Remington Steele


Remington Steele Information

Remington Steele is an American television series co-created by Robert Butler and Michael Gleason. The series, starring Stephanie Zimbalist and Pierce Brosnan, was produced by MTM Enterprises and first broadcast on the NBC network from 1982 to 1987. The series blended the genres of romantic comedy, drama, and detective procedural. Remington Steele is best known for launching the career of Pierce Brosnan and for serving as a forerunner of the similar series Moonlighting.

Remington Steele's premise is that Laura Holt, a licensed private detective played by Stephanie Zimbalist, opened a detective agency under her own name but found that potential clients refused to hire a woman, however qualified. To solve the problem, Laura invents a fictitious male superior whom she names Remington Steele. Through a series of events that unfold in the first episode, "License to Steele", Pierce Brosnan's character, a former thief and con man whose real name is never revealed, assumes the identity of Remington Steele. Behind the scenes, Laura remains firmly in charge.

Significance and influence

Any history of American television in the 1980s will conclude that TV drama underwent a significant evolution in both content and styles of storytelling. Remington Steele is best known for launching the career of Pierce Brosnan and for serving as a forerunner of the similar, edgier series Moonlighting, and was also an influential part of television history in its own right. Recent evaluations, in the wake of the series' full release on DVD, conclude that Steele was solidly crafted, well-acted and groundbreaking in its own way. Other recent evaluations have also noted that series has aged better than some other series of its time and genre.

Innovations

Steele was a unique hybrid of romantic comedy, drama, and detective procedural that paid homage to Hollywood movies of the 1930s and 1940s, drawing particularly from screwball comedy in the romantic storyline, while often referencing film noir in the mystery storylines. It subverted 1970s detective show conventions by telling its stories from the point of view of an independent, professional woman. At a time when hour-long series were serious and half-hour series were humorous, Steele incorporated multiple styles of comedy into the standard detective format. It pioneered the slowly evolving "will they or won't they" relationship arc that is now common to television drama of all genres. Furthermore, Steele's unusual premise allowed it to explore themes of personal identity and role-playing in strikingly complex ways. As critic Jaime Weinman concludes, "Remington Steele is a great hybrid of detective story and romance because it treats romance as similar to detective work: it's about finding out what the other person is hiding."

Laura Holt as role model

Many female fans see Laura Holt as a hero and a role model. In an interview recorded in 2005 for a DVD special feature, Remington Steele co-creator Michael Gleason and star Stephanie Zimbalist discuss the large number of women who have approached them over the years to express their appreciation for the character of Laura Holt. Speaking of the women she meets, Zimbalist said "They are extraordinary women?. They are interesting. They do interesting things. They are smart. They're independent. They're sort of, what my character was " and I meet them all the time." Also in 2005, Robin Rauzi published an article in the Los Angeles Times saying that Laura Holt was her hero. In a subsequent interview Rauzi elaborated, saying that Laura "was one of the only examples of an unmarried modern career woman on TV that I could identify with at that time" and that Laura "didn't seem that far away from who I was and who I could be." Rauzi concludes, "I've decided to stop being embarrassed to say Remington Steele changed my life. It did and for the better."

Influence of writing staff

Glenn Gordon Caron, creator of Moonlighting, was a writer and producer of Remington Steele during its first ten episodes and left the series to pursue other opportunities. In addition to Caron, many other successful television writers worked on Steele early in their career, later becoming producers and showrunners on other series, including Lee David Zlotoff (MacGyver), Jeff Melvoin (Northern Exposure, Alias), Brad Kern (Charmed, Lois & Clark), John Wirth (Picket Fences, Nash Bridges) and the team of Kerry Lenhart and John J. Sakmar. In a DVD special feature included on the Season 3 compilation, several of these Remington Steele writers credit Michael Gleason as a mentor, with Kerry Lenhart saying that Gleason taught him that television "writing could be a worthwhile and noble endeavor." In the same feature, Kern states that Gleason challenged them to do something that had not been done before and Melvoin says that Gleason "remains the biggest influence in my professional life." Melvoin and Wirth have edited a guide to writing for prime time episodic television for the Writer's Guild of America - west in an effort to continue Gleason's tradition of mentoring young writers.

Series history

Development

Remington Steele's initial premise was conceived in 1969 by long-time television director Robert Butler as a series featuring a solo female private investigator. Butler pitched the idea to Grant Tinker before he was head of MTM, but Tinker felt the series was ahead of its time. In January 1980, following the success of several sitcoms featuring working women, including the groundbreaking Mary Tyler Moore Show, Butler and Tinker, now head of MTM, revived the concept. MTM Vice President of Programming Stu Erwin felt Butler's concept was only "half a show" and suggested that Butler work with veteran writer Michael Gleason to expand the premise. Imagining Holt's fictional boss, Gleason proposed to Butler, "Wouldn't it be great if he showed up and made her crazy?" In 1981, Gleason, Butler, Erwin and Tinker pitched the series to NBC, and were initially rejected by executives who didn't "get" the premise. Shortly thereafter, Tinker left MTM to become chairman of NBC, then the number three network, and subsequently a pilot was ordered.

Stephanie Zimbalist, an established actress with roles in several television movies, was approached for the role of Laura Holt. She first turned the series down, not wishing to be tied down to one show, but had a late night change of heart. Pierce Brosnan auditioned for the role of Remington Steele, but was initially refused by NBC executives who were concerned that Brosnan was a relative unknown in America. MTM's Stu Erwin stood firm in a face to face meeting with NBC executive Brandon Tartikoff and Tartikoff relented.

Originally, NBC asked for a pilot that imagined the series six months into its run, with the characters already working together in the detective agency. This pilot was produced in February and March 1982, and was eventually aired with revisions as "Tempered Steele". NBC had some concerns about audience confusion over this episode, but ultimately agreed to schedule the series for the 1982-83 season. NBC also asked for a premise pilot which told the story of how Laura Holt met the man who became Remington Steele. This second pilot, "License to Steele", became the first episode aired in the series.

Season 1

The first season included two recurring characters: Murphy Michaels, a detective, and rival for Laura's affections, played by James Read; and Bernice Foxe, the secretary-receptionist, played by Janet DeMay. Both Murphy and Bernice knew that Remington Steele was a fraud. Episodes in the first season set in motion the slow evolution of Laura and Steele's romantic relationship while revealing elements of the characters' backstory. The first season established the pattern where each episode made direct reference to an old movie (for example, The Maltese Falcon and The Thomas Crown Affair). Key episodes include "Thou Shalt Not Steele", which introduced Laura's mother and Felicia, a woman from Steele's past; "Sting of Steele", which introduced Daniel Chalmers (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) as Steele's former mentor; and "Vintage Steele", a fan favorite which focused on Laura's past. Additionally, writer Joel Steiger won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his script for the first-season episode "In The Steele of the Night." Remington Steele also received strong critical reviews in the first season, noting its intelligence and stylish sophistication.

Season 2

At the end of season one, James Read made Michael Gleason aware that he was unhappy with the direction of his character. Gleason released him from the series and also let Janet DeMay go, thinking that the detective/investigator and secretary characters could be combined into one character. Gleason originally wrote the replacement character, Mildred Krebs, as an attractive 35 year-old woman who was a rival for Steele's affections. Doris Roberts, an established character actress who had recently won an Emmy for a guest role on St. Elsewhere, asked to read for the part. Although Roberts was not the right age for the character Gleason originally conceived, she won him over with her audition. Gleason then changed the character of Mildred Krebs to reflect the casting.

NBC moved the series to Tuesday nights at 9pm following The A-Team, increasing its budget and prominence on the network schedule. The second season continued the slow evolution of the relationship between Laura and Steele, as he became a more competent detective. Key episodes include the two-hour season premiere, "Steele Away With Me", filmed on location in Mexico; "Red Holt Steele", a fan favorite dramatic episode in which Laura's house is destroyed in an explosion; and "Love Among the Steele", another fan favorite episode in which the agency acquires a 1936 Auburn Speedster, which was used symbolically in several subsequent episodes.

Season 3

Remington Steele achieved its greatest ratings success in the third season, finishing the year in the top 25. Key third season episodes included the premiere, "Steele At It", shot on location in Cannes; "Steele Your Heart Away", shot on location in Ireland; and "Maltese Steele", shot on location in Malta. The season also included "Steele Trying", set in San Francisco and featuring the songs of Tony Bennett, and "Diced Steele", filmed on location in Las Vegas. "Puzzled Steele" earned Doris Roberts an Emmy nomination for best supporting actress. The third season also included an episode, "Steele in the Chips", co-written by Stephanie Zimbalist and writing partner Robin Bernheim. The final episode of the season ended with a cliffhanger as Laura and Steele seemed to be going their separate ways. Michael Gleason explained to the Los Angeles Times, "We want to pull the relationship apart and bring it back together again with a little bit different attitude."

Season 4

Season four was the final full season of the series. In the two-part season opener, "Steele Searching", filmed on location in London, Mildred Krebs learned of Steele's secret, changing the dynamics of the trio. Other key episodes, including "Forged Steele", "Steele in the Spotlight" and "Sensitive Steele", continued the slow evolution of the romantic relationship between the main characters. Facing a possible cancellation by NBC (whose fortunes had now changed to become the number one network) Gleason contrived a phony marriage between the characters in the final episode of season four, "Bonds of Steele", as an attempt to garner additional interest and provoke NBC to pick up the series for a fifth season.

Proposals for season 5

Gleason originally wanted the characters to have a real marriage at the end of season four and had plans for how to change the series in season five to accommodate the change, but both Brosnan and Zimbalist rejected the idea. Following that decision, Gleason pitched another concept for season five to NBC in May 1986, introducing a character named "Eddie" as a rival for Laura's affections.

Brief cancellation

The series was cancelled at the end of the 1985–86 television season, although it still had a 28% share of the audience in its time slot. According to Michael Gleason, Brandon Tartikoff's decision to give an early pick-up to the Stephen J. Cannell series Hunter left no room on the NBC schedule for Remington Steele. Two months after the cancellation, NBC executive Warren Littlefield reversed the decision, responding to an outpouring of support from fans and a sharp upswing in the show's ratings during the summer of 1986.

The cancellation and reversal impacted film roles for Brosnan and Zimbalist, as both had received firm offers to do films in the interim. Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli offered Brosnan the part of James Bond for the film The Living Daylights. Following NBC's reversal, Broccoli stated he did not want Bond to be identified with a current TV series, and instead gave the role to Timothy Dalton, Brosnan finally became 007 in 1995, making his debut in the film GoldenEye. while Zimbalist had accepted the role of Officer Anne Lewis in the science-fiction movie RoboCop and was forced to pull out of that production, to be replaced by Nancy Allen.

Final season

NBC reversed the cancellation, but did not slot a full twenty-two episode season into their schedule. The final abbreviated season consisted of six hours of made-for-TV films broadcast in early 1987, including installments filmed on location in Mexico, London, and Ireland. Jack Scalia joined the cast as a rival for Laura's affections. The circumstances surrounding Steele's birth as well as the identity of Steele's father are revealed in the final episode. The final scene of the series implied that Steele and Laura were about to consummate their relationship.

Rumors of discord

Although part of the show's appeal was the sexual tension between the main characters, in real life the production was dogged for years by rumors that its two leads did not get along. Brosnan and Zimbalist have admitted some level of personal conflict in press interviews during and since, attributing some of it to the stress of long working hours, while also maintaining that it did not impact their ability to work together. Whatever discord there may have been at the time of production, Brosnan and Zimbalist speak fondly of one another in more recent interviews, and are occasionally in touch. In an interview included on the DVD release of Season 1, Brosnan says they did get along and trusted one another professionally. Brosnan also praises Zimbalist's acting on his official web site, saying that he would work with her again on the right project. Zimbalist returned the compliment in a 2011 interview with the New Jersey Star-Ledger, saying "Pierce Brosnan is a very sweet man."

Film project

With the release of the series on DVD in 2005, Pierce Brosnan expressed interest in developing a Remington Steele feature film through his production company, Irish Dream Time, but later stated on his web site that it is unlikely to be produced.

Cast

  • Stephanie Zimbalist as Laura Holt
  • Pierce Brosnan as Remington Steele
  • Doris Roberts as Mildred Krebs (from third season, recurring second season)
  • Janet DeMay as Bernice Foxe (first season)
  • James Read as Murphy Michaels (first season)
  • Jack Scalia as Tony Roselli (fifth season)
Other recurring actors included:

  • Cassandra Harris (first wife of Pierce Brosnan) as Felicia, one of Steele's old flames, and Anna, a mysterious woman from Steele's past.
  • Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (father of Stephanie Zimbalist) as Daniel Chalmers, a charming con man who was Steele's mentor and surrogate father (revealed to be his biological father in the end) and whose real name was unknown. He died in the last episode, "Steeled With A Kiss, Part Two."
  • Beverly Garland as Abigail Holt, Laura's mother.
  • Gary Frank as Detective James Jarvis, a somewhat incompetent police detective who more often than not falsely accused the principal characters and their clients of murder.
  • Michael Constantine as George Edward Mulch, a business man with far-fetched ideas only looking for fame and fortune.
  • James Tolkan as Norman Keyes, an insurance investigator bent on proving Steele to be a fraud. He died in the fifth season.
Guest stars included:

  • Louie Anderson, "Steele Spawning", season 4
  • Tom Baker, "Hounded Steele", season 2
  • Delta Burke, "Altared Steele", season 2
  • Daniel Davis, "Gourmet Steele", season 3
  • Geena Davis, "Steele in the Chips", season 3
  • Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle, "Second Base Steele", season 3
  • Conrad Janis, "Stronger Than Steele", season 3
  • Jeffrey Jones, "A Steele at Any Price", season 2
  • Jane Kaczmarek, "Altared Steele", season 2
  • Dorothy Lamour, "Cast of Steele", season 3
  • John Larroquette, "Breath of Steele", season 3
  • Rose Marie, "Steele in the Spotlight", season 4
  • A Martinez, "High Flying Steele", season 2
  • Virginia Mayo, "Cast of Steele", season 3
  • Beverlee McKinsey, "Vintage Steele", season 1
  • Lloyd Nolan, "Cast of Steele", season 3
  • Annie Potts, "Steele Crazy After All These Years", season 1
  • Paul Reiser, "A Good Night's Steele", season 1
  • Peter Scolari, "Steele Waters Run Deep", season 1
  • Jean Smart, "Steele in the Chips", season 3
  • Sharon Stone, "Steele Crazy After All These Years", season 1
  • Barry Van Dyke, "Steele Belted", season 1

Episode guide

See List of Remington Steele episodes for more information

DVD releases

20th Century Fox has released all five seasons of Remington Steele on DVD in Region 1. The Season 1 DVD inadvertently echoed an ongoing joke in the series in that Stephanie Zimbalist, who had top star billing when the show was on air, was initially omitted from all promotional material connected with its release, as well as the DVD box itself, as Fox Video chose to promote Pierce Brosnan as the sole star. Subsequently, a sticker saying "Also starring Stephanie Zimbalist" was added to the packaging as an afterthought. This omission was corrected with the release of the second season which gave Zimbalist star billing with her photograph appearing on the box. Additionally, Zimbalist is featured on the behind-the-scenes featurettes contained therein. The first season boxed set also has a picture of Doris Roberts on the back cover, even though she didn't join the show until the second season.

Season 1 has also been released in Region 2 & 4.

DVD name Ep # Release Date
Season One 22 July 26, 2005
Season Two 21 November 8, 2005
Season Three 22 April 18, 2006
Seasons Four and Five 27 August 15, 2006

Syndication

After a nearly two decade absence from local syndication, the series returned to broadcast TV and was seen from September 3 to December 31, 2012 on MeTV.

Production notes

  • Every episode title has the word "Steele" in it.
  • At the end of every episode, the MTM kitten "Mimsie" has an animated deerstalker's cap on its head and a meerschaum pipe in its mouth, a la Sherlock Holmes. The pipe falls from the kitten's mouth and bounces twice on the bottom of the screen as it meows.

Popular culture references

  • A 2011 episode of the television detective show Castle, "Eye of the Beholder", made multiple references to Remington Steele, including an appearance by James Read. A review stated that the episode "felt like an homage" to Remington Steele.



This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Remington_Steele" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.
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