Robert T. Ironside is back on the beat for NBC — but this won't be the same old cop show from the '60s and '70s.
Reimagining the original series that starred Raymond Burr as a paraplegic detective, NBC's new Ironside (premieresWednesday at 10/9c) moves the action from San Francisco to New York and puts Blair Underwood (L.A. Law, Dirty Sexy Money, The Event) in the wheelchair. As Underwood's acerbic Ironside closes cases by any means necessary, he will wrestle with the ghosts of his traumatic past while he tries to continue living and working with his injuries.
So, will this new take work for you? TVGuide.com caught up with Underwood to get everything you need to know about the new series.
1. This isn't your father's Ironside. "The character's name is obviously Ironside, and he's in a wheelchair. But, really, that's where the similarities end," Underwood says. The new version offers a grittier take on police work than its predecessor, and its protagonist is considerably more gruff. (That's likely because he comes from a family of criminals and his injury is much more personal than the sniper's bullet that paralyzed the original Ironside.) But Underwood insists that the spirit of the original show remains intact. "We distill it down to what is this man about," he says. "He's about serving the people. He wants to right whatever wrong there may be... and he will fight vehemently to do that."
2. Expect a lot of flashbacks. Although the pilot uses flashbacks to help viewers understand how Ironside ended up in the wheelchair, the show will continue to deploy them through its first season as Ironside wrestles with his demons. "It's really a way to look at who this man was prior to his accident and who he's going to become," Underwood says. "We show his past choices and the consequences, and [it] informs his decision-making now and his thought process."
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3. It's all about the girl. The other notable part of the pilot's flashbacks is Ironside's relationship with a woman named Melanie (Afton Williamson). Curiously, she is no longer a part of Ironside's life when we meet him. In fact, he seems to be much more of a one-night stand kind of guy. "Melanie is the love of Ironside's life," Underwood says. "She is the woman he wanted to marry. ... We see her again in flashbacks. We get more of a glimpse as part of the turmoil that happens prior to the accident. She's the one that got away. He dates a lot, he is a womanizer, but it's really more for him to fill a hole and a void and a loss. She is that loss."
4. Ironside's handpicked team is an extension of himself. Representing the muscle and physicality is Pablo Schreiber's Virgil. "He's had some excessive force cases," Underwood says of Virgil. "Ironside relates to that journey and the consequences that come along with going too far." Then, there's Teddy (Neal Bledsoe), a former investment banker who uses his brains instead of brawn. Rounding out the team is Holly (Spencer Grammer), who, like Ironside, comes from a crime family. "She comes from an Italian mafia family and Ironside comes from African-American organized crime from the '20s and '30s of Harlem," Underwood says. "He decides to go the opposite direction, to the dismay of a lot of his family members, but he relates to her in that sense. She understands that criminal mind. And he loves to have beautiful women around him!" The cast also includes Brent Sexton as Ironside's former partner and Kenneth Choi as Ironside's often exasperated, by-the-books captain.
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5. Ironside hasn't truly gotten past his injury. Even though Ironside refuses to let being in a wheelchair hold him back, Underwood says the character is still injured emotionally. "There is a very deep sense of denial that he wrestles with in his private moments," he says. "I think psychologically he feels he can will his way back [to who he was] somehow." Ironically, Underwood says Ironside is a better man and cop post-accident. "I don't think he realizes that yet," Underwood says. "I think we're watching him learn it and discover it. He's always used his physicality, his muscle, his brute force when he could. Now he's been forced to really use his mind. Part of that is what's made him a better man and a better cop. ... The original Ironside never dealt with the psychological dynamic of being in a wheelchair, certainly not like we can today or even how audiences expect us to do in this day and age. I think really sets us apart from any other cop show."
Ironside premieres Wednesday at 10/9c on NBC. Check out our Fall TV Editors' Picks below: