Ironside (TV series)
Format Crime drama
Created by Collier Young
Starring Raymond Burr as Robert IronsideDon Galloway as Det. Sgt. Ed BrownDon Mitchell as Mark Sanger
Theme music composer Quincy Jones
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 8
No. of episodes 199
Running time 60 to 90 minutes
Production company(s) Harbour-UTV
Original channel NBC
Original run September 14, 1967 – January 16, 1975


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Ironside (TV series)

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Ironside is a Universal television series which ran on NBC from September 14, 1967 to January 16, 1975. The show starred Raymond Burr as the wheelchair-using Chief of Detectives, Robert T. Ironside. The character's debut was in a TV-movie on March 28, 1967. The original title of the show in the United Kingdom was A Man Called Ironside. The show earned Burr six Emmy and two Golden Globe nominations.


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The show revolved around former San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) Chief of Detectives Robert T. Ironside (Raymond Burr), a veteran of more than twenty years of police service who was forced to retire from the department after a sniper's bullet paralyzed him from the waist down and forced him to use a wheelchair. In the pilot episode, Ironside shows his strength of character and gets himself appointed a "special department consultant" by his good friend, Police Commissioner Dennis Randall. He does this by calling a press conference and then tricking Commissioner Randall into meeting his terms. Ironside uses an attic floor room (for living and office space) at the SFPD headquarters and made use of a specially modified and equipped police truck and later a modified day van to accommodate his wheelchair. In the pilot he requests that Ed Brown & Eve Whitfield are assigned to him. He later recruits the angst filled Mark Sanger to be his personal assistant after Mark is brought in as a suspect who wanted to kill Ironside. The show became a success as Ironside depended on brains and initiative in handling cases.

Supporting characters on Ironside included Det. Sgt. Ed Brown (Don Galloway), and a young socialite-turned-plainclothes officer, Eve Whitfield (Barbara Anderson). (Eve's clothes were far from plain as she often changed stylish outfits from scene to scene.) There was also delinquent-turned-bodyguard/assistant Mark Sanger (Don Mitchell), who also opted to become a police officer and subsequently graduated from law school (night classes were mentioned from early on) and even married late in the run of the series. Commissioner Randall was played by Gene Lyons.

By the show's fourth season, Anderson left the show over a contract dispute (at the same time she was getting married) and was replaced by another young policewoman, Fran Belding (Elizabeth Baur), who filled much the same role for four more years.

The show enjoyed an eight-season run on NBC, drawing respectable, if not always high, ratings. As the eighth season began, Universal released a syndicated rerun package of episodes from earlier seasons under the title The Raymond Burr Show, reflecting the practice of that time to differentiate original network episodes from syndicated reruns whenever possible. Upon NBC's mid-season cancellation, however, the syndicated episodes reverted to the Ironside title.

The show was filmed in a mixture of locations, sometimes out in San Francisco but also with a large amount of scenes filmed inside a studio including scenes involving conversations inside a moving vehicle where a traffic backdrop is used. The shows were also padded out with large amounts of stock footage over San Francisco, normally featuring panning shots of the Coit Tower or regular clips of general traffic scenes. The continuity on these shots is sometimes poor with repeated use of particular clips and details being missed. In several early episodes Sargent Brown drives a black Ford sedan which is normally a 1965 year Ford Fairlane but the next clip shows him turning up in a 1968 model Ford Torino sedan.

A roster of guest stars

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One of the longer-running police dramas of the day, the series featured appearances by a number of actors, familiar and unfamiliar, among whom were Lynn Borden, Kim Darby, Antonio Fargas, Tiny Tim (in the pilot TV-movie), Randolph Mantooth, Cal Bellini, Sharon Gless, Dabbs Greer, Bernie Kopell, Frank Gorshin, Jess Walton, Pernell Roberts, Alan Oppenheimer, Dan Kemp, E. G. Marshall, Harrison Ford, John Schuck, Ingrid Pitt, Susan Saint James, Ivan Dixon, Harry Townes, Pat Hingle, Norman Alden, Anne Francis, David Carradine, Charo, Joseph Campanella, Bill Quinn, Bernard Fox, Tyler McVey, Robert Webber, Alan Hale, Jr., Marion Ross, Marcia Strassman, Susan Sullivan, Suzanne Pleshette, Bo Hopkins, James Hong, Jeanne Cooper, Paul Winfield, Harold Gould, James Farentino, Robert Reed, Bill Bixby, David Cassidy, David Hartman, Dana Elcar, Tina Louise, Lincoln Kilpatrick, Robert Karnes, Tyler MacDuff, Greg Mullavy, Rod Serling, Gene Raymond, Francine York, Peter Mark Richman, Jennifer Gan, Clu Gulager, Joel Grey, Van Williams, John Hoyt, Scott Glenn, William Windom, Joshua Bryant, Dorothy Malone, Robert Alda, Barbara Rush, Jack Kelly, Jason Wingreen, George Takei, George Wallace, John M. Pickard, Diana Muldaur, Jodie Foster, William Katt, Lee Grant, Steve Forrest, Susan Olsen, Michael Lerner, Edward Asner, Eddie Garrett, Darwin Joston, John Rubinstein, Jack Lord, Scott Marlowe, Norman Fell, Gavin MacLeod, Gary Collins, Johnny Seven, William Shatner, Bobby Darin, Martin Sheen, Cheryl Ladd, William Daniels, William Schallert, Burgess Meredith, Vic Tayback, Arch Johnson, James Drury, Ed Flanders and Bruce Lee.

Future Knots Landing stars Joan Van Ark and William Devane made cameo appearances. Kathleen Freeman and Kent McCord appeared in the premiere episode. Raymond Burr's ex-Perry Mason co-star Barbara Hale guest-starred in one episode, as well as future Quincy, M.E. stars, Robert Ito, Garry Walberg and Val Bisoglio. Future Hill Street Blues stars Michael Conrad, James B. Sikking and George Wyner were major Universal Studios players who guest starred in separate episodes. Sorrell Booke better known as Boss Hogg in the Dukes of Hazzard TV series played a jewel thief matched against Ironside in the opening Season 2 episode 'Shell Game". Richard Anderson appeared in the last episode. Don Galloway's daughter, Tracy Galloway, made a few guest appearances as well. Future The Price Is Right model Janice Pennington was in one episode. Music legend Quincy Jones, who wrote the Ironside theme song, made a guest appearance, and screen legend Myrna Loy did, too. Future Lou Grant star Edward Asner guest starred in the episode "The Fourteenth Runner," for which the story was supplied by that series' developer Leon Tokatyan.

1971's fall TV season on NBC opened with a two-hour crossover between Ironside and a new series, Sarge starring George Kennedy as a cop-turned-priest. Kennedy's San Diego-based Father Samuel Cavanaugh came to San Francisco because of the death of a friend and fellow priest, and his investigation got him embroiled with Ironside and his staff. The special consolidated the two shows' consecutive time slots, and has been subsequently seen as a TV-movie, The Priest Killer.


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The opening theme music was written by Quincy Jones and was the first synthesizer-based television theme song. A brief, 15-second excerpt from the opening of the theme music is used in Kill Bill as the Bride's recurring revenge motif, which flares up with a red-tinged flashback whenever she's in the company of her next target. Much of the music score for the first few seasons of Ironside was by Oliver Nelson.

TV reunion movie

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Burr and the main cast reunited for a made-for-TV movie in 1993 which aired not long before Burr's death. Burr was starring in an ongoing series of Perry Mason TV movies at the time, so in order to make himself look less like the other character, he dyed his hair and modified his full beard to a goatee for the Ironside movie. Unlike the original series, which took place in San Francisco, California, the reunion took place in Denver, Colorado (with the excuse that Ed Brown had become the city's deputy chief of police and being a leading candidate to be appointed chief), which was also where most of Burr's Perry Mason films were produced. Galloway, Mitchell, Baur and Anderson all re-created their roles here.


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An episode of Get Smart which aired in March, 1969 was titled "Leadside" and featured a wheelchair-using master criminal by that name (and his assistants).

The December 1970 issue of Mad Magazine included a parody of Ironside titled "Ironride".

The 1980 television movie Murder Can Hurt You spoofs numerous TV detectives from the 1970s and 80s and includes Victor Buono playing the wheelchair-using detective "Ironbottom."

Cultural references

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Tom T. Hall's country music classic "Old Dogs and Children and Watermelon Wine," about a nostalgic conversation in an almost deserted barroom, mentions the bartender passing the time by watching "Ironside" on television, although the song refers to it as "Ironsides."

DVD releases

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Shout! Factory has released the first 4 seasons of Ironside on DVD in Region 1.

In Region 2, Anchor Bay Entertainment released the first season on DVD in the UK on August 25, 2008.

In Region 4, Madman Entertainment has released the first seven seasons on DVD. Season 7 was released on February 2, 2011.

Season 5 includes the 2 part crossover episode The Priest Killer, a crossover with the series Sarge which was never aired as part of the series.

DVD NameEp#Release dates
Region 1Region 4
Season 129 (includes 1967 pilot movie)April 24, 2007August 16, 2007
Season 226October 16, 2007November 8, 2007
Season 326January 19, 2010?September 16, 2008
Season 426October 19, 2010?June 24, 2009
Season 525TBAMay 19, 2010
Season 624N/AAugust 11, 2010
Season 725N/AFebruary 2, 2011
Season 820N/AN/A

? - Shout! Factory select title, sold exclusively through Shout's online store

See also

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  • Hilton San Francisco Financial District – this hotel is on the site where Ironside's office was located (old San Francisco Hall of Justice Building)

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