Aired on: NBC
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When I was a kid, I used to watch reruns of a television series starring Raymond Burr called Ironside. The series, running on NBC from 1967 to 1975, featured a former San Francisco Police Department Chief of Detectives, now a paraplegic, who worked as a consultant for SFPD helping to solve homicides. I really enjoyed that series, so when I discovered that a remake of Ironside was coming to NBC this fall, I was worried. Would Blair Underwood be as effective as Raymond Burr in this role? When I was offered the opportunity to watch the premiere episode before its airing date of October 2, 2013, I jumped at the chance.
In the original Ironside, Robert Ironside was a Chief of Detectives when a sniper bullet caused him to become a paraplegic. In this new version of Ironside, Robert is a detective who becomes a paraplegic through an incident of friendly fire. How this takes place is the subject of numerous flashbacks throughout the pilot episode. Unlike the original, Underwood’s Ironside was not offered a consultant’s job after his injury. He, in fact, had to sue to get a job as lead detective of a handpicked team, but he is out to prove he is just as capable in a wheelchair as he was before his injury.
In the pilot episode, a woman is found dead in front of a financial institution and everyone believes she has committed suicide by jumping off of the roof. And yet, Detective Ironside sees something more to this death. He and his team uncover a money laundering scheme that involves an Albanian prostitution ring, some scandalous dealings with investors and some missing millions. Things all come to a head when dead girl’s sister takes matters into her own hands. How does Ironside handle that? Unconventionally, of course – just the way you wish you could in the real world without consequences.
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the new Ironside due to the decision to have Blair Underwood portray Robert Ironside. Detractors of the series are angry that a disabled person was not chosen for the role. While I understand where these folks are coming from, I still see Ironside as a having a positive message for the disabled, proving that an individual with a disability can do amazing things given the opportunity. It was one of the reasons I enjoyed Birds of Prey so much with the crime fighting Barbara Gordon who, though confined to a wheelchair, was able to find another way to fight crime. And besides, Blair Underwood is one helluva good actor who brings dignity, sexiness and a dramatic flare to the role.
As for the show itself, I loved the drama and enjoyed the unconventional way Ironside does his job. This is Hunter in a wheelchair. The chair doesn’t stop him from hitting the bad guys hard and getting results. It just gives him, to quote the character, “a different perspective on things from down here.” I loved the way the writers decided to reveal what happened to Ironside to make him a paraplegic and I get the feeling that Ironside and his former partner are not the only detectives with secrets to be revealed in this series.
Bottom line: I really enjoyed the new Ironside and can definitely add this one to my must watch list. I’ll be seated in front of the television every Wednesday at 10pm EST to watch Ironside on NBC this year.