In 1966 NBC was the first major network to use a made for television movie as a “pilot” for a potential new series. Basically a pilot was test screening to gauge viewer’s reaction. It was hoped if enough people watched the movie, the viewer would then watch a full-fledged TV series every week.
Ironside was that gamble. But in hindsight, it wasn’t really a gamble as the network had one of the famous stars of TV as its lead. Raymond Burr had found everlasting fame as defense attorney Perry Mason, one of the best shows ever created. NBC knew the people would tune in but would they buy Burr in the role of San Francisco Chief of Detectives Robert T. Ironside? And especially as a wheel chair bound cop? Because that what happened in the pilot…Ironside was left crippled for life from a assassin’s bullet. Ironside then forms his own unit to tackle the toughest crimes.
The series worked because of Burr, his Ironside was a man who loved life and justice. His team, Sgt. Ed Brown (Don Galloway), policewoman Barbara Anderson (the lovely Eve Whitfield) and ex-con and Ironside’s biggest protector Mark Sanger (Don Mitchell) all helped crack the most baffling cases and deal with the hot button topics of the day, civil rights, rock-n-roll, racism, drugs and those ever lovin’ hippies!
This DVD set of Season One contains the pilot plus all 28 episodes of the season. There are no extras for this season but one can hope NBC will hit the archives in season two to help the younger viewers discover why this series mattered so much.
By Michael Sullivan