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NBC's Ironside re-do wheels into view


Blair Underwood succeeds Raymond Burr in new Ironside. NBC photo

Premiering: Wednesday, Oct. 2nd at 9 p.m. (central) on NBC
Starring: Blair Underwood, Pablo Schreiber, Spencer Grammer, Neal Bledsoe, Kenneth Choi, Brent Sexton
Produced by: Michael Caleo, Teri Weinberg, John Davis, John Fox, Ron West, David Semel

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He barks at underlings and roughs up suspects when not verbally intimidating them with lines like, “I’m not very good at implying. So usually I go straight to accusing.”

That’s the way detective Robert Ironside rolls, whether played by the late Raymond Burr in the old clench-jawed original (1967-’75 on NBC) or by Blair Underwood in the Peacock’s latest effort to “re-imagine” one of its old crime-stoppers.

NBC’s latter day new takes on Knight Rider and Bionic Woman came up empty in the ratings. But neither had a name-brand star in the title role. Underwood also brings something else that the old Burr character never had a chance to experience. Although wheelchair-bound, the equipment still works. So about halfway through Wednesday night’s premiere episode, a gym trainer mounts a bare-chested Ironside while he’s still seated. He has her halfway stripped down when -- of course -- duty calls in the form of a ringing phone.

The original version sent by NBC had Ironside telling his girlfriend, “I really got to get through this stuff.” To which she replied, “Why don’t you get through me first?” That exchange has been excised, apparently because network censors deemed it too naughty. Too bad about that, because Ironside was up for the task.

There otherwise have been no noteworthy changes. Wednesday’s opener still begins with Ironside repeatedly punching an already bloodied loser in search of information on the whereabouts of a kidnapped little girl. He also gives the sniveling crum-bum a knife. “C’mon, stab me, stick me, do it,” he taunts. “Do it now!”

Ironside instead gets the information he wants, causing his boss, detective Ed Rollins (Kenneth Choi), to recant an earlier dictum. Namely, “This behavior stops tonight!” Well, no it doesn’t.

Wasting no time, the next scene is a tight shot of a young woman named Annie. She’s lying dead on some of New York’s finest pavement, a pool of blood circling her head after she seemingly jumped from a tall building. Ironside and his put-upon team are quickly on the case. Their names are Virgil (Pablo Schreiber of “Pornstache” fame on Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black); Holly (Spencer Grammar) and Teddy (Neal Bledsoe).

“You guys are really pissin’ me off,” Ironside says, not to his crime team but to the hockey team he also browbeats. But there’s plenty to go around. “How about I run the case and you do your job,” he soon informs Holly.

The cast also includes distraught detective Gary Stanton (Brent Sexton from Season 1 of The Killing), who still blames himself for the paralyzing bullet wound Ironside suffered while they were chasing a bad guy two years earlier. Recurring flashbacks show how this happened, and Ironside is still capable of screaming in rage at his wheelchair confinement after first letting off steam with a vigorous workout.

He’s sick and tired of Gary’s whining, though. “Stop cryin’,” Ironside orders. “And get back on the damn horse!” Because hey, “I’m not playin’ wet nurse to you anymore.”

Underwood tries hard throughout and is still a small-screen presence. But that doesn’t save Ironside from being thoroughly overcooked and stuffed with convoluted deductions on how the featured wrongdoing went down. A far-fetched closing reconstruction of events by Ironside is akin to saying, “Your shoe was untied. Therefore I knew you were a lazy bum with too much time on his hands. Time enough to commit murder.”

By this time the mood music also is ready to swell to ridiculous proportions, with a male vocalist shrieking out his coda before a chanteuse takes over and ushers Ironside to another liaison with his pretty lady.

“Oh no, he is just no good for me,” according to the first episode’s play-off lyrics. “That boy is trouble.”

Burr’s Robert Ironside never even got to first base, if recollection serves. Underwood’s version is getting infinitely luckier sexually -- but surely won’t last as long.


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