Since its breakthrough in the early 1990s, Pearl Jam has played by its own rules -- selectively making music videos and generally avoiding other staples of star-making machinery.
But this Sunday, Eddie Vedder and his bandmates are singing a different tune in the most unlikely of showcases -- an aging CBS crime procedural that is widely acknowledged to be fighting for its life.
The earthy grunge of Pearl Jam, including several songs from its newly reissued debut album “Ten,” is featured in the season finale of “Cold Case.” The episode -- the second of a two-part installment that started last week -- marks the first time the band has allowed any of its original music to be used in a TV show.
Although “Cold Case,” which revolves around Philadelphia detectives who investigate unsolved murders, has previously showcased other top artists, including Bruce Springsteen, U2, Bob Dylan and Frank Sinatra as soundtrack music that reflects the time period of the crime, the participation of Pearl Jam represents a coup for the series.
“They had never granted the use of their library to anyone,” said executive producer Jennifer Johnson. But “they opened up their whole catalog to us. We wanted to make sure every song matched what was going on.”
The season finale of “Cold Case” centers on the 2005 murder of a local military academy’s first female cadet. The case resonates for the show’s lead detective, Lilly Rush (Kathryn Morris), who was the first female homicide detective in the department.
In all, 16 of Pearl Jam’s songs will play across the two episodes and enable the band to reach not only the show’s younger fans, but also older viewers of the series.
But the band is handling its prime-time debut with its typical evasiveness and would not return phone calls seeking comment.
The producers are hoping the mash-up will give a boost to their show, now in its sixth season and on the bubble for renewal. Last week’s episode drew almost 13 million viewers, its largest audience in six weeks.
Even though Pearl Jam is not as radio-friendly as other artists featured on “Cold Case,” executive producer Greg Plageman believes the band meshes with the drama.
“They’ve been an enduring band since 1990, and that’s saying something these days,” Plageman said. “They’re also a band of integrity. When you hear Pearl Jam, you know it’s important music.”