October 10, 2013

THE SKED Pilot + 1 Review: “Ironside”


IRONSIDE:  Wednesday 10PM on NBC

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on IRONSIDE:  NYPD Sergeant Robert Ironside (Blair Underwood), shot in the back and now in a wheelchair, has won the right to a hand-picked squad (Pablo Schreiber, Spencer Grammer, Neal Bledsoe) helping him to solve crimes, under the sometimes exasperated command of rule-bound Captain Rollins (Kenneth Choi).  Ironside is also still in touch with his alcoholic ex-partner Gary Stanton (Brent Sexton).

Episode 2:  There is, lo and behold, a serial killer stalking the streets of New York, slicing the arteries of the rich.  Before the hour is up, Ironside and his team will not only have solved that crime, but cleared up the disappearance of a young girl 10 years earlier when it turns out she witnessed the last murder.

As much as director Rod Holcomb tried to hide the fact with fast cutting, wheelchair-cam photography and overexposed flashback sequences, procedurals don’t come more perfunctory than Ironside.  The plotting of the episode, written by Co-Executive Producer Robert Port, was completely straightforward, and yet there were gaping holes in logic.  The killer was exactly the guy who seemed like he’d be the killer when he was introduced as a knife seller and expert 15 minutes into the episode (but the cops didn’t so much as ask him for an alibi).  Meanwhile, the decade-old crime was revealed as an uncle’s protection of his molested niece (yet how could his sister–the girl’s mother–and for that matter the police not have noticed that her brother disappeared at exactly the same time her daughter did, and fail to make the connection?).  Not only did the moral calculus even out perfectly at the end, as the killer was arrested, the stepfather molester was taken into custody, the girl was sent to live with sympathetic friends and Ironside made sure the uncle wouldn’t serve time, but it even took care of not one, but two earlier incidents in the cops’ lives, one where Ironside hadn’t protected a boy in distress who’d ended up shooting his father, and another where Holly (Grammer) had known as a child that her uncle was beating her aunt.

The only thing amusing about Ironside is the way both episodes so far have made it a point to show Ironside beating a guy up and having sex with a hot young woman, just so we’ll all understand that being a paraplegic hasn’t slowed him down any.  Underwood does what he can with his boilerplate intense-cop material, while his juniors are all underserved, with Schreiber and Bledsoe as “the streetwise one” and “the preppy one”, and Grammer’s role borderline embarrassing this week as she served as Ironside’s mentee and shoved her gangster uncle’s face into a plate of spaghetti because of what he’d done to her aunt.  Sexton, the only one who brought some depth to the pilot, was mostly featured in this week’s flashbacks.

Ironside got off to an awful start in the ratings last week, dead last in its timeslot with a 1.3, and not even delivering the older viewers who might remember Raymond Burr’s original stint in the chair.  There is literally nothing interesting or intriguing about the show, and the only thing that might keep it alive is the fact that it’s on NBC, where tiny audiences are tolerated for any show that doesn’t follow The Voice.  Its most functional use would be as white noise in the background to lull audiences to sleep.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  Change the Channel

PILOT + 1:  For Fans of TV Circa 1967



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."