NBC has picked up the pilot for an “Ironside” remake, with Blair Underwood taking on the iconic Raymond Burr role, according to a report by Entertainment Weekly’s Lynette Rice. I hate remakes, but my only hope is that the new series has just enough success to prompt Shout Factory or Universal Studios Home Entertainment to put out the remaining four seasons of the original show on DVD. I would even “double dip” on a complete series box set.
Inevitably NBC’s move will be compared to USA Network’s decision to bring back “Kojak” in 2005 with Ving Rhames as the bald New York City detective, in a role entirely identified with Telly Savalas. That attempt was critically slammed and received low ratings. It was gone after one season.
The difficulty for anybody who cares about classic television is that sometimes reboots stumble their way into decent ratings. Most notably, CBS’ redo of “Hawaii Five-O” — which I assumed would be one of the biggest flops in decades — is now in its third year, having finished No. 22 and No. 26 in total household viewers during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons. Not long ago it was sold into syndication, still the holy grail for any series even in the Netflix era.
Shout Factory has released the first four seasons of “Ironside” on DVD, the last two through its Shout Select program after disappointing sales of Seasons 1 and 2. At least these sets cover the years (1967-1971) when Eve Whitfield (Barbara Anderson) was on the show.
However, the series ran for four more seasons, leaving the air in 1975. Elizabeth Baur replaced Anderson, who left either because of a contract dispute or to raise a family, depending on which version you hear.
In a future post I’ll offer my 10 favorite “Ironside” episodes from the first four seasons. (Shawn, this is for you.)
Related: My 2003 interview with television historians Harry Castleman and Walter Podrazik, authors of “Watching TV,” about Universal Television, producers of “Ironside’ and “Kojak.”