"Ironside" was groundbreaking for having a character who was physically challenged, but rose above his situation to do his job, using his brain, rather that a lot of action. Granted, Chief Ironside initially relied heavily on his team to help him, but as the series progressed, he became more independent. The show was also, one of the first TV shows to feature an Afro-American actor in a co-starring role. Not all of the episodes were consistently rated high as far as the interest, but Raymond Burr gave a very convincing and sometimes powerful performance as Robert T. Ironside. His portrayal of a gruff, inpatient, sarcastic detective hid the softer, caring side of the character, which sometimes was revealed to his team,. Don Mitchell as Mark, Don Galloway as Ed, Barbara Anderson as Eve, and later Elizabeth Baur as Fran helped to round out the stories with their performances showing loyalty and friendship to the Chief. They also were featured in some of the episodes. Also, the humorous moments in the episodes brought enjoyment as well. For people today, some of the series would be somewhat dated, but the subjects that were tackled on the series are just as relevant. Generally, "Ironside" is more than just an average series.
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After nine seasons on the air as Perry Mason, Raymond Burr was right back on TV as "Ironside." It's a testament to Burr's abilities as an actor that Robert Ironside isn't just "Perry Mason in a wheelchair." "Ironside" set itself apart from late 60s, early 70s crime dramas by being rooted more in deduction than in shootouts and car chases. By featuring a main character who is handicapped, the shows had to focus more on the scientific/mental side of crime solving, and as a result, "Ironside" boasted tightly scripted, more elaborate mysteries than some other shows.
Unlike a lot of other 1960s crime shows, "Ironside" not only tackled societal issues, but it did so in a mature, responsible manner. Drugs, race, counterculture all dealt with in a way you just don't see in other shows from the period ("Hawaii 5-O," "Dragnet"). In some episodes of "Ironside," you get a more realistic depiction of racial tensions than you do on some prime time shows today.
Of course, much of the success of "Ironside" rests with Raymond Burr. Already an immensely popular actor, Burr took on a role that was miles away from Perry Mason and delivered a strong performance week after week. What makes Ironside so great is that he's a real SOB. He's angry he was shot, he's bitter that he can't walk, and he doesn't take crap from anyone. He's acerbic and tetchy, but brilliant and committed to the law. He's a great character, and great to watch.
Like most shows of the period, however, the supporting acting can be a little stiff, and some shows can be slow paced. But if you can get past that and you're a fan of intelligent crime drama, you should really check out "Ironside."
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