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Television review: New 'Ironside' rolls onto scene with new attitude

TelevisionEntertainmentReviewsNew York City Police DepartmentBrent SextonThe Killing (tv program)

"Ironside," the Universal-produced TV series about a wheelchair-bound police detective that ran from 1967 to 1975 on NBC, has been chopped, channeled and reupholstered as "Ironside," a Universal-produced TV series about a wheelchair-bound police detective that premieres Wednesday on NBC.

It will last I don't know how long. The cleverer Sherlocks among you will have already deduced what they have in common.

One thing they do not have in common, naturally, is the late Raymond Burr, who starred in the first version as a San Francisco police chief-turned-special-consultant after being paralyzed by a sniper's bullet. Blair Underwood, who resembles Burr physically only in that both are male human baritones, is the new Robert Ironside, now a New York City police detective, paralyzed by — well, that would be telling.

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Where the first was bulky, the second is buff. Where Ironside Mach I was often pushed in his chair and driven around town, usually by Don Mitchell's reformed delinquent Mark Sanger, Ironside II is self-powered all the way, a paraplegic hero for an age of wheelchair basketball and double-amputee sprinters. He'd roll over your foot if you tried to give him a hand.

"Are you really a cripple?" asks a perp.

"You tell me," says Ironside, who has been sitting with him in the backseat of a police car, alternately handing him a knife and taking it away with a punch in the nose. Old Ironside was not immune to bending a rule or two, but new Ironside has a touch of Dirty Harry and a pinch of Martin Riggs in him. In a (pre-chair) flashback we see him dangle a suspect from a roof.

As in the original, and most every modern procedural, there is a support team, though not the little family group that surrounded the Burr Ironside in his specially fitted clubhouse, and whose cares were first and foremost for one another.

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I'll let the official website tell you about them: Holly (Spencer Grammer) is "a strong, feisty detective who loves the rush of being undercover and the danger that goes with the job and who has mysterious family ties to the Brooklyn underworld"; Teddy (Neal Bledsoe), "a rich, highly educated young cop who has never been good with authority and is connected in a way that only those born into wealth enjoy"; and Virgil (Pablo Schreiber), "a man who wrestles with the dichotomy of being one of NYPD's toughest cops in the city, yet a loving family man at home where he imparts life lessons to his children that he does not necessarily follow in the line of duty."

There are also a grumpy superior (Kenneth Choi) and a sad ex-partner (Brent Sexton, from "The Killing").

Apart from Underwood, who has class-A TV-star appeal, the show is nothing special. No worse than or much different from your average character-driven cop show.

The opening episode involves high finance and sex parties, pretty standard for the genre. (Admittedly, the end is a bit of a twist.) I can neither recommend it nor recommend you leave it alone. Perhaps it will run 20 years.

robert.lloyd@latimes.com

'Ironside'

Where: NBC

When: 10 p.m. Wednesday

Rating: TV-14-DLSV (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14 with advisories for suggestive dialogue, coarse language, sex and violence)

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