Television REview

‘Ironside’ a criminally weak cop-show remake

Blair Underwood as Detective Robert Ironside (in wheelchair, with Kenneth Choi) in NBC’s reboot of the ’60s series that starred Raymond Burr.
Will Hart/NBC
Blair Underwood as Detective Robert Ironside (in wheelchair, with Kenneth Choi) in NBC’s reboot of the ’60s series that starred Raymond Burr.

There’s an opportunity folded into “Ironside,” the NBC reboot of Raymond Burr’s cop series that ran from 1967 to 1975. Television is so much more frank about disability now than it was in 1967, and viewers are also willing to find entertainment value in close-ups of psychological shifts and struggles. A cop in a wheelchair could make a faceted hero, one whose journey differs significantly from, say, the smarty-pants folks in “Law & Order,” “Numb3rs,” or the “CSI” franchise.

But the first episode of this new series, Wednesday night at 10, is just another stock network crime procedural that feels like all the other stock network procedurals that crowd network primetime. Opportunity: mostly missed. Of course the central detective is a smug but brilliant man. Of course an ensemble of smart, resourceful cops supports him. Of course he doesn’t play by the rules, because he’s always right. And of course he has a boss who is always exasperated by his contempt for legalities. The show is a TV time-killer of the most unchallenging and familiar kind, with crimes of the week that, based on the one in the pilot, will be criminally weak. It’s a thoroughly uninspired remake.

It’s the kind of crime drama where the dialogue is so hackneyed — “I told you, I don’t know no girl,” says one villain — that it all seems to have been cut and pasted together from previous series.


The only promise of entertainment comes from Blair Underwood, who brings some slight layering to the role of Detective Robert Ironside. The script delivers the kind of arrogant genius who is always a few steps ahead of his colleagues and the bad guys. There are nods to the challenges of being in a wheelchair, but they are obligatory and overdone. Underwood handles them well, though, and his caustic affect enriches his character a bit. We can tell there’s gnawing pain underneath his gruffness, especially when his former partner, played effectively by Brent Sexton of “The Killing,” feels sorry for himself for letting Ironside get hurt. In flashbacks, we get a sense of the incident that put Ironside in a wheelchair, a back story that will likely unfold as a back story for as long as the show is on the air.

Also wasted here, along with Underwood, is Pablo Schreiber, who has had a lot more distinction on “The Wire” and, recently, on “Orange Is the New Black,” as the guard nicknamed Pornstache. Here he’s just a generic tough guy sideman. I have a feeling he won’t be caught up in this blandness for much longer.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at