TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Ironside TV Poster Image
Violence, police brutality in unremarkable procedural.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

A powerful message in having a competent, strong character in a wheelchair. Unfortunately, the show also contains worrisome messages about sex, violence, and justice.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Robert Ironside is powerful, tough, and committed to rooting out bad guys but has controversial ideas about the rights of suspects.


The viewer sees dead bodies streaked with blood and gore; cops and criminals brandish and fire guns; distraught family members deal with the deaths of loved ones, tense hostage situations, and other graphic violence. Expect sexual situations connected to crime.


Ironside is single and virile; we see a woman in her underwear climb on top of him on his wheelchair while she writhes and moans. No nudity. 


Some cursing, often in anger: "You lying son of a bitch!" There are also insults: "Are you a cripple?"

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drugs may come up in connection to crime.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ironside is a gritty cop series that includes graphic violence: dead bodies, pools of blood, bodies with knives protruding from them. Suspects are dangled from the sides of bridges and beaten; rights are routinely violated, and police officers seem not to care. Guns are pulled and fired; characters are in mortal danger and suddenly die. The central character is single and engages in consequence-free casual sex; we see a woman in her underwear and a barely there shirt climb on top of him and proceed to writhe and moan. There are no four-letter words, but there is some cursing, sometimes in rage ("You lying son of a bitch!") as well as rough language, sometimes directed at characters ("Are you really a cripple?").

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What's the story?

Blair Underwood is IRONSIDE, a detective who didn't let a little thing like getting shot and paralyzed slow down his police career. He's back on the job and perhaps coping even better than his ex-partner (Brent Sexton), who still blames himself for Ironside's injuries. In true tough-guy fashion, Ironside now investigates gritty murders, this time from the perspective of the wheelchair he uses to get around. Thanks to a settlement with the city, he's been allowed to handpick his own team: Spencer Grammer, Neal Bledsoe, and Pablo Schreiber. He also has an exasperated boss (Kenneth Choi), who doesn't like the way Ironside shakes down suspects but can't argue with the results. Meanwhile, there's always another crime to solve, and Ironside is ready.

Is it any good?

Just in case you haven't missed the thuddingly obvious messages that Underwood-as-Ironside is every bit as virile and tough in his chair as he was out of it, the camera lingers on a shot of Ironside and a suspect after the detective has just punched a confession out of him. "Hey man, are you really a cripple?" the suspect asks. "You tell me," rasps out Ironside. Oof.

The problem is that we've seen this before; police procedurals have been run into the ground in recent years, so this lacks freshness, not to mention that Raymond Burr already played this character from 1967 to 1975. And, though Underwood is always great, the fact that he's in a wheelchair doesn't add much. Yes, it's nice to see a disabled character on TV, taking care of business. Watching blah crimes get solved: not as interesting.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Familes can talk about whether the viewer is supposed to like Robert Ironside. Is he a hero or an anti-hero? Is his character presented in a likeable way? Are the deeds he performs heroic or flawed?

  • Police officers often violate criminals' rights on Ironside. Do you think this is typically the way law enforcement treats suspects? Does it make you uncomfortable to watch? Is it supposed to?

  • The visuals on Ironside seem grayed-out and drab. Compare the colors and scenery of Ironside to other police-procedure shows such as Law & Order or CSI. How do they compare?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama

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