‘Ironside’ fails to revive classic show for modern audiencePosted on October 2, 2013 | by Bob Teoh
In what many are calling the “Golden Age” of television, numerous shows have eclipsed films in critical and commercial reception, drawing greater attention to those working on the small screen.
However, this era has also been home to an increasing number of producers and writers resorting to remaking classic television shows to fit modern tastes. The concept is straightforward and simple — a remake would surely attract older, nostalgic audience members, while simultaneously catering to a new, younger demographic. Jumping in at the height of this trend, NBC has added a remake of the classic ’60s show “Ironside” to its lineup. While the show certainly demonstrates promise as a procedural drama, it suffers from a lack of originality.
“Ironside” is problematic not only because it is a remake of a classic police drama, but because it feels like a remake of every police drama. Other adaptations, such as CBS’s “Hawaii Five-0” successfully transfer a classic concept to a modern setting and take full advantage of both old and new aspects. Unfortunately, with stock characters like the hard-boiled, rule-bending cop, the smart but beautiful female sidekick and the overbearing chief, “Ironside” manages to force all of the genre’s clichés into a single series.
The only unique aspect of “Ironside” is that its protagonist is a paraplegic, but the show never truly explores this concept. Instead, half of the pilot is spent on an uninteresting case, while Robert Ironside’s (Blair Underwood) backstory is hastily explained through unsatisfying flashbacks.
The original “Ironside,” on the other hand, succeeded because, in addition to the case at hand, the show explored the detective’s inner and external struggles as he proved his undeniable worth to the team. This narrative focus could have easily separated the new “Ironside” from other procedural dramas, but such an element is never fully embraced in the pilot. The result is an imbalanced story that does not know how to use its protagonist.
Although “Ironside’s” writing certainly leaves plenty to be desired, the show is somewhat salvaged by an impressive cast. Leading the team as Ironside, Underwood exudes charisma and confidence while sitting in a wheelchair throughout the entire episode. Ignoring the never-ending onslaught of cheesy lines, Underwood powerfully portrays the paraplegic detective’s pain, as well as his determination to rise from above his tragic past.
Ironside’s team consists of an equally promising supporting cast. Pablo Schreiber of “Orange is the New Black” fame plays a funny and street-smart cop, and Spencer Grammer plays Ironside’s beautiful sidekick in her first major role since ABC Family’s “Greek.” Seeing Underwood interact with his team partially makes up for the show’s unoriginal premise.
The writers of “Ironside” need to take advantage of this promising cast if the show is going to avoid the chopping block. Otherwise, attracting both old and young audiences seems like a remote possibility.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Oct. 2 print edition. Bob Teoh is a staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.