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First Impressions of NBC’s Ironside Reboot

By on July 2, 2013
Pictured: Blair Underwood -- Photo: Will Hart/NBC -- © NBC Universal, Inc.

Pictured: Blair Underwood -- Photo: Will Hart/NBC -- © NBC Universal, Inc.

It’s very easy to say that all cop shows have the same vibe: heavy, quick cut, and dry-witted. While you can see all of these elements in NBC’s current cop fair, not all are done in tandem well. In fact, you might say the days of traditional biting cop dramas are over on the network. Enter Ironside,  NBC’s newest reboot and reminder that a certain era of television storytelling isn’t entirely lost on us yet.

In the very short time between wrapping his first case and beginning his second, we see that Detective Robert Ironside (Blair Underwood) is not afraid of pushing limits – or occasionally breaking the law. He is has a physical disability, but instead of it catching him up he uses it as a mechanism to catch criminals. Your first mistake is letting your guard down around him. Your second mistake is thinking he’ll let his down around you.

After closing a kidnapping case, Robert already has a new one: a successful, young, and beautiful New York investment banker is found dead in the street. While Ironside thinks she was a jumper, it may be a little more complicated. Important people have asked for his expertise specifically, signaling that it may be one of the city’s tougher cases. Captain Rollins (Kenneth Choi) has asked for a certain level of decorum, but Ironside and his team don’t much care about a pretense of politeness.

They specialize in getting in, getting out, and getting what they need, usually by being extremely off putting. Even Robert’s first questioning – at the victim’s place of work – turns into an interrogation. It moves the case from a suicide to a homicide though and allows the team to illustrate just why they are the best the city has to offer. Each member of Ironside’s handpicked team is a slight variation of his own policing style. Falling along the spectrum of by the book to whatever works, they assist the Detective in piecing together the victim’s final moments.

The case turns interesting after Virgil (Pablo Schreiber) and Teddy (Neal Bledsoe) find some revealing photos of the victim while searching her apartment. While the boys are off to play, Holly (Spencer Grammar) uses her criminal connections to get a handle on the evidence the guys collected. As they convene with Ironside to try and put the puzzle together, the case gets a little jump from the victim’s sister. Confirming some suspicions about the dirtiness of her day job, the women adds that there were tensions between the victim and her boss.

Darker details are revealed about the circumstances of the murder as they inch towards an answer, and we are privy to the drugs, sex, and money underbelly of New York’s business world. The team evetually learns that Annie’s late night activities were not just a hobbie when another body (with her photo stabbed into it) is discovered. As the victim’s sister becomes increasingly bent on making someone pay, Ironside’s drive to build a web for a solid case pushes him to places its better he didn’t go.

Pictured (L-R):  -- Photo: Will Hart/NBC

Pictured (L-R): Neal Bledsoe, Blair Underwood, Brian d’Arcy James — Photo: Will Hart/NBC

Therein lies the appeal of Ironside: going to places and doing things you’d sometimes rather not do in the name of justice. Crime can be a dirty and messy thing. How you sort through that – how Ironside sorts through that – makes it a little different than what’s already out there. To the average viewer the detective is physically broken, but it’s really what’s going on inside, what he is still holding onto that makes him a layered and interesting character to watch work.

There are times, like the hockey practice scene, where Underwood’s “no-nonsense” attitude comes off like a shell or cheap imitation of the man we see in other scenes. This can be jarring as the character’s persona is the glue to the various visual and tonal elements of the story. When those aren’t on point, the show just feels far too angsty. On a whole, however, it works because the characters, the plot, and the visual tone play well together.

Ironside is written and executive producer Michael Caleo, in addition to being executive produced by Teri Weinberg, John Davis, John Fox, Ron West and David Semel. The new hour long drama is set to premiere on Wednesday, October 2nd at 9/8c on NBC.