'Ironside' premiere: Does Blair Underwood remake measure up to the original?

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Image Credit: Will Hart/NBC

Too much talk and too little action is not a good thing, and that’s what we saw as NBC’s rebooted police drama Ironside premiered Wednesday night. Why? Well, it was just … boring. In the 1960s, the show was a hit starring Raymond Burr, but its new incarnation doesn’t have a good shot at connecting with a modern audience.

Starring Blair Underwood as Robert Ironside, an aggressive, sexually charged officer in the NYPD detective unit, the show depicts the life of a paraplegic officer. Due to a huge settlement with the city, he’s been given his own building and his own team but still has to report to a boss. The pilot opens up with the detective aggressively questioning a suspect involved in a kidnapping. Ironside displays a mixture of extreme cockiness and intimidation, maintaining a macho attitude in spite of his disability. You can’t blame him, though. In his line of work, he needs to establish a presence. The first episode takes us through Ironside’s dealings with his office while flashing back to moments preceding his handicap.

Although the pilot has some provocative scenes and a little bit of a twist, Ironside misses out on the main premise of the show. While the detective depicts himself as a guy who doesn’t take no mess, his behavior comes off as a bit snobbish. Underwood just touched the surface of the character, compared to the original series. During intense flashback scenes that show how Ironside ended up in a wheelchair, there’s a question as to whether Underwood really embraces his role as a paraplegic. While it’s refreshing to a see a character not defined by his limitations, perhaps it would have been better for someone actually in a wheelchair to portray the role. Even in the beginning of the series, although I knew he was paraplegic, I was skeptical of whether Underwood wanted to own it.

Also, in addition to its predictable story, it’s also very awkward. Ironside’s a cop with a disability with a strong libido? Were they trying to incorporate Shaft within the series? The lesson learned here: Not every great show is deserving of a remake. However, if the writers pull together more convincing storylines, and if Underwood can really delve into life in a chair, there might be potential for a future season — although news that Ironside is NBC’s lowest-rated fall drama debut ever doesn’t bode well.


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