Blair Underwood Reboot of Raymond Burr's 'Ironside' Is Anything but Old-Fashioned
Raymond Burr and Blair Underwood
If you're worried that Blair Underwood's new NBC crime drama is going to be a boring rehash of the cop series from the '60s and '70s starring Raymond Burr as the titular wheelchair-bound detective, you can exhale. Sure, they are both policemen who sometimes play by their own rules to make sure that justice is served, they were both felled by a bullet, and both lead a hand-picked team of specialists to solve the big cases.
But Ironside 2.0 is a quick, lean, mean crime-fighting machine despite his disability. He's tattooed, tough, and toned. Let's be honest — Burr was a fantastic actor, but there's no competition in terms of which leading man you'd rather see with nothing but his handcuffs on. Also, he's rolling in New York instead of San Francisco. The makeup of his underlings — Spencer Grammer ("Greek"), Neal Bledsoe ("Smash"), and a pornstache-less Pablo Schreiber ("Orange Is the New Black") — is different.
The way in which Ironside was crippled is also different; and in the long run, the new backstory will provide a wider variety of plot angles and demands more emotional depth and range than was needed from his earlier counterpart. Burr suffered at the hands of a sniper, whereas Underwood was wounded by either a bad guy or his partner (Brent Sexton, "The Killing") in a dark alley. For his part, Sexton is an emotional wreck of uncertainty; it's affecting his day-to-day life tremendously, which in turn is crushing Underwood, who is already battling his own giant case of "Why me?" and it culminates in one not-to-be-missed electric blowup.
The premeire episode introduces the whole team but focuses on establishing Ironside first through well-parsed crime-of-the-week moments and flashbacks to the prechair era. As Ironside pieces together the events of the present-day case — including weird rich-guy sex parties, photo blackmail, and the Wall Street crisis — that came together to send an up-and-coming investment banker off the roof while dressed to the nines, viewers are introduced to his tactics, which aren't always up to police code, and start to see how his accident may have made him a better, more empathetic boss. It is also clear that Ironside, while emotionally and physically damaged, is still firing on all pistons in the bedroom department. He even picks up a possible love interest while questioning her in conjunction with the jumper.