memories of the ’70s – Ironside

For those who don’t know, there was a series that started in the late 1960s and featured a former police detective who becomes a consultant despite the fact that he’s in a wheelchair – he’s Robert T. Ironside.

Even with the societal prejudice against someone who resided in a wheelchair, Raymond Burr proudly portrayed Ironside, who helped solve police cases with what was most needed, his brains.

Produced and created by Collier Young, Ironside debuted in September 1967 on NBC, and hit its stride in 1970, when Burr was nominated for both an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Robert T. Ironside.

Ironside worked with a posse of three others – Det. Sgt. Ed Brown, socialite turned police officer Eve Whitfield, and bodyguard/assistant Mark Sanger, who had initially been hired to kill Ironside.

Each week the group would learn about various crimes and find the culprits, with Ironside operating from his own specialized consultant’s area within the San Francisco Police Department and with his own van for transporting himself and his crew.

For eight seasons, the show may have fluctuated in ratings, but two Golden Globe nominations and four  Emmy nominations for Burr proved that this show was breaking ground in depicting a crime procedural drama on the 1970s airwaves.

memories of the ’70s – The Streets of San Francisco

These partners focused on keeping the Bay City safe with the police drama The Streets of San Francisco.

Starring Karl Malden and Michael Douglas, the Quinn Martin produced series was focused on the relationship between the two cops, Stone and Keller, the veteran and the newbie.

Each episode focused on a homicide, and the two unravelling the information, clues and tips to find out who was the main suspect. Stone was a 20 year veteran, a widower and becomes a mentor to the young Keller, an inexperienced and brash 28 year old, newly promoted to detective.

Both actors spent a lot of time with the local San Francisco Police Department, hoping to make the show as realistic as possible, and since it was filmed on location, it showcased the unique aspects of the Bay City.

As well Malden and Douglas became close friends, and their relationship made the difference on the small screen.

ABC TV was happy with the show, and its ratings, showcasing it on Thursday nights, and the duo were a popular choice for five seasons. From 1972 until 1977, the series was all about Malden and Douglas, who were both nominated for  Golden Globes and Emmys for their roles.

But in 1977, Douglas produced the successful film One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and wanted to pursue his film career and left the series, with a new character to replace him – Richard Hatch as Insp. Dan Robbins.

But viewers like the Malden-Douglas combo and the series was cancelled by ABC TV at the end of the season due to low ratings.

I saw this show in re-runs several years later, and liked the duo as much as the views of San Francisco, a city I would only see many decades later, but  when I saw the cable cars, I was reminded of this tv series, a fave from my childhood.

memories of the ’70s – CHiPs

Dynamic duos are always popular, but put the two in cop uniforms and on motorcycles in Los Angeles and you got the late ’70s popular show CHiPs.

Starring Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox as patrolman with the California Highway Patrol, Ponch and Jon handled the offenders of the highways of Los Angeles, with Ponch the renegade compared to Jon the straightlaced officer.

Debuting in September 1977 on NBC, CHiPs was an hour long light drama that balanced the antics of Ponch and Jon with their commanding officer, Sergeant Joe Getrar, played by Robert Pine.

Ironically the characters never used their weapons in the course of the series and had never ridden motorcycles. Although stuntmen were used, both Estrada and Wilcox did many of their own stunts for the show, with Estrada eventually breaking both wrists and ribs which was incorporated into the storyline.

Yet both brought something new to television despite this being a comedy/drama. Estrada’s portrayal of a Hispanic American was a positive role model in a time when few Latinos were seen on television, while Larry Wilcox’s status as a Vietnam veteran was shown in a positive light through his on-screen character, rare for this time period in American history.

But the reality was Estrada became a celebrity – his good looks put him on several magazine covers and this led to stress on the set, with Wilcox quitting the show after five seasons because of the continued focus on Estrada’s character. Estrada meanwhile got into contract disputes with the producers and didn’t work for seven episodes while the company employed another character to temporarily replace Estrada.

So although this lightweight show, which I used to watch occasionally because I did love (and still do) cop shows, it stayed strong in the ratings and became a favourite with viewers, enough so that action figures of the lead characters were sold in stores as well as mini-replicas of the motorcycles.

But does anyone remember episodes? Not really, since the crime wasn’t the focus – it was the camraderie of the two officers, riding their bikes on the wild highways of California.