|When I was ten years old, there was one hour each week whenin my own mind at leastI was unavailable to my friends for football games, and to my family for those tedious pastimes so unfathomably beloved of adultsnamely wedding receptions and dinner parties.|
This was the period (usually a Saturday evening, between nine and ten P.M.) during which the BBC would broadcast the latest episode of Ironsideor, as it was known here in the U.K., A Man Called Ironside. (For those of you out there who may be fascinated by such things, the show was known in Germany as Der Chef. Fellow fan Ursula Chris Augustin has informed mewith exceptional tact and diplomacythat this is not, as Id assumed, the Germanic equivalent of Ironsides nickname of The Chief, but, more intriguingly, would translate into English as The Boss, as in a leader of a gang. In France, the series was retitled LHomme de fer, which, en Anglais, becomes the apposite Man of Iron. In that version, Robert T. was renamed Robert Dacier...)
I loved Ironside, and I can still remember why.
Each of the four main characters was special to me in some way, and I savoured the interaction between them.
The Chief (Raymond Burr) made me laugh.
On paper, Police Consultant Robert T. Ironside was a spectacularly unpleasant individual: conceited, unreasonable, short-tempered, manipulative, possessed of an almost child-like petulance and inability to compromise; he was someone who demanded high standards from his colleagues and then ridiculed them for attempting to achieve the standards he set
Improbably, however, as portrayed by Raymond Burr, he was inordinately likeable.
My own point of reference in the show was the character of Ironsides carer, Mark Sanger (Don Mitchell). Perhaps it was my youthful detestation of always having to do as I was told, but I relished the fact that he was both a part of the group, and could choose to be apart from it when he wanted to. Ironside could order Eve and Ed around, but there were times when he would give Mark an order and Mark would raise his hands, palms outward, smile, and say, Im not staff. I always got a kick from that.
Mark is also, arguably, the most noble character in the group; he doesnt judge the rights and wrongs of a situation by the statutes of the law, but searches for a deeper truth.
I also admired Ironsides right-hand man, Det. Sgt. Ed Brown (Don Galloway). Perversely, however, the aspects of his personality that I respected were the very antithesis of the qualities that endeared Mark to me. Like Mark, Ed was courageous and determined. Unlike Mark, however, he adhered unswervingly to the lawas, I guess, any enforcer of the law should. He also (in the early episodes, anyway) saw women in a very romantic light, and was almost clumsy in his relationships with them (in a number of episodes, Eve teases Ed mercilessly about his love-life). At that time, I viewed women with the same kind of humble awe that the early incarnation of Ed does (and, on reflection, I guess I still do!), and I related to Eds failures very strongly.
As for Eve...
Well, at ten years old, I was in love with Officer Eve Whitfield (Barbara Anderson)and watching the show today, I can understand why. Eve is a wonderful character
for most of the first season, and for the early part of the second. She is extremely knowledgeable (several stories emphasise that her deductive powers are far superior to Eds), she has a strong will (she confronts Ironside about his behaviour and attitudes many times), and is possessed of a exceptionally idiosyncratic sense of humour.
I have no recollection of watching Elizabeth Baur as Fran Belding, and it came as a surprise to me when I discoveredshortly after the 1980s reruns started here in the UKthat Barbara Anderson had left the show after four years. (Then again, I had also been completely unaware that the series ran for eight years.)
Watching Baur today, I am convinced that, had I seen her, I would have remembered her; like all of the regular cast, she is an exceptionally talented actor. In her first season, she was handed scripts that had been written for Barbara Anderson (many of them still bore her predecessors character name) but through the direction and energy of her performance, she invested Fran Belding with a personality that is uniquely appealing, and far removed from the knowing, ironic Eve Whitfield.
From this, I can only assume that I must have stopped watching Ironside before the change in castingand this isnt surprising.
Ive recently been doing some research on the show, and have discovered that at no time during its original airing did the BBC broadcast a run of episodes without some interruption or change to scheduling. The day and time of transmission was switched on an almost weekly basis, and the show would often vanish from the airwaves for several weeks so that sporting events could be scheduled. Stories from different seasons were also broadcast side-by-side.
Given this, it is not surprising that I lost the habit of watching the show long before it ceased production, and in the years that followed, the memory of my affection for it slipped from me.
Then, in March, 1987, the BBC started twenty-four hour broadcasting, and there, on Mondays at 14:00, the name of Ironside appeared as part of the daytime schedule.
I sat down to watch that first episode out of simple curiosity.
... and I enjoyed it immensely.
It was like meeting old friends.
After that, I went out of my way to catch every episode that was aired, and
I was rarely disappointed.
I should like to stress that my renewed affection for the show has nothing to do with nostalgia. In recent years, Ive had the opportunity to review almost all the TeleVision series that have meant something to me at various stages in my life, and with very few exceptions I have found most of them unwatchable.
Ironside is one of those exceptions.
The car chases and gun-fights which characterise so many detective series are almost entirely absent from Ironside. Here, it is the characters, and their problems, which engage and retain our interest and emotions.
In the final analysis, the show is generally just a detective series, with the prerequisite number of murders, abductions, thefts, and enigmas (there are a number of episodes which go beyond that, but well save that subject for another time and place), but for the most part, it was a well-written one, and it is always well-performed.
My desire to create a web site for the series came about after I logged on to the Internet in search of information about the show and failed to find any.
Since I started to build this site, I have found other Ironside home pages out in cyber-spaceand I have incorporated links to them in the appropriate placeand although there is some duplication of information, there are also some aspects to The Ironside Archive which are unique, so, hopefully, it will still have some validity.
As it is, what you will find here presently falls far short of what I would like there to be. The episode guide is little more than a list of titles and airdates, for example, with brief, one-sentence summaries of each episode. In time, however, I hope to provide the detailed synopses, cast and credit lists and trivia that I would expect from a website of this type.