Monday, March 31, 2008

"Cold Case" features deaf actors, storyline

CBS' "Cold Case" delved into the world of hearing-deaf relationships and cochlear implants in its March 30 episode, "Andy in C Minor."

The plot revolved around a deaf student missing from a school for the deaf for two years. When his blood is found on a piano at the school, the "Cold Case" detectives look into his disappearance.

Unfortunately, a lot of the deaf actors haven't made it onto yet, so if anyone can tell me the name of the young man who played Andy, the missing deaf teen, I would appreciate it. The deaf actors I do know who made it onto the show as main characters were Shoshannah Stern (pictured above) as the jealous girlfriend of Andy's and Bob Hilterman as Andy's father. DeafCasting's blog says that Sheena Feeley and Lisa Hermatz were also on the show, but they don't have imdb entries that I can find. And several of the hearing actors learned to sign or already knew American Sign Language (ASL) for their roles.

The episode tried to provide lots of information about the deaf community and ASL to those who might know little about them. They had crotchety Detective Vera (played by Jeremy Ratchford) voice all the skepticism and ignorance about deaf people and sign language, but this character usually recognizes his ignorance and does something about it -- learning some ASL in this episode so he can interview suspects.

The plot revolved around conflicts within the deaf community about the cochlear implant, but in true "Cold Case" fashion, that isn't revealed until it's clear that the motive for the crime wasn't a hearing-deaf romantic liaison. During that part of the episode, much of the interviewing of suspects also discusses Deaf culture and deaf people who identify with it. (But I think they over-sensationalized the supposed conflicts about cochlear implants within the deaf community. I blogged about this last month, and explained that back in 2000 the National Association of the Deaf came out in favor of cochlear implants.)

The show did a good job of integrating sign language into the episode and shot many of the scenes wide enough so that most of the sign language was visible in the scenes. (That's a pet peeve of mine when shows feature a deaf actor signing and then crop their hands out of the shot. Not nice!)

I thought the show tried to get into some depth about some deaf community topics like cochlear implants, but the show went too far in ratcheting up the drama, although it did discuss some sides of the controversy as the plot moved forward. One quibble I had was when the "Cold Case" detectives used someone who might have been a suspect as an interpreter to interview another suspect, who ended up being the killer. Surely, the Philadelphia police (where "Cold Case" is supposedly set) can hire an interpreter, because using a suspect as a sign language interpreter seems like bad form.

In solving the disappearance and murder of Andy, a theme about music also emerged, and it was handled fairly well (none of that "deaf people can't enjoy music" stuff.) In fact, the episode began with the deaf kids partying and dancing at the school dorm after hours. But I think my favorite part (albeit a gruesome one) was the murder weapon used to kill Andy -- a metronome! That's got to be the most unique murder weapon ever.