October 5, 2022

Over the Transom: Emily Hartley visits Ironside

by Stephen Taylor

Just got done watching an episode of Ironside called "But When She Was Bad..." The episode was routine in every way but redeemed by some fine acting by Suzanne Pleshette. She’s a B-girl from Dallas up to no good in San Francisco, and she’s good in the role.

Pleshette was a stunningly beautiful woman, but she had the acting chops to go along with a pretty face. I first remember seeing her in an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents in 1960; she was good in the role, and I suspect her work in that episode got her the role of doomed schoolteacher Annie Hayworth in The Birds. In The Bob Newhart Show she was able to show us she was also a pretty fair comedienne, but in between those two she did television. Lots and lots of television. This episode is from 1971, she was less than a year out from Emily Hartley.

In this one she plays a prostitute from Dallas named Shelly Kingman who’s come to San Francisco to kill Chief Ironside; she doesn’t want to murder him, but she’s being blackmailed. Nothing much else to say about the plot; this is all about Pleshette’s acting. Being a prostitute has made Shelly Kingman hard; she’s been hurt so many times by so many people, especially men, that an offer of friendship from Ironside and the gang makes her uneasy and conflicted.

(This part of the episode felt odd; why would a group of hardened cops want to take a out-of-town prostitute under their wing?) Shelly doesn’t want their friendship, as she’ll only get hurt.

And that Ironside. He seems able to read her mind, and to see deep inside her. She begins to like Ironside and is tormented by the thought of killing him. She’s in a lot of pain, and numbs the pain by drinking; she flees, only to end up passed out in a cheap hotel room. It’s her milieu; she’s well acquainted with cheap hotel rooms, and her bottle is always good company.

And Pleshette makes it all work. She’s absolutely believable as the B-girl who’s fallen so low that she’s trying to murder someone who’s treated her with decency and respect. Her face shows the day-in and day-out misery that Shelly Kingman endures. And while screaming at Ironside she begins to weep; her life, what there is of it, is crashing down around her. Shelly Kingman is in a world of hurt in more ways than one, and Pleshette shows us every corner of her misery. She’s a bright spot in an otherwise forgettable episode.

Dane Clark plays the bad guy; he was menacing, but not much else. Len Lesser is a hitman with not a single line. The episode did have some good music; existing cues were used in some different contexts, and worked well. Quincy Jones had by this time written a jazz version of the main theme, and part of it was played in Act One. It’s good stuff; the full version of this piece was released on his album “Smackwater Jack” that same year.

And my estimation of Fran Belding may have just gone up a bit. She immediately senses that something is wrong with Shelly, telling the others that “I don’t like her”. She couldn’t articulate why, but her judgment is borne out when the report from the Dallas police comes in. 

Routine, but still fun. TV  


  1. Testing - Testing - I'm getting nothing.

  2. I'd better explain that last one.
    Last time or so, I told you that I'm locked out of my Email; I've never been able to send (athough I was able to reply), and attempts to reset my password keep running into techno-roadblocks.
    Now I;m effectively blocked off from Email in any form: can't send, and can't receive.
    Now Google is messing around with me; I have to keep resetting that password, but I can't confirm it because my '60s wall phone can't receive texts.
    Please don't bother sending technical tips, which I probably won't be able to do anyway.
    Exception to the above: if anyone reading this knows a way around this system for ancient rotary-dial phones, please drop me a line here, or (if you can manage snail mail) you might try:
    Mike Doran
    9740 South Pulaski Road
    # 603
    Oak Lawn IL 60453-3333
    Apologies in advance.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!