Blair Underwood makes an inauspicious return to series television in an updated version of IRONSIDE, a series that originally aired on NBC from 1967 to 1975. This re-vamp will be lucky if it sees the end of 2014. It’s an overly chatty snoozer that makes for a great drinking game: take a shot every time you look at your watch out of boredom. You’ll be passed out long before the pilot drags itself over the finish line.
Aside from loving the iconic opening theme (which they don’t even bother resurrecting here), I wasn’t a devotee of the original IRONSIDE. Still, the show is a classic and it’s hard to argue with the force of nature that was the late, great Raymond Burr. Underwood steps into the title role and, sadly, doesn’t do a whole heck of a lot with it. I’ve been a big fan of his over the years but even he looks bored here. He’s also got a producer credit so it’s hard to give him a pass.
Underwood’s partner in crime is Peter Horton, who directed the pilot. The THIRTYSOMETHING alum has never been one of my favorites in front of or behind the camera. With few exceptions, he does a lot of middling, unremarkable television. Horton also directed the pilot for DECEPTION, a series that tanked last year on NBC. Apparently misery loves company at the Comcast-owned Peacock Network so they brought him back for another try at ye olde series trough.
IRONSIDE is a cop show that is short on crime and way long on speechifying. It’s over-stuffed with chunky dialogue that sounds like a brain dump from minds of writers who cut their teeth on soaps and CBS crime procedurals. Nothing rings true, nothing sparkles and there is shockingly little forward momentum through a bare bones murder/suicide plot.
As the A story limps along, we get the slow build to how Ironside ended up in his wheelchair, parsed out through a series of flashbacks. You know they’re flashbacks because there’s that little flash transition effect (like you see in a lot of student films) and the color gets all desaturated. Oooh, artsy!
When we finally arrive at the moment of truth, it’s as flaccid and uneventful as everything that came before. Ironside was shot by a bad guy in a chase gone wrong. That’s it. Why all the lead up to the most pedestrian and predictable of outcomes? Beats me. What could have been accomplished with a couple of lines of dialogue (heck, there’s enough of it already) ends up filling out more than half of the pilot hour. Of course, without it, we’d have a pretty slim episode to watch. Too bad. Less might have been more in this case.
The rest of the cast is filled out by a bunch of actors who recite dialogue, pose and occasionally chase a bad guy for a bit. It’s one of those police shows where you don’t believe, even for a second, that any of these people are really in law enforcement. Maybe it’s because they violate just about every basic tenant of proper police procedure. Maybe it’s because these NYPD detectives are housed in an office loft that is ridiculously upscale. Maybe it’s because most of the acting is on the level of what we see from the mannequin-esque Spencer Grammer, Kelsey’s daughter (who better thank her lucky stars for her famous last name). No matter the reason, 21 JUMP STREET had more gravitas and realism.
IRONSIDE is THAT kind of show. Unrealistic in the laziest of ways and unforgivably silly because it doesn’t even try to raise it’s own low bar with so much as a pinch of humor, charm or self-effacing fun.
IRONSIDE debuts October 2 and airs Wednesdays at 10PM E/P on NBC.
RONTHINK GRADE: D