Is it possible to revisit a television show without tainting the quality of the original? That's part of the challenge behind NBC's new remake of the classic television show "Ironside," which ended up being another carbon copy of most television cop shows that are already on the air. There was some potential to be had in the premiere, but it's too early to say whether the show will last past the season.
"Ironside" followed Detective Robert Ironside (Blair Underwood) who was a fearless cop that was willing to break a rule every so often to catch criminals. Sadly, Ironside's career was nearly finished after his spine was destroyed in a shooting where the details remained murky. After two years, Ironside seemed to be coping with the injury even though he had moments of grief over what he lost. His former partner Gary Stanton (Brent Sexton) harbored a profound sense of guilt over Ironside's shooting for reasons only known to him, which led him to develop a drinking problem. It's unclear whether Stanton and Ironside will ever cross professional paths again. In his new position, Ironside had the support of Captain Ed Rollins (Kenneth Choi), even though they didn't always see eye to eye in how each case needed to be investigated. He also had the support of fellow cops Virgil (Pablo Schreiber), Holly (Spencer Grammer) and Teddy (Neal Bledsoe) to go to the extremes that he was no longer able to achieve anymore. Each cop had their own struggles to deal with that made them different from Ironside. Virgil was a very tough cop, but he struggled with trying to be a decent man for his family when he wasn't working. Teddy came from a wealthy family and used his knowledge to keep catch white collar criminals. Holly loved being a cop and her devotion to her job could cost her everything in the long run. Will Ironside be able to face his demons long enough to solve cases or will he fall apart in the process?
In terms of questions, the show asked a few major ones that won't be answered anytime soon. The biggest one involved as to what really happened when Underwood's Ironside was shot. Viewers know that it was an accident, but they don't truly know who the shooter was. The episode made it vague enough that anyone could be guilty of shooting him. The episode's fractured tone of jumping between the past and the present was a mistake, because there should've been some set-up to give viewers an understanding of what led Ironside into his current job position. Overall, the shooting mystery was the only major story that helped to add some mystery to a rather routine premiere episode where the criminals were pretty obvious from the start. The murder case had a few twists, but the guilty parties were token guest stars that did very little to shake up Underwood's Ironside. The only surprise came towards the end of the episode when Underwood's character allowed one of his cops to injure a hostage in an effort to end a stand-off before the body count got any higher. What made the original series work was that the cast seemed connected to each other and their particular job related roles. Raymond Burr's Ironside brought a level of realism, intelligence and appropriate humor to his role. His character was fleshed out from start to finish, because viewers knew enough what to expect and were still surprised in the process. In the remake's premiere, Underwood's version of Ironside was cold and detached from everything and everyone. It also didn't help that viewers didn't know what to make of the character. One minute he could cut through a suspect's false alibi and then switched to charming an attractive woman within the blink of an eye. Once viewers know what to make of Ironside and the rest of his cohorts, they will know whether they could watch the show or not.
As for breakout performances, Underwood and Sexton led the pack of an otherwise flawed show. Despite his character's inconsistent personality, Underwood managed to give Ironside the right amount of attitude and depth that still made him interesting enough to watch. His most memorable scene came when Ironside was remembered everything that led up to his shooting in a type of rapid slow motion where it felt slow for him and even faster for viewers. Underwood was allowed to express a wide array of emotions from anger, sadness and back to a blind acceptance that kept him from going completely insane. Sexton, on the other hand, had the more challenging task of being the guilt ridden partner who went through a different kind of hell that he had no way of getting back from. He displayed his acting potential when he was on AMC's "The Killing," but he was miscast in the supporting role. Sexton might have been a better fit playing Ironside because he had the right temperament to pass for a modern day Raymond Burr. His most memorable scene was when he was at an AA Meeting where he confessed some of his sins to a crowd of strangers while Ironside waited in the wings. Sexton gave his character the perfect balance of sadness and strength that made him worth rooting for even when he was at his worst. NBC should've taken a risk by casting a lesser name into the leading role to give the show a greater chance of success. Underwood might've been better off playing the role of the guilt ridden partner who focused on his various addictions to prevent himself from doing something completely destructive. That could've been a game changer to make this version of "Ironside" more memorable than the premiere actually was. Hopefully, future episodes will help to iron out some of the kinks in order to keep viewers tuning in.
"Ironside" premieres on October 2nd and airs Wednesdays at 10:00 PM on NBC. Xfinity is currently screening a free preview of the pilot episode. The episode is also available on NBC's website as well.
Verdict: Unfortunately, the show's early potential was squandered by it's overly dark tone and its inability to connect the cast to each particular case. In order to keep viewers, future episodes need to add some extra substance to go with the stylish humor that was peppered in each scene.
TV Score: 2 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)