I was too young to be familiar with Raymond Burr from the TV version of “Perry Mason,” but I was just the right age to enjoy “Ironside,” Burr’s classic TV cop show that debuted in 1967 and ran until 1975.
“Ironside” was part of a wave of disabled or offbeat detectives that was a trend for a decade or more on TV. “Ironside” was confined to a wheelchair. “Longstreet” was blind. “Barnaby Jones” was old. “Cannon” was fat. It didn’t take much for Mad Magazine, which – along with Famous Monsters of Filmland, was my Bible growing up – to poke a lot of fun at the genre.
Burr played Robert Ironside, shot and turned into a paraplegic by a sniper. He leaves the San Francisco Police Department but returns as head of a special squad to help his friend the police commissioner.
Burr played Ironside as more than a little gruff. As a matter of fact, I thought he was kind of an ass. But he got results, dammit!
The supporting cast was familiar and enjoyable, including Don Galloway as cop Ed Brown and Don Mitchell as Mark Sanger, Ironside’s driver and bodyguard.
And who can forget that siren-like theme music? It is truly unforgettable and was composed by the one and only Quincy Jones. The music was used in Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” movies.
These days, there would be some over-arching mystery to Ironside’s shooting and there would be a promise that he just might someday regain the use of his legs. “Ironside” didn’t need those gimmicks.
There’s a new version of “Ironside” in the works, starring Blair Underwood. I might try it, but remaking “Ironside” is, in some ways, as heretical as remaking “Mannix” would be. I’m not sure I can bring myself to watch.