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Ironside: Tagged for Murder

Our look back on the debut season of Ironside continues.

*

Episode: Tagged for Murder

Airdate: 26 October 1967

Plot: Detective Ed Brown catches what seems to be an open-and-shut case of accidental death. But Ed's no dummy and he smells a murder. After all, he's been training under San Francisco's finest sleuth, Chief Robert T. Ironside. Connecting the dots from a wristwatch to Army dog tags to a Swiss bank account, Ironside and his team take on a murder investigation that spans from the Italian campaign of WWII all the way to a "present day" San Francisco cable car barn.

Guest stars: Jack Kelly, Antoinette Bower, and Gene Nelson.

Super surprise guest star: Bruce Lee playing - wait for it, wait for it - a karate instructor in Chinatown.

Murder 101 A+ for creativity: The murderer emerges from the bushes clutching a live wire, which is wrapped around the metal swimming pool ladder. George Bellingham emerges from the house, springs from the diving board into the pool, and swims directly over to the side, where he's promptly electrocuted upon contact with the ladder. The killer instantly reappears, removes the murder weapon by unplugging the wire and swapping it for a nearby portable TV, which is left knocked over and turned on, staging the murder to look like an accidental electrocution. All this in the span of about 90 seconds.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: For the second time in just eight episodes, producers have re-used a set. This time it's the same ranch house and swimming pool that was featured in the opening of Episode 4, "Dead Man's Tale."

CSI: San Francisco this ain't: Ed picks up a crucial piece of poolside evidence with his bare hands.

Kids will be kids: Eve, wearing a dress with a wide Peter Pan collar and large gauzy blue bow on the chest, delivers a cup of coffee to the Chief, who is lounging in bed while Ed gives him the details of the case. When Eve realizes she's forgotten the sugar for Ironside's coffee, the next thing we know, she's whizzing back and forth from the kitchen in the Chief's electric wheelchair. Spinning circles prompts daddy Ironside to snap, "You are wearing my battery down."

On the head of a pin: No way could you scratch six Army serial numbers on the inside back of a wristwatch.

America's next top model: On the short list of suspects is commercial photographer Andy Sheldon (Gene Nelson). While waiting to interview Sheldon, Mark and Ironside watch him work a shoot with three bikini-clad models (whom he calls "sweetie birds") manhandling a guy in a "buttoned down, tapered, wash-and-wear" dress shirt. "Okay kiddies, siccum. Go get'em," the photographer cheers as he leaps around the fake jungle foliage, climbing a stepladder and lying on the Astroturf to get some crazy angles. He's obviously worked up quite a sweat; his first stop before answering the Chief's questions is to the wet bar for a shot of liquid inspiration.

Ironside episode checklist - Have murder suspect offer the Chief a cocktail: Check. Before pouring himself a stiff one, Sheldon offers Ironside a shot.

New drinking game: In every episode, at least one character uses Ironside's full name ("Chief Robert T. Ironside.") When they do, pour yourself a fifth of scotch. Bottoms up.

Peculiar way to describe a drunken bum: "Man, he's outta sight."

His future's so bright he has to wear shades: Record producer and Suspect No. 2 John Corman (Jack Kelly) wears a large pair of extremely dark sunglasses throughout his conversation with Ed. I begin to wonder if his character is supposed to be blind.

No hit wonders: I discover later that the recording session Ed walks in on features an actual flower power quartet called The Pleasure Fair. They flamed out shortly after appearing on Ironside and singer/keyboardist Robb Royer went on to join the band Bread.

Carrying a paper bag = wino: Skid Row looks straight off the Universal backlot. As Ironside's vehicle drives up, a few knocked over trash cans, ten pieces of garbage placed on the street, a man peeking into a trash can, and a fairly clean cut "bum" in khaki pants and a bomber jacket wandering across the street set the scene.

That Mark is one funny cat: When Mark cracks smart with the cranky desk clerk at a Skid Row flophouse, the joke is punctuated by a strange out-of-character vaudeville style musical flourish on the soundtrack. Insert rim shot here.

I just thought you might enjoy a short movie: Ironside and Eve are treated to a "home movie" of WWII battle footage. As soon as the lights come up, the Army General they're meeting with acknowledges that the men Ironside's investigating aren't in the film, rendering the entire exercise pointless.

What part of "don't open the door to anybody" did you not understand? Andra Bellingham calls Ironside after receiving a threatening phone call from Corman who insists she has something he wants. Corman is on his way over and she's "really quite frightened." That would be why she's making the phone call just steps away from her front door - which is wide open.

Next best thing to a glass of mace: Seconds after she hangs up with Ironside, the widow Bellingham's would-be murderer stands in the open doorway, aiming a gun at her. The tumbler of scotch she throws in his face has him reeling as if he'd been sucker-punched, giving Andra enough time to sprint out to the driveway and flee in her car.

Riding in the mystery van: With Mark driving and Ed riding shotgun, Ironside and Eve are left to peek out of the interconnecting window between the front seat and the back of the van; it's the only way they can see outside the car and have all four appear on camera together. This incredibly awkward shot gives the appearance that Ironside is putting on a puppet show with Eve as his ventriloquist's dummy.

No need to call for backup; the Slowskys have got it covered: Knowing that Andra's life is in danger, Ironside doesn't call for backup, even after catching Corman and Sheldon in a squealing car chase pursuit. Ironside and Co. prefer to follow in their clunky police van, a top-heavy vehicle that corners on a half dollar. (Ironside even goes so far as to tell Mark not to get too close.) When they all pull in to the cable car barn, Andra is merely five steps in front of her attackers. Meanwhile, Ironside's van is pulllllllling around to the side entrance, parrrrrrrrking, and sloooooooowly unloading Ironside. The foursome strooooll into the cable car shed with no real sense of urgency.

Looks like Eve learned a little something from Bruce Lee: Dressed in lemon yellow, policewoman Eve disarms the murderer with a swift karate chop to the wrist.

-

Previously:
* A Cop and His Chair
* Message From Beyond
* The Leaf in the Forest
* Dead Man's Tale
* Eat, Drink and Be Buried
* The Taker
* An Inside Job



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Posted on October 6, 2008


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