DVD Review: Ironside seasons 1 & 2.

Ironside is a show that evokes a few thoughts immediately. The piercing opening sounds of the theme song by Quincy Jones, the silhouette of Ironside getting shot and of course Raymond Burr in a wheelchair. My own memories of this show also included a really cool place to live and a team of people helping him out who always seemed to have fun. The reality is my memory was a bit off, hell, I was only four years old when it premiered. But now pleasantly set in my forties I watch this show with adult eyes and what I see is a great television show.

Ironside was the first TV show to film and air a pilot movie. The pilot introduces us to Robert T Ironside of the San Francisco Police. He’s the Chief of detectives and he’s all cop. His boss convinces him to take some time off and while on a farm in the country he gets shot in the back. He soon learns that he is paralyzed from the waist down and will never walk again. Ironside see this as an inconvenience and wants back on the job. Politics being what they are he can’t come back, at least not under the same circumstances. He makes an arrangement to work as consultant and he moves into empty office space upstairs at the main police station. Working with him he has two officers that he trained as detectives, Sgt. Ed Brown played by Don Galloway in what would turn out to be his biggest role, and Eve Whitfield played by Barbara Anderson. Anderson won an Emmy for her role but left the show over contract disputes. The third part of Ironside’s trio of crime solving terror was Mark Sanger portrayed by Don Mitchell. Mark was not a cop, but actually an ex juvenile delinquent that Ironside hires to help him, driving, cooking, and bodyguard and valet type services. Ironside made Mark promise one thing before he took the job, that he would finish school.( In the last season Mark graduates Law school ).

The late sixties was an interesting time to do a cop show, even one that was a little different. There was distrust among the public and things weren’t as black and white as they used to be. The show embraced the times. While some of the shows may seem a bit dated with the hippies and black power themes the message is still a good one. You can’t judge people as a whole. And anyone who thought Ironside was just another cop had a big surprise coming. He helped the underdogs, he stood on the right side of every moral issue, and all the while being true to the one thing he believed in, justice. While Ironside was doing good things, he still came across as a curmudgeon at times, he has some of the snarkiest lines I’ve heard on TV. But at the end of the day, he was always fair, to everyone.

Production wise the show is a mix of studio back lots which may be reused a bit too often and lots of exterior shots of San Francisco. In one episode we are in a hip Jazz club and in the next the same set is run down bar. That’s ok, the panning shots of the city and the location shooting more than made up for it.

Ironside had two other real strengths, the writing and the guest stars. Such mystery greats as Ed McBain and Brett Halliday wrote for the show along with some of Hollywood’s best writers. The stories were smart and clever and very topical. One guest writer was also a guest star. Milton Burle wrote an episode that had him cast as a loud mouth talk show host who liked to rile things up. Just a bit ahead of its time I’d say. The show also had appearances by Jack Lord
a year before Hawaii Five-0, Burgess Meredith, Ricardo Montelbon, and many other television greats.

I would recommend this show to anyone who enjoys good cop shows or likes to solve a mystery along side the stars of the show. So far just the first two season are out. I want them all.

Jon Jordan
For more reviews from Jon, and the rest of the Crimespree crew, check out the index of reviews.