But whatever you do, don’t blame the failure of NBC’s Ironside reboot on anything to do with disability and its depiction on film and TV. As TV cops and rednecks are so fond of saying, that dog don’t hunt.
If anything, the revival of Ironside was a modest victory for people with disabilities, who stood to benefit from the modernized profile of paraplegic detective Robert Ironside, played by Blair Underwood, as a streetwise, team-leading professional. Had the series lasted for even a season or two, we might’ve seen unprecedented exploration of disability issues as “New York’s Toughest Detective” (as promo ads described the revamped Ironside) went about his crime-solving business.
Accessibility, health care, discrimination, exclusion, sexuality — everything that’s important to us could’ve been examined in the context of a weekly, hour-long crime drama. Regardless of protest over the casting of nondisabled Underwood, his character’s context made it likely that disabled actors would’ve been sought for guest-starring roles. All that and more could’ve happened had the series offered more than a shred of original plotting. It didn’t.
As the major networks struggle to compete against the boundary-pushing freedom of basic-cable nets like FX and AMC, as well as premium-cable hits on HBO and Showtime (not to mention the advent of original programming from Netflix and Hulu), they have two choices: Take serious risks with original ideas, or copy proven formulas that make sponsors feel happy and safe. And since network executives are the most risk-averse creatures in Hollywood, we inevitably get a dozen variations of Law & Order, C.S.I., NCIS and popular talent competitions.
That’s why “franc