Blair Underwood's Ironside is less Raymond Burr and more Joe Swanson.
The original Ironside, which aired from 1967 to 1975, featured Burr in the starring role. But Underwood's take on Ironside essentially is a non-cartoon version of Joe Swanson, the wheelchair-bound policeman in Family Guy.
If you've ever seen Family Guy, you know that Joe's wheelchair doesn't exactly slow him down. Same thing with the new Ironside, which debuts Wednesday on NBC and Global.
"I paused until I read the script, because it was such a very different direction from the original series," says Underwood, acknowledging he had some initial reservations about playing wheelchair-bound police detective Robert Ironside. "But it's just a different style of storytelling and film-making than in the '60s.
"This is a character who is very physical, even now. He's aggressive."
Underwood has been a staple on the showbiz scene for many years, but he says he definitely has learned some lessons about the kinds of TV shows that warrant his interest and participation.
"You look at crime shows and crime dramas, you look at CBS, which has so many, it's why they're the No. 1 network," Underwood says. "The last show I did for NBC was The Event, which I enjoyed very much. My sensibilities lean toward big-concept shows, serialized shows. But my biggest takeaway was that the viewing habits of the audience today, primarily because of technology, have changed.
"We're distracted while we're watching TV. If you saw The Event, it wasn't complicated. People said it was confusing. It wasn't confusing if you were watching it. But if you were checking your e-mails and your texts while you were trying to watch, if you missed something then you were going to miss a lot."
Underwood says part of the appeal of Ironside is that it's procedural, yes, but it's a true 2013 procedural.
"It's self-contained, you're in and you're out, and in terms of a career move, that was incredibly appealing to me," Underwood says.
"But at the same time, it's the best of both worlds, because it also is a character study. There has been an evolution of what a procedural is. The cable world has really changed the dynamic.
"I was doing A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway last year and Bob Greenblatt, the head of NBC, came to see the show and we made a deal. This is the result of that. What I wanted to do was be smart with the deal, whatever the show was. I kept reminding myself about the lessons I learned with The Event. I don't want to just get a show on the air, I want it to last."
Well, Family Guy has lasted a long time, and it has Joe Swanson.
I can't wait for the episode where Ironside arrests a live-action Quagmire.