activity and Whiplash.
And early reviews of the reboot’s first episodes appear to be positive. Previously.tv notes that the show can veer toward the “melodramatic,” and points to the over-the-top narration featured in the first teasers. But the show itself looks “expensive” and “considered,” and as long as the focus stays on actual cold cases, it should be fine.
Indeed, while the first episode is devoted to the 1992 murder of Shauna Howe–which did go unsolved for some time, until arrests were made in 2002–it looks like future episodes will veer back toward mystery. The Christmas Eve murders of Ed and Minnie Maurin are the focus of an upcoming feature; local reporting quoted a county sheriff who observed that the producers were quite thorough. “I know they’ve been out about three different times,” according to Bruce Kimsey, the field operations chief for the Lewis County (WA) Sheriff’s department. “They’ve interviewed myself, the prosecutor Jonathan Meyer, the senior deputy prosecutor William Halstead, a couple of retired detectives and several family members.”
And Shawna Foster, a producer on the show, let her enthusiasm shine through. “This is a revamped, better-than-ever version,” she said, adding that show’s “the reenactments” are intended to “[make] it all more movie-style.”
The rebooted Cold Case Files airs Monday nights at 9 on A&E.
(Photo credits: How real is Cold Case Files via A&E)