Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cold Case - Detroit

Jonathan Storm had a nice commentary in the Inquirer about ABC's new cop drama, Detroit 1-8-7. I'm not crazy about cop shows. Many tend to be formulaic and predictable. I got caught up in a Law & Order SVU marathon one night and by the fifth episode I started noticing a pattern.

It wasn't until Cold Case that I realized that the environment can make or break these shows for a lot of viewers who would otherwise reach the remote.
Cold Case, set in a gloomy Philadelphia, focused on forgotten and unsolved cases spanning the century. Often tapping into our city's racially divided mid-century caste system, fugitives were brought to justice amidst the backdrop of nostalgic Motown music.

Cold Case not only struck a chord by clashing cultures, it clashed decades and eras.

As the show's popularity declined and the city was unable to offer the producers the tax breaks they had previously enjoyed, filming was moved to Vancouver, BC. Occasional stock footage of Philadelphia would be shown, but the environment that made Cold Case so moving for so many was gone.

A backdrop of steam towers and oil refineries was replaced with the vast rainy sky of the Pacific Northwest. No matter how they tried to sell the location, the last ghost to say goodbye to Lilly was Philadelphia.

Detroit's abandoned Michigan Central Station

Detroit 1-8-7 wins over its viewers the same way. Although it deals in the present and draws attention to the criminal realities of a forgotten city, like Cold Case, it romanticizes the blight of its host. More than just a cop drama selling the precinct and the court room, it tugs at your heartstrings through the lives of the victims and the ruins of Detroit's former glory.

100 Abandoned Houses - a great photographic journey through Detroit's abandoned residential streets.


Brush Park, Detroit in the early 1900's

Brush Park more recently.*

*It should be noted that many of Brush Park's stately mansions, even those that had fallen into complete disrepair, have been restored and/or converted into apartments.

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