‘Ironside’ And The Cutthroat Nature Of The Television Beast
Photo Credit: S & A

‘Ironside’ And The Cutthroat Nature Of The Television Beast


As Erik Luers’ article about Arsenio Hall’s late night show states (HERE),

television is one mean mother. It’s a nasty, cutthroat business which takes

no prisoners. When you’re on top, everybody loves you. But if you’re a loser no

one wants to know you or claim that they’ve even heard of you.

So the story goes like this. I happened to have an e-mail

exchange today with a very long time friend of mine. Someone involved in television production

whom I’ve known for at least 30 years, who not only is very much involved in the business

and has lots of connections in the TV industry, but has, as well, the most extraordinary knowledge of television history since the very beginning.

So somehow we got into a discussion about the recent failed

NBC reboot of Ironside starring Blair

Underwood, which was cancelled by the network after only three weeks.

Of course, the show was a bad idea from the beginning and

it pulled in some pretty dismal ratings. But my friend had a different

take on it. He told me that not only was the show doomed to fail, but that it was

designed to fail as well.

Now you’d ask, why would a network spend millions of

dollars to produce and promote a series when they never had any intention it ever succeeding? 

He said that NBC had sunk “a lot of promotional money into Ironside

and considering that they seem to be fulfilling some contractual responsibility to

find ways to rejuvenate brand Universal shows from the last 60 years, not

knowing whether they will succeed or not.”

They tried reboots of Knight Rider, The Bionic Woman, and there was even a black Kojak series with Ving Rhames. They all failed.

In fact the only TV remake that has succeeded for more than one season was Battlestar Galactica on the SyFy Channel, which is owned by NBC/Universal.

He said he figured out the real plan NBC had for

Ironside when he saw that Dick Wolf’s

NBC show Chicago PD would be

doing a crossover with his Law &

Order SVU series.

In other words, a two-part special that would begin on one

show and carry over to the other show for the second half. Now considering that

Ironside was set in N.Y. and it was a Universal show, why didn’t they do a crossover

with it and SVU which is also set in N.Y.? “Being that this 2013 version of

the show took place in New York, I was surprised that nothing was put in place

for that show and SVU to crossover to give Ironside a lift.  Ironside was never meant to succeed.”

What my friend speculates was that NBC considered

Ironside as nothing more than a place holder for the Chicago PD show produced by Wolf, who over the last more than 20 years has

become NBC’s most powerful series producer. And in fact there are rumblings

that a third NBC series, set in Chicago to be produced by Wolf along with Chicago Fire and Chicago PD, is in the works.  “And

with P.D. given a greenlight from jump, Ironside’s job was to keep the time

slot warm until P.D. debuted”. 

Now whether Underwood and the producers of Ironside knew

this all along or were kept in the dark is up for debate. And maybe Underwood

was owed something by somebody, which is why they went ahead with the show. But

it was doomed from the get-go.

So where does this leave Underwood?


was his third show for NBC and Universal. 

Remember almost ten years ago, he did a short lived show called LAX

about life at the airport.  Then came The

Event, same studio and network.  And now

Ironside.  They keep trying to put him in

shows and they fail… you can’t build a show around the guy because he can’t

carry it.  He does better in an ensemble

series and the last successful one he did was L.A. Law.”

So what’s his next move? My friend says he should try to

focus on working with black producers like Tyler

Perry again, but therein lies a catch:


yet (he should) hook up with Shonda Rhimes but from what I hear, Underwood

would rather work with white producers or in an environment of multicultural

productions because he doesn’t want to get type cast.”

And he last added that:


guarantee, if Rhimes talked him into joining the hottest show on the air

Scandal, it would reactivate his career….(the) show has rabid fans among black

women and it seems Rhimes has a knack for saving black men’s careers, if not for

a short period.  Just ask Taye Diggs.”

And so it goes.

Shadow and Act is a website dedicated to cinema, television and web content of Africa and its global Diaspora. With daily news, interviews, in-depth investigations into the audiovisual industry, and more, Shadow and Act promotes content created by and about people of African descent throughout the world.

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