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Series / Ironside (1967)

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Ironside is a Crime and Punishment Series that aired for eight seasons (1967–75) on NBC. Its main character is wheelchair-bound SFPD Chief of Detectives Robert T. Ironside, played by Perry Mason star Raymond Burr.

Seasons 1–3 are currently available on Hulu. The first four seasons are available via DVD on Region 1, while the entire series is available in Australia.

A remake, starring Blair Underwood, premiered on NBC in fall 2013 – and was pulled after four episodes (out of nine produced).

Tropes featured include:

  • Affectionate Parody: In "Murder Impromptu", Lennie Blake, the leader of an improv group, imitates Ironside while the Chief is in the audience. Blake is quickly stabbed to death, on stage, right in front of Ironside.
  • Amoral Attorney: Sam North in "A Matter of Life and Death" is a lawyer who falls for his client, a woman who accidentally killed her lover, who just happens to be an old friend/romantic rival of Ironside's and was in town for a visit. When a wino is arrested for the murder, North offers to defend him, but his intent is to get the innocent man convicted.
  • Banana in the Tailpipe: Used to fill the car with carbon monoxide and knock out its inhabitants.
  • Billed Above the Title: 'Raymond Burr as...Ironside'.
  • The Butler Did It: In one episode, an old friend of Ironside's is kidnapped, as is Ironside when he comes to investigate. While the man's butler initially seems like a helpful innocent, a rescued Ironside eventually figures out that he's an accomplice due to how he keeps conveniently leaving on breaks right before someone is kidnapped.
  • Clear My Name: Ed is accused of police brutality twice in the series, in the first-season "Trip to Hashbury" and the third-season "Seeing Is Believing", which Don Galloway co-wrote.
    • Mark is accused of murder twice in the first season, in the episodes "Memory of an Ice Cream Stick" and "Due Process of Law".
    • Ironside himself is accused of being a corrupt cop in the episode "The Man on the Inside".
  • Creator Cameo: Quincy Jones, as well as supplying the series' iconic theme tune, he also plays a jazz club owner in "Eat, Drink and Be Buried".
  • Crossover: With The Bold Ones: The New Doctors (also produced by Raymond Burr's company at the time Harbour Productions Unlimitednote ).
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Ironside will not tolerate pity for his condition. In the pilot movie, his doctor and a nun at the hospital express sorrow over his paralysis. He angrily asks if they want to send in "a flaming fiddler" to play "Hearts & Flowers".
    • Later in the pilot, Eve and Ed are driving Ironside home from the hospital, tiptoeing around his condition. He tells Ed to stop the car. Then, he orders Eve to say, "Chief, you're a cripple", and Ed to say, "That goes for me, too." Then, with the matter in the open, he tells them to drive on.
  • The Exotic Detective: Ironside.
  • Genius Cripple: Ironside himself.
  • The Generation Gap: Considering that the series takes place in San Francisco during The '60s and The '70s, this trope is inevitable.
  • Had to Come to Prison to Be a Crook: An inversion. In the pilot, Ironside is sure the sniper who paralyzed him is a juvenile delinquent whom he'd sent to detention and who'd threatened to kill him. He later learns that, instead, he was rehabilitated and didn't bear Ironside any ill-will.
  • High-Voltage Death: In "Once More For Joey", the titular character, rock singer Barefoot Joey (so called because he performs in his bare feet), is done in when he steps on a rigged wah-wah pedal and is fatally shocked.
  • Human Chess: In "The Deadly Gamesmen", two bored, rich cousins engage in this, using San Francisco as the board and crimes to represent each move. For example, taking a knight involves mugging a rodeo star, while taking a queen involves assaulting a beauty contestant.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: Barbara Hale, Raymond Burr's Perry Mason co-star, guest-stars in the episode "Murder Impromptu".
  • Internal Affairs:
    • In the episode "Seeing Is Believing", an Internal Affairs investigator firmly, yet fairly, investigates Sergeant Ed Brown when a composite sketch of a man who fatally beat a known criminal bears a resemblance to Ed. Ultimately, it turns out that the culprit merely resembled Ed, and there are no hard feelings on either side.
    • In the episode "The Man On the Inside", Internal Affairs investigate Ironside after he's framed for corruption. Ed works alongside them to make sure that they either vindicate or convict Ironside based on the facts.
  • It's Personal: For Fran in her first episode, "The Gambling Game" - she wants to clear the name of her late father (also a cop).
  • Little Old Lady Investigates: His aunt, Victoria Ironside, in the episode "Why the Tuesday Afternoon Bridge Club Met On Thursday". It is easy to see on which side of the family the detective instinct comes from.
  • Market-Based Title: When The BBC bought this for the UK it was billed as A Man Called Ironside for no apparent reason.
  • Pilot Movie: A Man Called Ironside
  • Poorly-Disguised Pilot: Two in a row at the end of the seventh season - "Riddle At 24,000" (about a crime-solving doctor played by Desi Arnaz) and the two-parter "Amy Prentiss: AKA The Chief" (revolving around San Francisco's first female chief of detectives, played by Jessica Walter). Dr. Durango (the name of the proposed former series) didn't sell, but Amy Prentiss joined the lineup for The NBC Mystery Movie the following season. Similarly, the fifth season opener "The Priest Killer" was the pilot for the shortlived Sarge, starring George Kennedy as an ex-cop turned priest.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: The main supporting cast of Don Galloway, Barbara Anderson and Don Mitchell (and later Elizabeth Baur) were billed in the opening titles, starting with the second season.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: In one episode, a pair of hitmen hired to kill a pool player (they end up being stopped by Ironside's team) chat about their difficult plane ride to San Francisco and what one of them plans to do with his child later on. When their target appears, they comment that he looks like a nice guy and wonder what he did to earn their boss's wrath.
  • Reunion Show: 1993's The Return of Ironside. Sadly, Raymond Burr passed away not long after it first aired. As a result, only the one reunion was produced, in contrast to the many TV movie reunions for Burr's other successful series, Perry Mason.
  • San Francisco: The show's setting.
  • Statute of Limitations: One two-part episode features a kidnapper who is blackmailing his reluctant accomplice over how the man killed someone in a bar fight years ago. The accomplice is pissed to find out that the statute of limitations for manslaughter in the state where the crime occurred ran out years ago.
  • Suspicious Spending: One episode has an Impoverished Patrician burglary suspect who has a bigger house and better clothes than his salary as a society reporter should allow him. It turns out that he's innocent, and the money is from short stories he's been publishing under a Pen Name.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: When Barbara Anderson (who won an Emmy for playing Eve Whitfield) left the series to get married, Elizabeth Baur - that's her in the page image - took over as Fran Belding. Both appeared in The Return of Ironside.
  • Syndication Title: It was syndicated as The Raymond Burr Show.