The theme song of the original version of "Ironside" began with a synthesizer police-car siren that pierced through TV sets in living color 45 years ago. The jazz-infused Quincy Jones composition oozed with cool while lending a sense of urgency in heralding a cop show with a premise like no other before it: a detective who busts bad guys from the confines of his wheelchair.
Now "Ironside" returns to NBC Wednesday in a new incarnation, nearly four decades after Raymond Burr's iconic Robert T. Ironside cracked his final case. “Ironside,” embodied this time around by Blair Underwood, resurfaces not as a groundbreaker as much as a cop for his times, amid a wealth of U.S. TV crime shows that emphasize brains over brawn.
That’s turf “Ironside” helped cultivate with the original show’s 1967 debut. The drama proved a first of its kind, boasting a strong character who happened to use a wheelchair. “Ironside” also led a subsequent wave of cerebral mystery shows featuring crime solvers who were different from their peers, in various ways. All were more reaction heroes than action heroes.
The new “Ironside,” in key respects, isn’t like the old “Ironside.” He’s based in New York, instead of San Francisco. Nobody pushes around Underwood’s tough-guy Robert T. Ironside – he wheels himself. We see him throw some punches – and not just in flashbacks before getting shot on the job.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.