This blog series is my take on various TV shows that I don't watch on a regular basis. I review just one episode, and will most likely not do so based on context or series "mythology." What you are about to read is rather shortsighted, often biased, and probably loopy. Please do not be offended if I diss your all-time favorite TV show at one point, or if I adore the ones you hate.
One of the things that draws me to a TV show or movie is the soundtrack. Back in the old cassette tape days, I would splurge my saved allowance, and later, my salary, on soundtracks of the movies I liked. I still have the warbly tapes of Lethal Weapon 1 & 2, Top Gun, Vision Quest, My Girl, A League of their Own...(rummages through the the tapes in the box)...aha! Jesus Chrust, Superstar, Grease, and Big Themes from the Big Films (Superman, Star Wars, E.T....). A couple of years ago, I lovingly presented a former student and friend, Tin-Tin, with what should now be a vintage cassete tape of the Pretty in Pink soundtrack (Tin, I hope, wherever you are, you're still grooving to OMD's If You Leave).
I sat down to watch Cold Case because I was drawn to the grunge music coming off the screen, accompanying four high school students in detention (Later that night, I dug into the box of cassettes once more, this time, finding Pearl Jam's Ten and Nirvana's Never Mind. I slept at 2am).I smelled dreary teen spirit coming, and I was curious. After all, that was what attracted me to grunge circa 1993-1996ish. I was a wee bit past my teens, but I was still--umm--finding myself--career-wise, I was a copywriter for an ad agency in '93, and raspy guitar riffs and throaty vocals were in the air. I resisted the urge to wear plaid. But I couldn't resist the music.
Back to Cold Case: Trevor Dawson, the center of the story, and the victim, comes across in flashbacks as a soulful, depressed young man, secretly going out with Dawn Hill, a preppy African-American. Two other miscreants whose names I forget are part of this conspiracy to kill dawn's stepfather for molesting her. In the end, stepdad gets to live, and Trevor is dead. the case was marked suicide for 14 years, until new evidence--half of a note that casts doubts on the suicide angle--emerges, and the cold case is hot again. It turns out that Trevor and the other guy were seriously arguing about backing out of the kill-stepdad plot--on the rooftop of the school. The other guy went all angsty, wanting to kill himself for being worthless, and Trevor tried to reason with him. On the precipice, the two struggle, and it was Trevor who plunged to his death. Involuntary manslaughter for the other guy, 14 years after the incident.
My heart goes out to Trevor, so caught up in raw, teenage feelings of loss (Kurt Cobain just died), first love, disillusionment, and minutes before his death--hope. "I just want to love somebody. I just want--life things", he says passionately to the other guy who was clearly losing it. the other four teens, and the adults they've become 14 years later, are some of the best ensemble guest actors I've seen on TV. The detectives who reopened the case, or the actors who played them, may have their names on the opening credits, but I don't even remember them now, much less the investigative process they followed to solve the mystery. I recall watching two other episodes of the show, months back, and the same formula was at work. The guest actors, particularly the murder victims whose fates rotted away in sterile boxes in some stockroom in the police department, carried the show and held it aloft.
The soundtrack, as I first pointed out, was an eerie commentary on the decade in which the events took place: the mid-90's. Smashing Pumpkins' "Today" played in the background while Trevor and Dawn were pouring their hearts out over the phone. STP's "Vasoline" blared in the scene where the two boys break into Dawn's house. Smashing Pumpkins again--"Landslide" serenaded Dawn and the other girl in detention, as they laid flowers on the spot where Trevor died. The music, the story, the characters simply melded together and left me with a lingering refrain.