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Remington Steele - Season 1
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Before he was Bond... he was Remington Steele...Private eye Laura Holt (Stephanie Zimbalist) grudgingly accepts a new partner when a mystery man (Pierce Brosnan) assumes the identity of her fictitious boss, Remington Steele. Together, the two battle crime as as their feelings for each other.
Remington Steele's fusion of whodunit mystery and screwball comedy burst onto television in 1982. After struggling to get clients to hire a female detective, Laura Holt (sultry Stephanie Zimbalist) invents a fictional boss named Remington Steele, whose dashing manly name draws in work. But while protecting some South African jewels, Holt runs across a mysterious thief and con-man (an elfin, baby-faced Pierce Brosnan) whom her client assumes is the nonexistent Steele--and when the case is resolved, the accidental detective decides he likes the work and sticks around, infuriating Holt with his arrogant ways and tantalizing her with his dashing good looks. Murders may occur at a winery, an island sex club, or a college reunion, but just about every episode plunders plot elements from classic movies like Bringing Up Baby, The Third Man, and The Trouble with Harry (even the theme song was written by film composer Henry Mancini). The writers openly acknowledge this influence by having Steele use ideas he's lifted from movies to solve crimes. The constant allusions to old films should be annoying, but the show demonstrates such a rich affection for the classics that these tips of the hat actually mesh with Remington Steele's world.
Remington Steele has become best known as Brosnan's launching pad (he later become James Bond in GoldenEye and its sequels), but Zimbalist was every bit as crucial to the show's success; her mixture of glamor and toughness gives the show a distinctly adult sexiness and grounds Brosnan's boyish charm. The dialogue sometimes slipped from arch camp to sheer cheese, but even at its most ridiculous (say, a scene where Holt and Steele question homeless bums while dressed in formal evening wear) Remington Steele remains an eminently watchable show, thanks to zippy plotting and the chemistry between Zimbalist and Brosnan. Some episodes clearly implied that the pair had become intimate, yet that didn't defuse their attraction. Even when the stories became a bit silly, the mutual respect and desire between Holt and Steele never lost its sophistication. --Bret Fetzer
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Top Customer Reviews
Before the advent of reality TV and gritty cop shows, detective shows were apparently the thing -- and the 1980s show "Remington Steele" was a standout. The mixture of humor, romantic tension and high-gloss detecting is constantly entertaining.
Laura Holt (Stephanie Zimbalist) worked hard to become a private eye, only to discover that sexism was holding her back. So she invented a fake boss, Remington Steele, who was always conveniently absent when clients came to talk to his "assistant." The deceptive little system works perfectly... until Laura tries to protect a multimillion-dollar jewel collection, and runs into a man (Pierce Brosnan) who now claims to be Remington Steele.
The flesh-and-blood Remington Steele is dapper, intelligent, loves old movies, and is a master criminal. Laura can't expose him without exposing her own fraud, so she comes to a tenuous truce with him: She'll let him stay, and finance his apartment and living, if he behaves himself and doesn't mess around with her detecting. Her assistants Murphy and Bernice (James Read and Janet DeMay) don't like it, but they have to accept him.
But Steele doesn't want to stay in the shadows. He begins to take an interest in solving cases, and helps Laura find a missing video game genius, deal with a body in a winery, and encounter the Yakuza, murderous fellow P.I.s, B-movie queens, smut publishers, insomniacs, old lovers, divorce lawyers, and much more. All the while, Laura tries to figure out who Steele really is, as they try to figure out how they feel about each other.
Humorous detective stories are not an easy thing to do -- they can easily descend into slapstick or idiocy. "Remington Steele" straddled the line perfectly.Read more ›
The premise of the series is this: A female detective, Laura Holt (Stephanie Zimbalist, daughter of Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) after studying and apprenticing in her chosen field, opens her own detective agency, only to find that no one takes a female detective seriously. So, she invents a fictional character for her agency--Remington Steele. Suddenly, she's getting more cases than she ever imagined. Then one day a mysterious stranger comes into her office looking for help on a case. Soon, he's introducing himself as Remington Steele to inquiring clients who come into the agency; and before long, he's taken the name as his own! So, throughout the first season, Remington and Laura along with her private investigator Murphy (James Read), take on cases of kidnappings, missing persons and murder. Janet DeMay plays the agency's secretary Bernice Foxe, who's always called "Wolf" by Remington.
After years of being on VHS, 20th Century Fox has finally released the entire first season of this show (22 episodes on 4 double-sided DVDs) and encased them in a boxed set of two very slim plastic cases. Well, it's about time! I loved this show when I saw it during it's original run and always through that Pierce Brosnan would make a great Bond (he would finally get the chance in 1995, in GoldenEye). The episodes in this set are extremely entertaining, full of humour, suspense and adventure! The picture and sound quality are excellent--no instances of grain are prevalent, the soundtrack is bold and vibrant and dialogue is easily heard.Read more ›
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A list of season one episodes follows.
1. Licence to Steele
2. Tempered Steele
3. Steele Waters Run Deep
4. Signed, Steeled and Delivered
5. Thou Shalt Not Steele
6. Steele Belted
7. Etched in Steele
8. Your Steele the One for Me
9. In the Steele of the Night (Edgar Winner)
10. Steele Trap
11. Steeling the Show
12. Steele Flying High
13. A Good Night's Steele
14. Hearts of Steele
15. To Stop a Steele
16. Steele Crazy After All These Years
17. Steele Among the Living
18. Steele in the News
19. Vintage Steele (top fan favorite)
20. Steele's Gold
21. Sting of Steele
22. Steele in Circulation
Laura Holt (Zimbalist) couldn't get her private detective agency off the ground in spite of her skills until she invented the phantom agency head, Remington Steele. Business was booming and everything was going swell until Pierce Brosnan shows up and assumes the roll of the nonexistent Steele, both around town and with clients. An uneasy alliance was formed that to the delight of fans moved more and more towards the romantic as time went by.
Brosnan's Steele was debonair and stylish, his past a shady mystery ala' "To Catch a Thief." Each season Laura discovered new things about his past in Ireland and his exploits in other countries. Steele was also a film buff and would make constant references to films of the 1930's and 1940's he would recall pertaining to the case. It made all us film buffs who knew just what he was talking about feel like we were insiders, and was one of the many charms of this wonderful show.
Brosnan and Zimbalist were a terrific screen couple in the tradition of all those ones we remember fondly. One could say they were our generations Nick and Nora Charles. There was a fun anticipation for viewers as week after week we watched the two become involved in a mystery while they danced around their growing affection for each other. And it was always fun as little tidbits of Steele's past were discovered by Laura.
This series was fun and sophisticated and always left you feeling good. This kind of entertaining film is missing from today's teen driven box office. It is also missing from the "reality" driven television we see so much of today. Remington Steele filled a void left for those seeking the kind of fun escapism which all but disappeared when the Hollywood studio system began to collapse.
Remington Steele was something really special in television. Every one of the episodes was enjoyable and finally, after years of waiting, the first season of this truly fantastic show is being released. Every lover of classic films was in love with this show. It was a refreshing reminder of what television could, and should be. I have this on my wish list to pick up and you'll want it on yours as well.
Such is the power of Hollywood marketing, for it was Brosnan, not Zimbalist, who became the break-out star for the show, with Brosnan receiving more fan mail than the studio had ever received before for a single actor.
The plot for the fall 1982 show centered around Zimbalist's character Laura Holt who, as a female detective, found it impossible to be taken seriously (this was, after all, the early 1980s). In order to resolve this troubling set of circumstances, Holt invents a (as she puts it) "decidedly masculine superior."
All seems to be going well until (in a quite obvious tip of the hat to 1959s "North by Northwest") the character appears in the shape of Pierce Brosnan, who answers a page for the fictitious Steele so that he can escape from two thugs.
Assuming the role of Remington Steele on a permanent basis, Laura and he embark on a series of adventures that for this set are in the shape of 22 full-frame episodes that echo the plots of well-known classic mysteries-from "Murder on the Orient Express" to "The Maltese Falcon" to "And Then There Were None," a personal favorite of mine.
It was these intriguing mysteries and the one-upmanship banter between the two leads that makes the show such a joy to watch.
As is most often the case with DVDs, the main special features are usually the commentaries; but truth be told, the first two commentaries in this set (on the first two episodes) are rather light on facts and heavy on silence.
Contrary to what pre-release publicity might have you believe, Brosnan does not contribute to either of the commentaries. Here we have series creators Michael Gleason and Robert Butler. Unfortunately, the two appear to get caught up in the show and forget to leave comments for the audience.
So what do we learn from the commentaries? Well, we learn that the image of Zimbalist wearing a fedora was a major selling point for the series. We also learn that the original pilot for the show was not the one that aired Oct. 1, 1982, named "License to Steele."
Originally, "Steele" was to have started with what became the second episode, as execs just wanted to jump straight into the show. But then NBC changed its mind and decided it wanted to see the first meeting of Laura and Steele, so Gleason and Butler went back and wrote what was to become the pilot.
In their commentary for the original pilot, called "Tempered Steele," Butler is initially confused as he says they are watching the original pilot (before reshoots). Then he recognizes that they are watching the reshot version.
More compelling is the third commentary between Gleason and writer Susan Baskin, which is hidden on the A-side of the fourth disc. Accompanying the episode "Vintage Steele," Gleason and Baskin discuss character and story development, specifically the effort to flesh out the Holt character to counterbalance the mystery that was Remington Steele and Baskins attempts to inject more subtle comedic touches into the show.
Included as background information to the series are three short featurettes that vary in length. Two of the featurettes are rather light in nature, with one tracking the development of main characters Remington, Laura, Bernice and Murphy. It is here that Brosnan refutes the long-held belief that he and Zimbalist had a mutual animosity toward one another, saying, "People said we didn't get along, but we did get along quite well."
The shortest documentary on the set-clocking in at just under eight minutes-features writers Baskin and Andrew Lazkos discussing the use of comic timing in the series and their efforts to emulate the 1940s movies of Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn when writing the series.
The main featurette (at 12-minutes) on the flip side of the first of the four discs includes a discussion with Gleason and Butler as well as an on-camera interview with Brosnan on the genesis of the show. Indeed the documentary may prove to surprise today's audience. Not yet a star-it would be 13 years until Brosnan would don the tuxedo as James Bond on the big screen-NBC loved Zimbalist but disliked the way Brosnan played the title character.
As Brosnan recounts in his interview, that evening he went over the lines with his late wife Cassie and she asked, "That's the way you are going to play it?"
So Brosnan followed her subsequent advice and just played himself. NBC still was not happy, but producers Gleason and Butler stuck to their guns and NBC finally relented and gave the series the green light with an unknown British actor in the title role.
Another surprise comes in the revelation that the original solo pitch for the series did not even feature the character of Remington Steele. It was a show about a female detective who invented Steele so she could get cases. It was Gleason who came up with the notion "What if he turns up and drives her crazy?"
It was only then that it became a duet.
The chemistry between the two stars is wonderful. I loved James Read in the first season as well and was sorry to see him depart the show. Performances such as Beverly Garland as Laura's mother, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Remington Steele's mentor and the late Cassandra Harris (Brosnan's first wife) are all first rate. Every episode from the first season is a delight!
If you are not familiar with the show, but enjoy current shows such as JAG for the romantic chemistry between the stars, you should check out Remington Steele.
The best is yet to come, I look forward to the release of Season Two and my all time favorite episode, Red Holt Steele.
Skip this paragraph if you know the show's premise. Laura Holt is a very capable sleuth whose private investigative agency isn't drawing in the clients, mostly because she's a woman. So she invents a front man - a decidedly masculine superior - named Remington Steele (according to Laura, "Remington" is derived from a brand of typewriter, while "Steele" is from the Pittsburg Steelers). Soon, sure enough, clients are coming in droves. And then, one day, HE walked in. Episode one, License to Steele, tells of the chance encounter between Laura Holt and a charming, urbane thief who steals her heart and, while he's at it, the name and identity of her agency.
The show Remington Steele ushered in a short era of sophistication and sly humor that recalled the best of vintage Hollywood. Brosnan and Zimbalist may not have gotten along well in real life, but as Steele and Holt, they were a match made in heaven. The show was ably supported by the yearning Murphy (James Read), who never did get over his suspicions (not totally unfounded) about Steele, and the gum-chewing Bernice Fox (Janet DeMay), whose name Remington chose to not clearly remember, much to her annoyance. Too bad the powers-that-be decided Murphy and Bernice were in the way of Remington and Laura's blossoming romance; they were written out by season two.
The mysteries themselves weren't all that original, more than a few being patterned after the plots of famous movies, which ties in nicely with Remington's penchant for quoting from Hollywood's golden age. But viewers didn't tune in for the quality of the mystery elements (don't get me wrong, they didn't suck), but rather - much like the classic Thin Man films - for the nova-intense chemistry between the two leads and their up-and-down romantic relationship. It would take a few seasons before their always-on-the-verge-but-never-quite-consumated flirtation became frustrating for the audience.
This season is the first and by far the best. Highlight episodes of Season One are:
License to Steele (episode 1) - Private eye Laura Holt is hired to protect some valuable, high profile jewelry, but an enigmatic (but very suave) British scam artist keeps popping up. Serious eye contact and innuendos are exchanged between the two, which later results in the con-man (who has his own problems) taking up the identity of the fictitious Remington Steele. Needless to say, a must see episode.
Thou Shalt Not Steele (episode 5) - A woman (Cassandra Harris, Brosnan's real wife at the time) from Steele's mysterious past convinces Steele to steal a painting rumored to be cursed from a Los Angeles museum exhibit. Problem is, Laura had already contracted to protect the valuable painting. Fun episode with Remington and Laura dabbling in professional thieving. This is the debut of Felicia, Remington's ex-flame, who shows up again in season 4.
In the Steele of the Night (episode 9) - Laura and Murphy attend a reunion party consisting of sleuths who used to work for the Havenhurst agency. One of the detectives is killed and Remington (who crashes the get-together) is elected to solve the murder. Very amusing, as Laura handfeeds clues to Remington, who attempts to look knowledgeable in front of his "peers."
Steele Trap (episode 10) - This one channels Agatha Christie's classic And Then There Were None. Remington and Laura show up at a weekend bash on the private island of a smut magazine publisher. And then people start getting killed off one by one.
Vintage Steele (episode 19) - Shenanigans in a winery and a recurring corpse. Laura stripteases and the two finally kiss. This is a cool episode and one of the most romantic. We finally find out stuff about Laura's past, specifically the reason why Laura doesn't like to mix business with pleasure.
Steele's Gold (episode 20) - Remington, Laura, and Murphy follow a prospector's journal, hoping to unearth gold. Hijinks in a ghost town and a wild treasure hunt in the desert. Fun episode.
Sting of Steele (episode 21) - The first sighting of Daniel Chalmers (Efrem Zimbalist Jr. - Stephanie's dad), Remington's mentor and surrogate dad, who shows up needing Steele's assistance in putting on an intricate sting to shake some villains off his back. Another vintage episode.
This box set contains four discs with all 22 episodes. Special features contain three episode commentaries (License to Steele, Tempered Steele, and Vintage Steele), as well as several making-of featurettes and character bios. Give this show a chance and see why it launched Pierce Brosnan to Hollywood's stratosphere.
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