Remington Steele: Season 1 [DVD] [Import]
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