Sept. 30--Ironside: 10 p.m. Wednesday, NBC.
The Originals: premiere 9 p.m. Thursday; regular time-slot premiere 8 p.m. Oct. 8, the CW.
"Ironside" and "The Originals" are moderately entertaining dramas that feed off the success of previous shows. Yes, vampirism is undead and well in the television industry.
The first "Ironside" starred Raymond Burr and aired from 1967 to '75, following his long-running portrayal of the grumpy but masterful defense attorney in "Perry Mason." Blair Underwood ("The Event") stars in the remake, premiering Wednesday on NBC. Other than the fact that Bob Ironside is in a wheelchair, the new version is a fairly standard police procedural.
The pilot tells us how Ironside lost the use of his legs through a series of flashbacks showing him getting shot while on a case with his partner, Gary Stanton (Brent Sexton, "The Killing"). Before the shooting, Ironside had a fiancee and a bright future as a cop. Although Bob insists he's accepted his physical status, there's still a mountain of anger inside, which he draws on to become relentless in his pursuit of bad guys.
The character exposition is set against the supposed suicide of a beautiful young woman who had worked in an investment firm. Ironside suspects there's more to her death than first meets the eye, and of course he's right.
The case isn't all that interesting, which suggests the biggest challenge for "Ironside" to succeed: If its point is to show a guy who is abler than any walking detective at solving crimes, the crimes have to be worthy. We understand Ironside's character, the roiling inner conflict he feels. But if he isn't going to let the chair hold him back, give him something formidable to solve. The last thing TV needs is another police procedural if it's one that isn't going to establish itself as something different and more worthy than the rest of the bunch.
Good supporting cast
Underwood is OK, if a little too hungry to chew the scenery, but the supporting cast is very good, including Sexton as the other "victim" of the shooting, who feels guilty for not having his partner's back; TV's busiest character actor, Pablo Schreiber ("Orange Is the New Black"), as one of Ironside's team; Spencer Grammer ("Greek") as brainy and beautiful cop Holly; and Kenneth Choi ("House") as the captain whose primary job is to tell Ironside to follow the rules. There's one in every procedural, or so it seems.
"Ironside" might be a better show if it didn't follow the "rules" of standard police procedurals quite so faithfully.
"The Originals" is about actual vampires, not to mention witches and hybrids -- that would be a werewolf-vampire mix, not a Toyota Prius -- and it's a spinoff from another CW hit, "The Vampire Diaries."
In truth, "The Originals," premiering Thursday before moving to its regular Tuesday time slot next week, is even more than a typical spinoff. Usually, the offspring show pulls one or maybe two characters from the original, but "The Originals" has imported a small truckload, including the jolly Mikaelson clan, vampire Elijah (Daniel Gillies, "Saving Hope"), sister Rebekah (Claire Holt, "H2O: Just Add Water") and the aforementioned hybrid, Klaus (Joseph Morgan, "Casualty"). Other carpetbaggers include Marcel Gerard (Charles Michael Davis, "The Game"), a vampire who has supposedly driven the werewolves out of New Orleans and found a way to neutralize the city's witches, who have to stay in town because they practice ancestral witchcraft and would lose their powers if they stray too far from their dead ancestors. Davis and a few other actors did just one episode of "Diaries," setting the stage for the spinoff.
Back to New Orleans
Klaus comes back to New Orleans because the witch Jane-Anne Deveraux (Malaya Rivera Drew) is conspiring against him. He has an edgy but friendly reunion with his former protege, Marcel, but before he can find out why Jane-Anne is out to get him, Marcel fillets her neck.
Well, these things happen.
Elijah wants Klaus to square off against Marcel to restore the Originals -- the city's first vampires -- to power. But with Jane-Anne gone, why should Klaus care? Maybe the beautiful stranger, Hayley Marshall (Phoebe Tonkin, "The Secret Circle"), will play a role in Klaus' inevitable prediction. Perhaps Jane-Anne's surviving sister, Sophie (Daniella Pineda, "Newlyweds"), may as well.
It's all rather fun because it's shamelessly preposterous. Although there may be new characters, "The Originals" isn't original at all, but that's why it stands a chance of doing well among "The Vampire Diaries" fans.
The performances are over the top and enjoyable enough. Morgan gets a little road-show Shakespearean here and there, but that's what vampire show fans want. The only clinker is Tonkin: Her line delivery isn't even good enough to be called amateurish. She's likely to remain a pretty but unconvincing lump in the middle of the show if she, and the show, survive.
David Wiegand is The San Francisco Chronicle's executive features editor and TV critic. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @WaitWhat_TV
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