Look, I love Blair Underwood as much as the next girl (and I know there’s a lot of us). But I also know that any time you try to remake a classic TV show, those are going to be pretty big shoes to fill. Especially if they’re Raymond Burr’s shoes.
I watched the first episode of the new “Ironside” with Underwood in the title role as Robert T. Ironside, a tough, sexy and acerbic police detective relegated to a wheelchair after a shooting left him paralyzed (but some parts still work down there, as we learn when a sexy sleepover straddles him while he’s still in the wheelchair).
Ironside is hardly limited by his disability work-wise either; he pushes and prods his hand-picked team to solve the most difficult cases. It helps that he sees things at a different level than the rest of us – literally.
All of that is good, but the writing on this show could use some help. Some scenes had me wondering if I was watching an “SNL” skit rather than a crime drama. Like for example, at a crime scene, Ironside finds a gun underneath the cushion of a couch. A cohort asks, “How the hell did you see that?” To which Ironside replies, “I’ve got a different view of the world down here.”
Well, if a swarm of cops can’t find a gun under a cushion, there’s something seriously wrong with their training system!
But there are good things too. In the first scene, we see Ironside in the back of a car grilling a guy: “Where’s the girl?!” Over and over. When the guy doesn’t answer, Ironside punches him in the face. Which is sort of awesome. It reminds me of Matt Dillon on “Gunsmoke” – he is so not afraid to beat up the bad guys if the situation calls for it.
But Ironside keeps after the guy, who finally gives up a license plate number – RST317. When another cop rails on Ironside for abusing the suspect’s rights, and the girl is found in the trunk of a nearby car with that license plate number, Ironside looks at him and says something to the effect of, “What’s that you were saying?” We get it. He’s a badass.
Underwood is also a producer on the show, with TV vet Peter Horton on as executive producer. And I love the supporting cast: Kenneth Choi (Henry on “Sons of Anarchy”), Brent Sexton (Stan Larson on “The Killing”), Pablo Schreiber (George on “Orange is the New Black”), Spencer Grammer (“Greek”; she’s got her dad Kelsey’s chin) and Neal Bledsoe (John on “Smash”).
Ironside, who issues orders to his underlings with Olivia Pope-like precision, coaches a hockey team in his off hours. And the pilot offers some flashbacks as to how he got into that wheelchair in the first place. In the current story, a girl is presumed to have either jumped or been tossed off a roof to her death. Ironside flashes back to a time when HE was holding a suspect off the roof to get him to give up info.
More on the night he was paralyzed: his partner Gary ends up in prison and is still battling demons like alcohol, etc. “I swear to god, Bobby, sometimes I wish it was me in that chair.” Of course, Ironside tells him to buck up and stop crying. “How the hell are you handling it so well?” asks Gary. “I don’t have a choice,” replies Ironside.
The whole thing is a bit cliche. And I’m with Ironside on this one. It’s been two years, Gary! Take a cue from the guy who’s actually paralyzed! And at the end of the pilot, Gary is indeed in a support group, as Ironside looks on from the doorway. Ok, that’s good.
But we learn that Ironside isn’t handling it all that well either, when he goes home and has a little meltdown of his own. I’m sure he’s still working through some stuff.
“Ironside” isn’t a bad show. Maybe it’ll find its legs in the next few episodes. Are you watching? What are your thoughts? It airs Wednesday at 10/9c on NBC.