What happened to Ironside…?


So what really happened to “Ironside”?

At this point all I can discern from Google is that the show was canceled after four episodes – the first three of which I viewed – and will now be replaced by Dateline and some other filler until the end of the year when I guess NBC will try again to give the people what they want. Whatever that is. Dismal ratings were cited as the reason for cancellation, which I suppose should tie everything up in a nice tidy bow. But I confess I would have liked to get at least a few sentences from somewhere about what went wrong with what seemed like an idea that could have worked for at least a season if given a chance to breathe. No, it wasn’t a great show (most of those are on HBO, Showtime, AMC, etc), but it was easily as good as just about any other cop drama I’ve seen on network TV, if not better.

Let’s start with the basics; You had a good-looking black guy, Blair Underwood, as the lead. He was paired with an equally good-looking blonde (Spencer Grammer, daughter of actor Kelsey Grammer) as his partner, which seems to be quite the fashion these days. Either that or a black guy and a white guy. Or a black woman and a white guy. Name me a crime drama that has a strong black male lead  partnered with a good-looking black female, right? Or how about two black guys as partners on a crime drama? Or how about two black women, kind of a darker shade of Rizzoli and Isles? Or how about…


Underwood is a very good actor who knows how to command your attention while on screen, and he put those abilities to good use here. His character was tough, funny, and streetwise hip, which is a  trait that so many shows seem to simply love when it comes to crime dramas. Now add in the wheelchair, the signature prop from the original Ironside TV smash hit, and you have what should set it apart from the perpetually congested traffic lane of TV crime dramas. The fact that this was a remake/update of an earlier hit was supposed to give the show a bit of a familiarity boost to get it launched in the ratings, possibly cashing in on fans of the earlier drama.

But my guess is this may be where some of the miscalculation began, because if there really was any expectation of some carryover from the old fan base, then I suspect that was a huge mistake. I used to watch the original Ironside as a kid when it ran from 1967-75 with Raymond Burr as the lead. Burr already had serious star power when he joined that show coming in as the former Perry Mason, one of the classic TV courtroom dramas of all time. The likelihood that fans of Raymond Burr, an overweight white guy who carried himself with serious gravitas, would somehow find themselves similarly entranced by Blair Underwood, cast as the streetwise hip black cop who has his way with the ladies of all sizes, shapes and colors, doesn’t seem like a fit. Then there was the controversy over the fact that Underwood wasn’t really handicapped and that he therefore should not have been cast as one. The studio responded that Ironside had continual flashbacks to his life when he was still able to walk before a tragic shooting accident, which justified the pick of Underwood. My justification would have been that this is about acting, and as sympathetic as I am to the argument that more meaningful roles should be made available to handicapped actors, that shouldn’t mean that every time a role comes up calling for a handicapped role it should automatically be filled by a handicapped person. Maybe Blair Underwood was just the right person for this role.

So what’s next..?



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Writer and musician.


Gregory Wonderwheel

2013-11-26 14:57:47 Reply

At least seven episodes were made. It was a great show. Probably too gritty and realistic for the NBC producers and audience who seem to prefer flash and glam. The production values and ambiance just seem to be out of step with the times. It is more like Hill Street Blues or NYPD and Homicide in style and flavor which don’t seem in vogue anymore with the likes of CSI.

    Gregory Wonderwheel

    2013-11-26 15:01:57 Reply

    P.S. I forgot to mention that I am an “overweight white guy” who grew up watching Perry Mason and later followed Burr’s Ironside, and I found this new version to be just as good as the original and better in some ways.


    2013-11-26 16:05:14 Reply

    Thanks much for your comments Gregory! Appreciate your thoughts. And I definitely agree it was a show that should not have been cancelled.


2016-05-11 20:14:05 Reply

Thank you for your forum.Really thank you! Awesome. Delmedico

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