[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]

Show:"Ironside" (NBC)
Airs:Wednesdays at 10 p.m.
The Pitch: You know that show "Ironside"? Do we think the brand has ANY equity for today's audience? Excellent. Now how about if it stars Blair Underwood? He's a TV star, right? I mean, even if he hasn't anchored a hit show in... decades.
Quick Response: I don't want to say that Blair Underwood has been complacent in recent years, but I wouldn't say that "Dirty Sexy Money," "The Event" and "New Adventures of Old Christine" asked much of him other than being handsome, suave and determined. In contrast, "Ironside" actually asks a lot of Underwood and he delivers a performance that is fierce, physically challenging and intellectually interesting, without ever ceasing to be handsome, suave and determined. There's an anger and frustration to Underwood's Ironside that makes the character seem nuanced and sometimes dangerous, and turns the character into more than just a wheelchair-bound, crime-solving version of House. This is Underwood's best work in years and, at the very least, that gives "Ironside" a key central piece to work with. And with Brent Sexton, Pablo Schreiber and "Greek" veteran Spencer Grammer, there are the elements here for what could be a reasonably good ensemble around Underwood. Unfortunately, the procedural aspects of "Ironside" are utterly generic and the integration of flashbacks, so that Underwood isn't wheelchair-bound 100 percent of the time, add more to the amelioration of Underwood's work schedule (and to the answering of "Why didn't you hire a differently able actor to play this role?" questions) than to the narrative. The pilot underuses Schreiber and Grammer, barely gives Neal Bledsoe a character, leaves Kenneth Choi with uninteresting authority figure blather and poorly integrates Sexton. So what should be an ensemble is Underwood carrying the whole whole load and as good as he is, he can't make you ignore the fact that you're ignoring whatever the case-of-the-week happens to be. I think there's a version of "Ironside" that evolves down its own path and capitalizes heavily on its New York City location shooting that probably takes after NBC's underrated "Prime Suspect," another remake that had too many issues and ties to the original that it had to work out in its pilot and had lost nearly all of its audience by the time it became really good. With a background on "The Sopranos" and "Rescue Me," creator Michael Caleo has some potential, but any and all enthusiasm stemming from the pilot is generated by Underwood's searing performance and not by the show around him.
Desire To Watch Again: Even a perfect version of "Ironside" is an entry in a genre that I only have tepid interest in, though I'm likely to give this an episode or two because it's in a slot in which my DVR isn't overtaxed -- "Nashville" and likely some cable stuff. What I need is for the ensemble to get a swift blending, without sacrificing the uncompromising nature of Underwood's performance. Adding even a tiny bit of inspiration to the procedural aspects wouldn't hurt.

 

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