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HTF Review: Ironside Season One

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#1 of 11 Neil Middlemiss

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Posted June 01 2007 - 02:44 PM

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Ironside Season One




Studio: Shout Factory
Year: 1966 ('Pilot') 1967/68
US Rating: Unrated: Some Adult Themes
Film Length: 1380 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English Dolby 2.0
Subtitles: None





The Show - Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image out of Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

"You'll pardon my asking but WHAT in the flaming blazes are you people doing here!?"

The grumpy and curmudgeonly Ironside, the youngest chief of detectives with the SFPD, while vacationing for the first time in 25 years at police commissioner Randall’s (Gene Lyons) farm is gunned down in the late evening while enjoying some scotch on the porch. The injuries sustained leave him paralyzed and wheelchair bound. Unable to continue as the Chief of Detectives (equal opportunity laws were not around) but eager to investigate his own shooting and itching to get back to work, he is allowed to create a special investigative unit, bringing onto his team Detective Sergeant Ed Brown (Don Galloway, 'Arrest and Trial'), policewoman Eve Whitfield (Barbara Anderson, 'Mission: Impossible') and former juvenile delinquent Mark Sanger (Don Mitchell, 'Scream Blacula Scream').

With this unique unit in place, Ironside finds a good space inside the police building, decks out a police wagon with a throaty sounding engine, a wheelchair ramp and small cabinets to house his scotch.

The stories of Ironside cover familiar crime territory; inside jobs, escaped convicts, crime rings and plenty of murder. Managing to explore but never exploit Ironside’s paralysis, this show quickly becomes quite the unique crime drama among the plethora of ‘cops vs. the bad guy’ shows that have been a staple of the television landscape since broadcasts began.

Some of the standouts from this first season are the well paced ‘Pilot’, ‘An Inside Job’ – guest starring John Saxon and Norman Fell, ‘Light At The End Of The Journey’ - a rather taut story about a blind ‘witness’ and my personal favorite, ‘The Challenge’, filled with a perfectly good mystery and satisfying payoff.

There are also quite a few recognizable guest stars that pop-up throughout the 28 episodes, including Ed Asner ('The Mary Tyler Moore Show'), Susan Saint James ('Kate & Allie'), David Carradine ('Kung Fu'), Jack Lord ('Hawaii 5-0') and Lee Grant ('Peyton Place').

I may not hold a library of knowledge about shows from the 60’s (aside from the stellar ‘Star Trek – TOS’) but Ironside strikes me as a well devised show that delivers solid, well constructed stories, a certain edginess and a gruff and enjoyable lead with the Ironside character. It is shackled at times by the era in which it was shot, struggling with how society traditionally viewed African Americans, women and the artistic community (and hippies), but in this first season, those confines do manage to get stretched a little.

“Ironside” is a notable show. It’s one of those shows that made its way into the great lexicon of American television. And, quite frankly, it belongs there. It was the first to “pilot” a series, premiering on NBC to 24 million viewers a full year and a half before the series aired weekly and it gave the world its first handicapped lead. And so, it proved to be quite a dynamic show on the small screen and was able to play around with convention while grinding down a few barriers.

The Episodes
Disc One -
Pilot: Ironside World Premier (Pilot)
1: Message From Beyond
2: The Leaf in the Forest

Disc Two -
3: Dead Man’s Tale
4: Eat, Drink & Be Buried
5: The Taker
6: An Inside Job

Disc Three -
7: Tagged For Murder
8: Let My Brother Go
9: Light at the End of the Journey
10: The Monster of Comus Towers

Disc Four -
11: The Man Who Believed
12: A Very Cool Hot Car
13: The Past Is Prologue
14: Girl in the Night

Disc Five -
15: The Fourteenth Runner
16: Forces of Arms
17: Memory of an Ice Cream Stick
18: To Kill a Cop

Disc Six -
19: The Lonely Hostage
20: The Challenge
21: All In a Day’s Work
22: Something For Nothing

Disc Seven -
23: Barbara Who
24: Perfect Crime
25: Officer Bobby

Disc Eight -
26: Trip to Hashbury
27: Due Process of the Law
28: Return of the Hero


The Video - Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image out of Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
The image is framed at 1.33:1, consistent with broadcasts of the day, and is of generally good quality through the 28 episodes. There are a number of dust elements that pop up frequently and a fair amount of film grain that is to be expected for a show filmed and broadcast in the 1960’s. The exterior shots are hardest hit in that regard. Even the interior shots, in addition to some grain, suffer at times from a softness that is intermittent through the season. The pilot and episodes on the first disc look especially good but somehow, the episodes throughout the rest of this 8 disc set don’t always maintain that same standard.

The Sound - Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image out of Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
A generally solid Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track really shines when Quincy Jones’s delicious theme leaps through the speakers. The center channel handles a great deal of the duties in these episodes, producing a good sounding dialogue, free from a majority of hiss and generally clear. Overall, a solid audio presentation.


The Extra’s - No Stars out of Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

None, unless you count the inclusion of the ‘World Premier Television event, ‘Ironside’, from March of 66.


Final Thoughts
There is much to enjoy about the 23+ hours of entertainment over 28 episodes and the original ‘Pilot’. This was Raymond Burr’s second successful television series in a row, following his decade run as ‘Perry Mason’. Here, Burr is a delight to behold with his grumpy, single-minded, semi-smug and hard line approach to his duty and his profession.
Watching Ironside, I was reminded of an exemplary murder mystery show growing up in the UK called ‘Inspector Morse’, starring John Thaw. The character of Morse, outside of not being bound to a wheelchair, had a great deal in common with Burr’s impatient and crusty character, managing to berate everyone around him whilst in pursuit of criminals, slicing off just enough humility and heart to maintain audience respect and a likeability without becoming the typical ‘good guy’. Quite the balancing act and one that I think Morse, and Ironside those many years before, pulled off well.

While the crime procedural elements date it heavily, the show does well within the confines of the 60’s by prodding and stretching those limits, helping it even to become edgy at times. I imagine those with a fondness for “Ironside” will not need too much convincing to pick up this lengthy 28 episode inaugural season set, but those not familiar with it and open enough to experience a show tethered to the decade in which it existed but solid entertainment nonetheless, would do well to give it a spin.


Overall Score - Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image out of Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

Neil Middlemiss
Kernersville, NC
"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science" – Edwin Hubble
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#2 of 11 Steve...O

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Posted June 02 2007 - 01:07 AM

Hi Neil,

Thank you so much for the well written review; great job!

I just finished this set late in the week. Granted, I'm a big Burr fan from Perry Mason, but Ironside was even more enjoyable than I remembered. Burr is in great form here playing against his Mason personna and is surrounded by some very talented young actors. Plus, Perry Mason/Burr fans can have the added pleasure of playing "Where's Lee Miller" in each episode. (Mr. Miller was Sgt Brice on Mason as well as being Burr's double. He frequently appears as an extra; sometimes he even gets a line or two.)

The writing is very good and I was surprised to see at least two very well known mystery novelists, Brett Halliday (Michael Shayne series) and Ed McBain, listed as writers for a couple of episodes.

Sales of this set must have been good; Shout Factory has indicated (via their message board) that they are working on the Second Season! Thank you Shout!

Steve
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#3 of 11 Steve...O

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Posted June 02 2007 - 09:13 AM

For those on the fence about this release, with deepdiscount's 20% sale one can get this for under $30.

Looking over Season 2, there are 26 episodes and some great guest stars (Joseph Cotten, Ricardo Montalban, etc.) I hope the series makes at least to season 5 which has the episode where Barbara Hale reunited on screen with Burr for the first time after PM.

Steve
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#4 of 11 Neil Middlemiss

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Posted June 04 2007 - 12:58 PM

Steve, thanks for the heads-up about season two being prepped by Shout Factory. That's a DVD set I can see myself getting the day it is release, and not just because the wonderful Ricardo Montalban (KAAAAAAHHHN!!!!!!) will appear!
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#5 of 11 Dan McW

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Posted June 06 2007 - 07:01 PM

Just got this set for about $28 and change from Deep Discount.

I'm thankful this series is on DVD, but should I be concerned that some of the episodes are running about 47:40 or so? I'm hoping, because so many of them do (at least 5-6 that I've found), that the episodes are uncut but just a little time-compressed. The end credits on these seem to run a tad fast. IIRC, the Columbia House VHS episodes (excluding the pilot, of course) ran 50:00-plus with no exceptions.

#6 of 11 Steve...O

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Posted June 07 2007 - 12:37 AM

Dan, all episodes are uncut. Some are time compressed for whatever reason. Some are not. My guess is that the ones that are not were the ones issued on Columbia House.

At least to my ears, the compression isn't noticable during the body of the episode. It's during the theme song that I can tell, but since I starting skipping it after the first couple of episodes anyway it really didn't matter.

Steve
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#7 of 11 Dan McW

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Posted June 07 2007 - 09:59 AM

Your guess may be right-on, Steve. The first eps I checked were the non-CH episodes, and that's how I found some of the compressed ones. I think there are some 50-minute eps in the set that weren't issued by CH, but I haven't checked all eps yet.

I doubt there are music issues involved. One of the first eps I checked was the one where Susan Saint James and James Farentino sing/lip-synch "Downtown," and that seems intact.

I still give this set a 9 or a 10 out of 10. With my humble equipment at home, I'm not too picky about video and audio issues that are problems for people with more advanced set-ups. Uncut eps and the original Uni fanfare at the end make me pretty flamin' happy.

#8 of 11 Bill Parisho

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Posted June 08 2007 - 06:51 PM

Did anybody notice that one of the episodes features a very young Harrison Ford? I forget the name of the episode. It's the one where Ford plays the son of Victor Jory. Also, I think it's pretty cool to see Tiny Tim pop up in the pilot movie (before he did Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In)
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#9 of 11 onecent

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Posted June 11 2007 - 01:07 PM

I did watch this show when I was little because we only had one TV in the house and we had to watch what my parents wanted to watch. Neil, your review was great and brought back a few of the memories I have of the show. Thank you!

#10 of 11 Dan McW

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Posted June 11 2007 - 01:36 PM

Also in the pilot: Nicholas Colasanto is unbilled as a suspect's father, unless my eyes and ears deceived me.

#11 of 11 Steve...O

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Posted June 11 2007 - 02:58 PM

Great catch Dan, I'll have to go back and check the pilot. Mr. Colasanto has a billed and rather prominent role later in the season but I didn't recognize him until the credits ran. I only knew him from Cheers.

But the biggest embarassment for me was not recognizing Harrison Ford right away. Even his voice was different then. When I played back the beginning for my wife she had him spotted instantaneously. I guess that's what happens when you're the type like me who primarily watches movies from 1955 and prior Posted Image

Steve
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