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Ironside (1967 TV series)

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Title: Ironside (1967 TV series)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Jess Walton, Cameron Mitchell (actor), Belinda Montgomery, Vito Scotti, Michael Greer
Collection: 1960S American Television Series, 1967 American Television Series Debuts, 1970S American Television Series, 1975 American Television Series Endings, American Crime Television Series, American Drama Television Series, English-Language Television Programming, Fictional Portrayals of the San Francisco Police Department, Nbc Network Shows, Police Procedural Television Series, Television Series by Universal Television, Television Series Involving Disabilities, Television Shows Set in San Francisco, California
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Ironside (1967 TV series)

Title screen
Created by Collier Young
Theme music composer Quincy Jones
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 8
No. of episodes 199 (list of episodes)
Production company(s) Harbour Productions Unlimited
Distributor Universal Television
NBCUniversal Television Distribution
Original channel NBC
Original release September 14, 1967 (1967-09-14) – January 16, 1975 (1975-01-16)
Related shows Ironside

Ironside is a Universal television series that ran on NBC from September 14, 1967, to January 16, 1975. The show starred Raymond Burr as a paraplegic Chief of Detectives, Robert T. Ironside. The character debuted on March 28, 1967, in a TV movie called "A Man Called Ironside". When the show was broadcast in the United Kingdom, it was initially under that same title. The show earned Burr six Emmy and two Golden Globe nominations.[1]


  • Plot 1
  • Production notes 2
  • Episodes 3
    • Crossover with The Bold Ones: The New Doctors 3.1
  • Broadcast history 4
  • A roster of guest stars 5
  • Music 6
  • TV reunion movie 7
  • 2013 remake 8
  • Parodies 9
  • Cultural references 10
  • DVD releases 11
  • See also 12
  • References 13
  • External links 14


The show revolved around former San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) Chief of Detectives Robert T. Ironside (Raymond Burr), a veteran of more than 20 years of police service who was forced to retire from the department after a sniper's bullet paralyzed him from the waist down, causing him to use a wheelchair. In the pilot episode, a TV movie, Ironside shows his strength of character and gets himself appointed a "special department consultant" by his good friend, Police Commissioner Dennis Randall. He does this by calling a press conference and then tricking Commissioner Randall into meeting his terms. In the pilot, Ironside eventually solves the mystery of the ambush. He requests Ed Brown and Eve Whitfield be assigned to him.

Ironside uses a fourth-floor room (for living and office space) in the Old San Francisco Hall Of Justice building, which housed the city's police headquarters. He uses a specially equipped, former fleet-modified 1940 1-1/2 ton Ford police paddy wagon van. This is replaced in the episode entitled "Poole's Paradise" after the van is destroyed by Sergeant Brown as part of a way to trick a corrupt sheriff. At the end of the episode the paddy wagon is replaced by a modified 1969 1 ton Ford Econoline Window Van. He later recruits the angst-filled black ex-con Mark Sanger to be his personal assistant after Sanger is brought in as a suspect who wanted to kill Ironside. The show became a success as Ironside depended on brains and initiative in handling cases. Although Ironside was good-hearted and honest, he maintained a gruff persona.

Raymond Burr as "Ironside"

Supporting characters on Ironside included Det. Sgt. Edward "Ed" Brown (Don Galloway) and a young socialite-turned-plainclothes officer, Eve Whitfield (Barbara Anderson). In addition there was delinquent-turned-bodyguard/assistant Mark Sanger (Don Mitchell), who also opted to become a police officer, and subsequently graduated from law school (night classes were mentioned from early on), then even married late in the run of the series. Commissioner Randall was played by Gene Lyons.

By the program's fourth season, Anderson left over a contract dispute and was replaced by another young policewoman, Fran Belding (Elizabeth Baur), who filled much the same role for four more years.

The series enjoyed an eight-season run on NBC, drawing respectable, if not always high, ratings. As the eighth season began, Universal released a syndicated rerun package of episodes from earlier seasons under the title The Raymond Burr Show, reflecting the practice of that time to differentiate original network episodes from syndicated reruns whenever possible. Upon NBC's mid-season cancellation, however, the syndicated episodes reverted to the Ironside title.

Production notes

The show was filmed in a mixture of locations, sometimes in San Francisco but also with a large number of studio scenes (including scenes with conversations in a moving vehicle, where a traffic backdrop is used). The shows contained stock footage of San Francisco, with pan shots of Coit Tower or clips of traffic scenes.

Ironside and his team used a rather large open space on the fourth floor of the Old Hall of Justice in San Francisco at 750 Kearny Street between Washington and Merchant Streets. The Old Hall had already been demolished while Ironside was still in production. It had been abandoned in 1961 and demolished in late 1967. The SFPD had begun using their new home by January 1962. In December 1967 demolition finally began. It took five months with wrecking balls and bulldozers to raze the building.[2]


Crossover with The Bold Ones: The New Doctors

At the start of its sixth season, Ironside did a two-part crossover episode with The Bold Ones: The New Doctors entitled "Five Days in the Death of Sergeant Brown" where Ed is critically injured by a sniper and is treated by Dr. David Craig and his medical staff. Part 1 was broadcast on Ironside and part 2 on The New Doctors. Part 2 is now shown in reruns as an episode of Ironside. E. G. Marshall and David Hartman (stars of The New Doctors) received starring credit in the opening credits of both episodes. Part 2 features a longer edited version of Quincy Jones' Ironside theme as heard on his 1971 album Smackwater Jack.

Broadcast history

Season Time slot
1 (1967–68) Thursday at 8:30-9:30 pm (EST)
2 (1968–69)
3 (1969–70)
4 (1970–71)
5 (1971–72) Tuesday at 7:30-8:30 pm (EST)
(September 21 – November 23, 1971)
Thursday at 9:00–10:00 pm (EST)
(November 25, 1971 – March 9, 1972)
6 (1972–73) Thursday at 9:00–10:00 pm (EST)
7 (1973–74)
8 (1974–75)

A roster of guest stars

One of the longer-running police dramas of the day, the series featured appearances by a number of then current television actors and past and future movie stars, among whom were Jodie Foster, Eve McVeagh, Ricardo Montalbán, Gavin MacLeod, Burgess Meredith, Bruce Lee, Robert Alda, Leo G. Carroll, David Opatoshu, William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, Dana Elcar, Vito Scotti, and Ellen Corby. In the season 5 episode Murder Impromptu, Burr was reunited with his former Perry Mason co-star Barbara Hale.

NBC's 1971 fall TV season opened with a two-hour crossover between Ironside and a new series, Jessica Walter guest starred in a spin-off episode for the series Amy Prentiss which aired as part of the NBC Mystery Movie 1974–1975. She played a relatively young investigator who becomes Chief of Detectives for the San Francisco Police Department. Helen Hunt, in an early role, played Prentiss' pre-teen daughter, Jill. Four two-hour episodes were aired.


The opening theme music was written by Quincy Jones and was the first synthesizer-based television theme song, though in 1971, Jones recorded a fuller four-minute band version for the album Smackwater Jack.[3][4] This recording was then edited and used for the opening credits of the fifth through eighth seasons (1971–75). (The entire album track can be heard in the fifth-season episode "Unreasonable Facsimile" as Ironside and team track a suspect on the streets of San Francisco.) In addition to the opening theme music, Quincy Jones composed the entire score for the first eight episodes. Oliver Nelson took over those duties up to the end of the winter to spring 1972 episodes. Nelson was then replaced by Marty Paich for all the episodes from the beginning of the fall of that year up until the last episode that was produced in the spring of 1974. The song "Even When you Cry" with music by Quincy Jones and lyrics by Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman was performed by James Farentino in the episode 'Something for Nothing' while Marcia Strassman had already sung it off-screen in the earlier episode 'The Man Who Believed' both during season 1.

TV reunion movie

Burr and the main cast reunited for a made-for-TV movie in 1993, The Return of Ironside, which aired on May 4, 1993 on NBC, not long before Burr's death. Burr was starring in a series of Perry Mason TV movies at the time, and he had undergone a significant change in appearance, most notably growing a beard, since he had last played Ironside in 1974. Since his appearance made him more identifiable as Perry Mason and he did not want to create confusion between the two characters considering he had not played Ironside in nearly twenty years, Burr decided to color his hair (although this was unnecessary, as he had already gone gray when Ironside premiered) and shave, choosing to leave a goatee on his face. Unlike the original series, which took place in San Francisco, California, the reunion was set and filmed in Denver, Colorado, with the justification that the character Ed Brown had become the city's deputy chief of police. (Denver was also where most of Burr's Perry Mason TV movies were produced.) Galloway, Mitchell, Anderson and Baur re-created their roles for the movie even though Anderson and Baur had not worked together at the same time on the original series.

2013 remake

In 2013, a short-lived remake with the same name aired on NBC. Actor Blair Underwood took on the title role (with none of the other characters from the original series being used), while the action was relocated from San Francisco to New York City. This version of the character was more in the tough cop mold, often at odds with his superiors over his unrelenting, even violent approach to police work. The series was panned by critics and ignored by viewers, and was canceled and pulled after the airing of just four episodes (out of nine produced).


An episode of Get Smart which aired in March, 1969 was titled "Leadside" and featured a wheelchair-using master criminal by that name (and his assistants). Leadside could not walk; however he was able to run. Another episode was called "Ironhand" which had a KAOS operative with a hand encased in metal.

The December 1970 issue of Mad magazine included a parody of Ironside titled "Ironride".

On The Benny Hill Show, Benny Hill played Ironside in a few sketches, most notably in a sketch called "Murder on the Oregon Express" which parodied several TV detective characters.

Impressionist Billy Howard included Ironside as one of the detectives parodied in his novelty hit record "King of the Cops".

The 1980 television movie Murder Can Hurt You spoofs numerous TV detectives from the 1970s and 80s and includes Victor Buono playing the wheelchair-using detective "Ironbottom."

Cultural references

Tom T. Hall's country music classic "Old Dogs and Children and Watermelon Wine," about a nostalgic conversation in an almost deserted barroom, mentions the bartender passing the time by watching Ironside on television, although the song refers to it as "Ironsides," incorrectly pluralizing the show's title.

In British sitcom Phoenix Nights, Alan Johnson (one half of the resident musicians at the club) has wheelchair-bound club owner Brian Potter saved into his mobile phone as 'Ironside'. This is made clear in the 1st episode of the 2nd series which shows a close-up of Alan's phone ringing.

In the Jamie Foxx Show episode "I've Fallen and I Won't Get Up", Helen King (Ella English) refers to Kelly Coffield Park's lawyer, who is suing Jamie and The Kings Towers, as quote "She sounds more like Ironside."

In the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation season 2 episode "Stalker", Nick Stokes is thrown out a window during an investigation. At the hospital, he is in a wheelchair and co-worker Warrick Brown refers to him as "Ironsides".

A fifteen second clip of the Quincy Jones theme tune is played in the Kill Bill movies whenever Uma Thurman's character sees an enemy.

In House, the lead character is called Ironside by Dr. Wilson while attempting to prove that wheelchair users are better off than cane users.

In Supernatural, season 5 episode "The Curious Case of Dean Winchester", Dean tells Bobby "Let's go, Ironsides," after encouraging him to keep hunting paranormal activity, even if wheelchair-bound.

In the fourth season of the series Breaking Bad, the character Hank suffers from a spinal bullet wound that prevents him from walking. When asked to go back on the case he was working on before he was shot, he replies, "What am I, Ironside?"

In Jonathan Creek episode The Clue of the Savant's Thumb, DI Gideon Pryke (Rik Mayall) is a detective who suffered a spinal injury from a sniper's bullet and is bound to a wheelchair.

The popular 1960's television series Get Smart parodied Ironside in its fourth season with an episode featuring a wheelchair-bound KAOS agent named "Leadside."

In "Operation: Lou," the 13th episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show's third season, Mary's boss, Lou Grant, goes into the hospital to have a piece of WW2 shrapnel removed. Later, as he is leaving the hospital after being released, seated in a wheelchair per regulations, he says, "Why do I suddenly feel like solving a crime?"

The synthesizer based theme to Ironside is played before the opening kickoff in Washington Redskins home games.

Jamie Foxx Show: "Episode I've Fallen and I Won't Get Up" Helen King (Ella English) refers to Kelly Coffield Park's lawyer, who is suing Jamie and The Kings Towers, as quote " she sounds more like Ironside."

On a fifth season episode of Cheers, Woody, the bartender, offers to show a visitor around Boston. She asks to see Old Ironsides. Woody replies, "I don't know if Raymond Burr lives in Boston."

DVD releases

Shout! Factory has released the first four seasons of Ironside on DVD in Region 1.

In Region 2, Anchor Bay Entertainment released the first season on DVD in the UK on August 25, 2008.[5]

In Region 4, Madman Entertainment has released all eight seasons on DVD. The eighth and final season, which included the 1993 TV reunion movie The Return of Ironside, was released on October 19, 2011.[6]

Season 5 includes the two-part crossover episode "The Priest Killer", a crossover with the series Sarge, which was never aired as part of the series.

DVD Name Ep# Release dates
Region 1 Region 4
Season 1 29 (includes 1967 pilot movie) April 24, 2007 August 16, 2007
Season 2 26 October 16, 2007 November 8, 2007
Season 3 26 January 19, 2010 September 16, 2008
Season 4 26 October 19, 2010 June 24, 2009
Season 5 25 N/A May 19, 2010
Season 6 24 N/A August 11, 2010
Season 7 25 N/A February 2, 2011
Season 8 19 N/A October 19, 2011

See also


  1. ^ "Awards for Ironside". Retrieved 2013-09-08. 
  2. ^ "County Jail No. 1 – 1915 to 1961". History of the San Francisco Sheriff's Department. 2015. Retrieved June 7, 2015. 
  3. ^ Quincy Jones Biography - Academy of Achievement: Print Preview
  4. ^ Kill Bill, Vol. 1 (2003) Soundtrack
  5. ^ Ironside Series 1 [DVD]: Raymond Burr, Don Galloway, Barbara Anderson, Don Mitchell: Film & TV
  6. ^ Ironside - The Complete Eighth Season

External links

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