Blair Underwood is an attractive, charismatic actor, but all that charm will be put to the test and then some by “Ironside,” another vintage revival that bears virtually no resemblance to the source — to the point where one has to ask, Why even bother with paying the royalty? Name recognition certainly doesn’t figure to give the show much of a lift among the under-50 crowd, and stripped of that, this by-the-numbers crime procedural never gets rolling. There’s a disability at work here, all right, but it has nothing to do with the show’s wheelchair-bound hero.
NBC has struck out before with recent revivals of “Knight Rider” and “The Bionic Woman,” but undaunted, the network has trotted out another artifact perhaps best remembered for the opening credits, when Raymond Burr’s detective Robert Ironside lights a cigarette, catches a bullet in the spine and emerges as a crime-solver forced to rely strictly on his wits — and others to do his leg work for him. Premiering in 1967, the show ran until the mid-1970s.
Here, Ironside’s paralysis is slowly (and not entirely) explained through a series of flashbacks involving his former partner (“The Killing’s” Brent Sexton), but we meet him as the head of a thoroughly nondescript hand-picked team of detectives, coercing information out of a perp. Despite being in the chair, Ironside’s arms work just fine, and he casually dismisses it when told “Suspects have rights,” a notion that carries about as much weight with the title character as it did with Dirty Harry.
The introductory crime involves a dead woman at an investment banking firm, but the particulars of the case are secondary, although the producers appear to feel compelled to churn out a straightforward procedural while trying to accomplish a lot of other business, such as introducing the characters.
That includes establishing Ironside as a ladies man as well as a maverick. Yet it’s all so tired and warmed over that the show feels like it’s stuck in a rut almost from the get-go, which doesn’t bode well for it either commercially or creatively.
“I’ve got a different view of the world from down here,” Ironside quips at one point, but in terms of TV’s indulgence in reboots, really it’s just the same old view. Either way, enter “Ironside” — and let the uninspired times roll.