I constantly buy DVDs of TV series, as I am an American who has worked overseas almost continuously since 1982. Nearly every purchase has been given away. My Remington Steele DVDS will be with me forever!
Wow, have I enjoyed myself in watching all 90+ episodes of the entire series! Regardless of the DVD covers and the popularity of Pierce Brosnan, the show revolves around Laura Holt played by Stephanie Zimbalist. Laura Holt is a great female TV character! Laura is super intelligent, as brave as any male detective seen on TV, physically gifted, and feminine when called for. Laura Holt was a great model of a woman in a man's world of the 80s - today's viewers can quickly identify the obstacles put in the her path as a woman in a non-traditional career. Laura overcomes every hurdle, and it's perfectly clear to every viewer that she is the reason that the Remington Steele agency is described dozens of times as a famous, super-successful detective agency. And through the episodes she is nearly always the only real detective, asking great questions, logically placing the case info together, and 4 times out of 5 identifies the culprit first. The only real difficulty I have in her character is from the writers' having Remington Steele act chauvinistic too often and her lack of a verbal response. I guess that I am sensitive in this area due to my wife's experience in the 80s as she experienced many of the same career difficulties. During my watching of the entire collection of episodes, I became deeply committed to the idea that the Laura character be treated with respect! That may sound strange but Laura is a WONDERFUL PERSON, who became attracted to a handsome, charming con man.
Season Five and Laura:
I cannot believe the callousness of the writers in season five. I found it painful how they jerked the Laura character around. The values you saw in her character for four seasons were suddenly throw away; she was now uncertain, indecisive and full of doubt; she was shown as moody; and worst of all was slighted (even insulted) constantly by Remington. Luckily this season lasts only six episodes! What a sad mess - there are a few great scenes in this season but they are mixed into a pathetic story line. The MAGIC LAST MINUTE: Laura and Remington almost always seem indifferent towards each other (not a couple at all) UNTIL the MAGIC LAST MINUTE of the episode when they suddenly act as a caring couple. Until the very last scene of the last episode, I was fearful that the writers would have Laura having wasted five years caring about Remington (It was that bad.). However the writers sobered up, this very last scene is a great ending to the series. The affection they show in this last scene should have been obvious through all the entire last season! Despite these below average episodes in season five, I still rated the entire series as FIVE STARS -- There are 90 other episodes that are too good to ignore.
As a light-hearted detective series, it has dozens of episodes that I have re-watched. The episode styles vary, some go as far as pure drama and some as far as pure farce. My favorite is a slapstick style comedy episode "Steele in the Chips" (written by Zimbalist). Carrying on for five seasons a romance between Laura and Remington was extraordinarily difficult task for the writers without a doubt. I would have understood if Laura and Remington had been allowed to marry after three. The sexual tension in their relationship had to be lowered constantly to extend the romance (I guess married people were judged to have lost their romantic urge?). The writers really do however keep you concerned about the relationship between Laura and Remington ; (Spoiler) they never marry plus they do make love until the end of the fifth year! Try that today, where sex is now endemically casual. The only sad part of their romantic development is the lack of romantic nuances from Remington (touches, hugs, soft words, etc.) until midway through the third year and the only time in the entire five seasons where Remington states that he loves Laura is during a physical beating where he hallucinates that it is Laura who is beating him and says "I love you" to her image. As I type this, I am reminded of the English play -- "Please no sex, we're British!".
Stephanie Zimbalist made me care about Laura! I found myself wanting Laura to be happy, and safe when danger was present. I attribute this to the success of Stephanie Zimbalist's portrayal of Laura. Stephanie was extraordinary in the physical "stunts", in fact she often was a stunt woman. I watched her in one amazing scene three times: It had her jump to grab a fire escape ladder, swing a leg onto the lowest rung, pull herself up onto the ladder, and climb two steps at a time = all in heels. My second viewing of the scene was to ensure it was Stephanie and the third viewing was to admire her ability. When asked Stephanie could do comedy as well as Pierce Brosnan (Steele) and Doris Roberts (Mildred Krebbs). Her voice inflections were outstanding - soft when needed, harsh when needed - what a wonderful voice in the series (she does several interviews found on the DVDs and there is a clear difference that can be heard, in the series where her voice is almost lyrical at times). There is one BUT about Stephanie's performances, when the scripts were weak the cast often exaggerated word pronunciations in a campy way. In 90+ episodes they all cannot be great, no TV series can say that, not even I Love Lucy. I admire Stephanie's work and am thankful she was cast as Laura.
Pierce Brosnan in an interview included on the DVDS mentions how he modeled his work on Cary Grant. In comparing the two - Pierce in physical comedy was superior (I still laugh as I visualize a scene where he steps into a box with his left foot as he rushes to help a woman and kicks it away - great acting). Pierce is excellent in stating short comedy quips with wonderful facial expressions. Looking at his full body of work as an actor (movies and TV), his best acting was as Remington in year three and year four. Pierce is no where near Cary when romance is the topic - too bad since Remington Steele is primarily a romantic comedy wrapped in a detective format. Frantic comedy (Arsenic and Old Lace or Bringing Up Baby for Grant) is a tie - they are both wonderful. Pierce has difficulty in matching Grant in voice inflections in quieter, dramatic dialog. Brosnan's "God given voice" is no match for Cary's. For a romantic comedy TV series in the 80s, he is perfectly cast - handsome, gifted in short bursts of comedy, and physically tall and slender. Despite any negatives I mentioned above, he was excellent as Remington Steele. I only wish that his Remington had been given far more romantic gestures to display his commitment to Laura. Yeah I realize that for five seasons no other women were in his life, thats commitment, but I would have preferred words spoken! I am sure Pierce would have sold the audience that he was a changed man and committed to Laura, no longer the con man she first met.
Doris Roberts, who played Mildred Krebbs, was a WOW in every episode she appears! I bet that her character extended the popularity of the series into lasting at least one extra season. I could say WOW a dozen more times about her acting, she was that good. She put everything into her lines! When she was motherly - she was perfect. When she was stern, she was perfect. When she was asked to be nervous - she as perfect. This is becoming repetitive, continuing adds nothing.
Gone after the first season were two characters, who did excellent work (receptionist and another detective). Both were effective in their acting and fit wonderfully in the story lines. As a wish I would liked Murphy, the male detective, to have hanged around to start season two and fade away during the year, as he was the rational counter balance to Laura's infatuation with Remington.
Bottom Line: I will enjoy watching episodes for decades more. The series is two decades old now and is GREAT to watch. It will be GREAT to watch after two decades. I have no doubt about that statement!