In a landscape filled with police procedurals, Ironside looks to break away from the herd with the handsome and multi-talented Blair Underwood (L.A. Law). This new series faces stiff competition from within its own network, as NBC pushes to reinvent itself with critically acclaimed shows like Hannibal and The Blacklist.
Mr. Underwood plays a tough police detective that has been put in a wheelchair after a tragic accident on the job. From the beginning of the episode, it’s clear that Ironside is not a “do it by the book” kind of guy, yet his superior officer, Captain Rollins (Kenneth Choi) puts up with his antics due to Ironside’s astute aptitude for solving crimes. Underwood is convincing in his portrayal of Ironside, but his handicap can’t make up for the fact that we’ve seen this kind of premise before.
The Wire and The Shield are two exceptional television programs that come to mind when thinking about the premiere of Ironside. The brooding police officer who does what needs to be done in order to complete the task at hand is not a new method of storytelling. With as much charisma as Underwood possesses, even he can’t save the show from feeling dated and unoriginal. On a positive note, the performances by the leading actors are what give this series its strength.
Besides Underwood, Brent Sexton gives an impressive performance as Ironside’s former partner, who is struggling to live with the guilt of being the one responsible for his partner’s need to use a wheelchair. His compelling testimony towards the end of the episode proves that Ironside has hope, if it can only move past its formulaic plot. Pablo Schreiber (Virgil) brings his wit and charm, coming off of his success on the popular Netflix series, Orange Is the New Black. Most of the supporting cast hide in the shadows, as the writers clearly desire Underwood to be the crowd-pleaser; however, the series will need to develop its less significant characters in order to keep viewers glued to their television sets.
The “crime of the week” in the premiere is fairly standard, focusing on a beautiful young woman named Annie Ryan (Holly Curran), who has fallen in with the wrong crowd. Mysterious sex clubs called “Flower Parties,” and a network of drug money and fraud make up the bulk of the drama.
The actual crime itself seems of little importance when compared to the viewers’ understanding of how Ironside came to be in the wheelchair. Flashbacks are littered throughout the premiere, showing an Ironside who still didn’t play by the books – but also a man who smiled more. Perhaps Detective Ironside’s relationship with his former partner should be the key element that the writers focus on, as there’s chemistry there; police procedurals don’t have to be dull. For example, NBC’s Hannibal is one of the more creative shows on television, and it’s had its “crime of the week” plots as well.
If the premiere is any indication, then Ironside has yet to discover its motive for existing. Underwood and Sexton’s outstanding performances are not enough for the series to find success. Hopefully, creator Michael Caleo and Collier Young will find a rhythm that will enable their show to leave the cliché behind, and embrace the unique storytelling worthy of such a talented cast.
Ironside continues with ‘Wheelhouse’ next Wednesday @10pm on NBC.