When Ironside premiered in 1967, the prime time TV network landscape changed with the introduction of a physically challenged character. The late actor Raymond Burr played the title character, former San Francisco Chief of Police Detectives Robert Ironside. Ironside had an illustrious, decades long career. Then, a sniper’s bullet left him paralyzed from the waist down and forced him to retire. Rather than passively accepting this tragic reversal of fortune, Ironside parlayed his experience and resiliency into a second career as a special consultant to the police department.
The series was very successful with nearly 200 episodes during its eight year run and multiple Emmy nominations. Yet, a 2013 remake of the same name starring Blair Underwood as Ironside failed to recapture the spark of the original and was cancelled after only three episodes.
Arguably, a television drama centered on a physically challenged character is a risky proposition amidst the current climate of dramatic offerings. But a show presenting a strong, intelligent and interesting physically challenged character is a positive and inspiring message to portray.
CBS is banking on such a character when The Inspectors premieres on October 3 as part of its Saturday morning lineup. Actor Bret Green plays Preston Wainwright, a paraplegic college student working for the United States Postal Inspection Service. Rounding out the cast are Terry Serpico, Jessica Lundy, Harrison Knight and Erica Marie Sanchez.
I recently chatted with Bret Green. He is an engaging actor who seems undaunted by the emotional weight of the story The Inspectors will tell. Green welcomes the challenge noting that the message of The Inspectors is a universal one of using strength of character and the will to fight difficult circumstances in order to rise above them. It is a message that embraces us all.