TNT‘s new show, Cold Justice, has a reality show summary that makes you wonder how it hasn’t been a show already. With Cops and America’s Most Wanted hitting so early in the reality game, and managing popularity for decades, how did we avoid a team investigating cases for so long?
Yolanda McClary and Kelly Siegler have the resumes to justify their positions on the show, but carrying a show week after week (read: being charismatic enough and “watchable” enough to get people to want to watch your show, whatever it might be about) is a different question altogether, and I’m not convinced this is the pair to make it happen.
As you might imagine, Cold Justice gives us a long-time prosecutor and a very experienced crime scene investigator, and they travel the country taking on cold cases. We walk along with them as they put together theories, examine evidence, and hope to pick new holes in stories, or turn up something that’s been overlooked.
It’s a theory that is rather dear to my heart in its own special way. If we have to throw an endless stream of reality television at the American public, the dollars behind the show might as well serve some purpose. Yolanda and Kelly are mostly headed to pretty small towns, and these are places, much as you might not like to imagine this is the way the world works, that just don’t have the manpower to worry cases as long as necessary like a dog with a bone.
As a viewer, there are only so many variables here, and ultimately not that much room between the promo reel and the final verdict. We’re going to get the case rundown in much the way that we’re familiar with seeing from a lot of other shows that are simply a display of cases. After that, it’s who are the people we’re watching, and how engaging are they as we watch them go over their theories of what happened, and how they can work through whatever difficulties surround the events.
That translates into an initial viewership that is pretty easy to predict, and means very little. As I said, you’ve got to respect Yolanda and Kelly’s credentials, but I’m not sure people want to watch them. They’re dry and coarse, and have a tendency to say fairly obvious things as though they just invented the wheel. A fair number may well put up with anyone to get through the stories, but I wonder how big that number is.
We have a similar, and possibly more important, concern when it comes to the show’s overall ability to suck in viewers – especially after the first episode – and that is the detail and complexity of the cases. For the show to hook people, at least in my opinion, we have to see our examiners “do something.” That is, manage some relevant accomplishment by putting in their effort. As the case of Pamela Curlee Shelly played last night, the main point that seemed to come through the screen was only questioning what idiot thought this was a suicide in the first place. That isn’t going to sell tickets.
What viewers are after, and believe they are being offered, is a crack team that can dig through cases and uncover the truth, not cases that the viewing audience feels they could have solved themselves. There comes a point where you’re delivering a general idea that maybe these cases are “unsolved” because no one tried at all. Is that engrossing television? We’ll see after the second episode when a key piece of evidence is found just sitting there at the crime scene seven years later.
I have to admit that I’ll be tuning in to Cold Justice (for now), but the show has a lot of hurdles. You’d like to think that people would tune in just to support the show, purely so that more cold cases can be solved, and the fact that the only charm or likability come from the investigators who aren’t our focal women wouldn’t matter. You’d also like to think that the first two episodes, and the fact that they seem better suited to a show called “Really? No One Solved This?” wouldn’t turn people away either.
But, audiences are a fickle bunch. Getting people to watch you on television is not a game everyone can play, and being impressed as an audience is a lot more compelling than being baffled by previous incompetence.
Cold Justice Episode 2 Preview