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What's New?Vintage Press InformationAn 'Ironside' Title and Airdate ListingOriginal NBC Stills ArchiveVintage Magazine Features'Ironside' CollectablesEditorials and Analytical FeaturesLinks
What's New?Vintage Press InformationAn 'Ironside' Title and Airdate ListingOriginal NBC Stills ArchiveVintage Magazine FeaturesIronside' CollectablesEditorials and Analytical FeaturesLinks
 The Sunday Star  •  TV MagazineSunday, February 28, 1971  •  Page 2 
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ON THE AIR
The Eyes Have It…
 
By Bernie Harrison
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Sir Ralph Richardson, a splendid actor who just concluded a Broadway run in “Home,” with Sir John Gielgud, once excused himself during an interview, saying he was sorry but he wanted to watch “That man in the wheelchair.”
 
That man is Raymond Burr, of course, and there are a number of expert observers who contend that he is the best TV actor around. The only other actor mentioned in the same breath is “Marcus Welby’s” Robert Young.
 
It is one instance where public preference agrees with expert opinion; it is a rare week when their shows are not in the top ten. In the Nielsens for the week of Feb. 1-7, for example, “Ironside” was No. 2, and “Marcus Welby” No. 3. The No. 1 show was a Clerow Production — Flip Wilson’s new program, and Flip, for a young man new to the medium, has a rare understanding of how to work on the tube.
 
What do the actors have in common? One thing that stands out is the simplicity of their playing style; the personal business is kept to a minimum. Burr’s “Ironside,” paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair, points this up dramatically. It is believability that matters and all can look into the camera and seem as if they are addressing you. (Milton Berle, in all his No. 1 years, couldn’t do it.)
 
Both know that they have to be activists in their TV stories — you don’t last long as an observer, or commentator. Young found this out in a short-lived series, “Window on Main Street.” The hero can be wrong, occasionally, but he must be decisive. George C. Scott, an extraordinarily good actor, foundered on “East Side, West Side,” partly because the resolution of many problems was beyond the social worker’s province. Scott’s writers really didn’t seem to know his job; “Ironside” and “Marcus Welby” are experts at the top of their professions. In a time when the news programs are filled with dramatic instances of leaders unable to lead, and people unable to cope, the viewer’s preference for make believe heroes who can cut it is at least understandable.
 
I used to get letters from “Perry Mason” fans (Burr’s old program is the champion re-run winner) who felt that when Perry turned around from the judge and looked at the camera, he was looking at them. The eyes have it.
 
On the movie beat this week, by the way, there’s another “Festival” kick, this one on WDCA-20, all John Wayne films, and the best of them suggests that this could be a John Ford salute, too — “The Long Voyage Home” and “Stagecoach.” The Voyage (1940) is from a Eugene O’Neill short story.
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