I realized something previewing NBC’s new cop drama: I’m not invested in procedural dramas anymore. I crave continuity, and the piecemeal components to season arcs that procedural shows offer just doesn’t cut it. Now there’s the odd exception. There are some shows that have the opposite vibe, like “Hannibal,” which often has a serial killer of the week but also manages to address its complex narratives lines on an episodic basis. But enough of my epiphany, because procedurals aren’t going anywhere soon.
I’m not sure why, but this season new network pilots seem to be the definition of cookie cutter. I almost feel like I was at the development meetings and helped the writers fill in the notes from the network brass. Imagine you are there too; there’s a whiteboard displaying words and phrases to stimulate your imagination. It says things like “re-imagining,” “gimmick,” “unorthodox method that produces results to the chagrin of superiors,” “humanizing yet surprising hobby,” “team with personalities to be filled in as needed because they exist to bounce off the main character” etc (imagine these with less snark). I honestly feel like I just described “House” and countless other shows with a titular, larger than life character. But I apparently also described “Ironside,” a show that debuted in 1967 on NBC. A show that I hadn’t heard of until today so it’s difficult to believe that NBC is hinging on nostalgia for success.
I feel like I am being harsh to a very watchable show, but these days, shows like “Ironside” seem more and more like relics of the past (especially if it is). At the very least it actually belongs on a network with the initials CBS. Blair Underwood stars as Robert Ironside (he’s in a wheelchair GET IT?! His name is IRONSIDE so you won’t forget), a police detective who has “a different view of the world” and a penchant for violent methods. There’s your gimmick and unorthodox method; Ironside continually clashes with his captain over his decision-making. Hobby? Coaching hockey, of course. Team? We’ve got Spencer Grammer from “Greek” who gets things done; Pablo Schreiber, who gets to play a more savory character than Pornstache on “Orange is the New Black”; and Neal Bledsoe from “Smash,” who luckily left his stock market job to be a detective, which happens to come in handy for the pilot’s case.
Speaking of the pilot, the initial case is fairly convoluted for a first outing. I paid attention, but I almost had to pay too much attention to understand how every avenue of the case unfolded. However, if you dig the main cast, understanding the ins and outs of one case isn’t all the necessary. I was more invested in the cast than the case so that might also explain my issue with understanding the case. (Ah-ha and hence my issue with procedural shows in a nutshell: I’m much more interested in the established show characters than I will ever be about why this body is in that field killed by that person I won’t see again…) Also, Peter Horton (from Children of the Corn) seems to be more focused on directing television than acting in it these days; he directed this pilot as well as numerous episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy” among other shows.
Verdict: Good cast, better-than-average pacing for a procedural. If you are into detective shows and/or damaged main characters, check it out. There’s a lot to like here, especially if you aren’t burnt out on case of the week scenarios.