As the series began, after being paralysed by a sniper’s bullet, Detective Ironside was forced to retire, only to return as a ‘consultant’ to the San Francisco police force. Heading up his own special team, the gruff but thoroughly decent Ironside fights crime from his special office at police headquarters
The '60s and '70s were tumultuous decades of change in different ways. At the same time, archaic attitudes about race and sex still dominated. Ironside appropriately reflects both of these contradictions.
In amongst a number of generic episodes that find the team hunting down standard TV criminals came episodes that touched (albeit usually only lightly) on the hot issues of the day like racism and sexism. It's the type of show that can be progressive and retrograde on the same issue within the same scene and so represents its time period more than might be at first thought.
This third season does touch occasionally on more personal stories for the team. Opening with a tale of con men that prey on people to strip them of their savings (in this case Mark's aunt) it kicks the season off with a fairly implausible Hustle-light battle of wits.
Much better and representative of the show is the season closer Tom Dayton is Loose Among Us. We find out how Ed joined Ironside's team after the death of his fiancé. The man he holds responsible is out of prison but Ed's convinced this barely-hinged misogynist won't be able to go long before his rage against women explodes again. It's in this more creatively adventurous episode, as the team push and cajole Dayton that we can find admittedly cruder antecedents of things to come in later series like Homicide: Life on the Street's Three Men and Adena. It also shows off how guest stars could really elevate the material. Here it's the performance of the much missed and underrated Bill Bixby, a very fine actor.
In between these two, there's episodes of varying quality. It plays with form frequently enough which keeps them more often than not fresh, especially in episodes like Five Miles High. Also, by not having Ironside tethered to one city area but able to get involved with pretty much anything he likes there's more variety to the cases.
A relatively strong showing from Burr, his team and a fairly small revolving stable of writers makes this a confident purchase for fans of the show.
IRONSIDE SEASON 3 / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: RAYMOND BURR, DON GALLOWAY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW