The debonair ex-con-man and strait-laced detective return in the third season of "Remington Steele." This smart, funny detective series was one of the last of its kind, wonderfully odd and full of sometimes all-too-realistic crimes to be solved, and this season solidifies its tight storytelling.
During a trip to the Riviera, Laura (Stephanie Zimbalist) decides to go the distance with Steele (Pierce Brosnan) at last -- only to have him enmeshed in a web of blackmail, murder, and a precious dagger. Needless to say, that puts a damper on her romantic plans. Questions about his past crop up again when he turns up in Ireland, suffering from amnesia, after trying to discover his origins.
But Steele's past isn't the only thing on these detectives' minds: a no-calorie cookie, a dead body that has to be kept hidden, restauranteurs trying to kill a savage critic, teenage pickpockets, baseball camps, obnoxious neighbors, Maltese treasure, and three aging movie stars ask for help in finding out who is trying to kill them.
The comedy is still firmly in place: There are sinister plots centering on murder, embezzlement and Steele's attempt to redeem a teenage pickpocket, who reminds him of himself many years before. But woven in those is plenty of barbed humour, such as corporate bigwigs scrabbling on the floor for a fat-free cookie.
Having gotten a solid formula in the second season, "Remington Steele" chugged along with more odd mysteries. Okay, few of these mysteries resemble real crimes (a comic strip inspires attacks on the cartoonist?), but they are often funny, witty and intelligent.
We only get a few hints about Steele's past -- he may be from Ireland, but not much more than that. In one episode, Daniel Chalmers ropes Steele into an old scam, where Steele pretends to be the new Duke of Rutherford. Steele's reaction to this shows how far he's come, and how honest he's become over time.
At the same time, Laura has become more sensitive to his murky past, and his attempts to overcome his criminal past. Sure, Zimbalist and Brosnan disliked each other in real life, but they had electric chemistry in many of these episodes. And Mildred (Doris Roberts) gradually becomes less of a maternal figure, and more of an equal to her younger cohorts.
This season also has returning characters like Daniel Chalmers and Rocky Sullivan, and several new ones like Mulch, a bumbling entrepreneur who is always seeking the Big Moneymaker. Virginia Mayo, Dorothy Lamour and Lloyd Nolan also appear as themselves in one episode, and appear to be having lots of fun.
The third season of "Remington Steele" is steele solid and entertaining, with more exploration of the mystery detective, and quite a bit more comedy.