Season 2 Episode 5

Robert Phillips vs. the Man

Aired Thursday 8:30 PM Oct 10, 1968 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (2)

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out of 10
12 votes
  • The Chief agrees to help a man who would not be helped. Chief Ironside sets a great example of selfless and honorable service.

    Robert Phillips is a radical civil rights leader with a chip on his shoulder the size of San Francisco. He is accused of murdering a white shop owner during a black riot incited by Phillips. When it becomes clear that the evidence points towards Phillips and the city is at a boiling point, Commissioner Randall asks Ironside to prove Phillips innocent. He wants to be absolutely sure of Phillips' guilt before arresting and trying him.

    Despite Phillips' obstinance and outright hostility towards the Chief, and the black community's refusal to cooperate with the investigation, the Chief pursues his task. The Chief's efforts are a testament to his honor and integrity as he is able to set aside all personal feelings towards the accused and his revulsion at the racism he encounters from the white community to do his usual excellent job.

    I'm a little too young to remember desegregation and MLK and the civil rights movement, but I thought this was an excellent portrayal of what life must have been like in the 1960's and the racism that was prevalent across the country.
  • Helping a man who doesn't want to be helped.

    The late Paul Winfield plays a radical civil rights leader accused of the murder of a racist shop owner. What complicates the investigation is Winfield's own hostility towards the police and his compatriots' refusal to provide any evidence that could exonerate him.

    For a 1960s crime drama, this episode of "Ironside" does a better-than-expected job of examining racial tensions. How the police are viewed by African-Americans, and how African-Americans on the police (such as Mark) are seen by their peers are handled tastefully and in a real manner. It's great to see Ironside stand up to the pressure from all sides (the blacks, the brass in the department, the racist citizens' committee), not only because he has a job to do, but because he is genuinely repulsed by their racism. Burr gets some great moments in this episode, getting to tell off the two businessmen who accuse him of "turning his back on his own kind" and the widow of the victim, who refuses to let Mark into her home.

    What makes the episode above average for me is the interplay between Raymond Burr and Winfield. Never do they have a "hug and make up" moment. They exit the episode with practically the same amount of disdain they had for each other at the beginning. Winfield knows that there is still tremendous work to be done, and Burr hopes that he succeeds, but that he changes his tactics. Surprisingly deep and thoughtful, moreso than what you might expect to see on a modern prime-time drama.
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