Kicking off with Burr's no-nonsense chief matching wits with a caller who has predicted murder, there's no real upping of stakes, more a continuation of what people like about the show. As with the earlier seasons, we get a mix of crime show standards and some attempt to reflect the world the series was actually made in. A plus point for Ironside was (like the daddy of all these shows, Dragnet) that is wasn't afraid to present on primetime some pretty grim scenarios (like in Love, Peace, Brotherhood and Murder, when an actress dies of heroin use). Of course, like any good procedural, people could sleep safe in the knowledge that by episode's end an equilibrium had been established again.
Like other popular contemporary series, it’s packed with jobbing famous faces of the time (Bill Shatner was on his post-Trek 1970s guest star marathon and this season has his second of four total appearances from the run). Mixing in some location shooting with studio filming and de rigueur television stock footage, Ironside has at least a little local flavour of the city it was set in which adds to the time capsule flavour.
Part of what helped Ironside with keeping up quality was the regular pool of writers that allowed them to, here and there at least, play with knowing the characters. There's also a bit more for Ironside himself to do this go around and time spent with Burr is a good thing. Overall, the limitations of a weekly crime series are creeping in more by this season, but for fans of the show part of the appeal is arguably just such familiarity.
For modern viewers, this will probably all come across as a relic of a bygone TV age. If you hanker for series long arcs as a reason to tune in this is not for you, following as it does an ain't-broke-we-ain't-fixing-it template. It’s rarely spectacular stuff, and arguably Burr was more magnetic as Mason when taking apart a lying murderer on the witness stand. But take an episode like The People Against Judge McIntire and it's still able to twist the formula enough to keep things interesting.
Ironside hits that sweet spot somewhere between being surprisingly more innovative than its reputation would suggest and televisual comfort food often enough. For fans of the show or its genre rather than those with a casual interest, it still comes recommended.
IRONSIDE SEASON 4 / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: RAYMOND BURR, DON GALLOWAY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW