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Remington Steele: Season 1 [DVD] [Import]
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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
Here are first season episodes especially worth repeat viewings:
* "License to Steele": The pilot episode has a suave mystery man double-crossing both Laura Holt's team and a pair of ruthless thugs over a collection of priceless South African diamonds at an automobile trade show.
* "In the Steele of the Night:" Remington party-crashes Laura & Murphy's weekend reunion with several detective friends. Highly recommended, this is perhaps the series' best mystery!
* "Steele Trap:" Amusing and surprisingly tawdry (at least, for the early `80s), an undercover Remington and Laura are marooned on an island where a vengeful killer is eliminating a Playboy Mansion-like house party's guests one by one.
* "Steele Crazy After All These Years:" Laura & Remington aid Murphy in catching another serial killer stalking Murphy's college reunion weekend. Look for a young Sharon Stone in one of her first appearances.
* "Vintage Steele:" A Steele screwball comedy classic reveals Laura's apparently wild past, as a mystery corpse repeatedly turns up at a vineyard. The LOL finale ambushing the possible suspects is simply superb. It is one of our personal favorite, best-ever Steele episodes.
Despite its promotional packaging, "Remington Steele, Season One" isn't just about a young Pierce Brosnan practicing to become James Bond someday. Stephanie Zimbalist's performance as Laura Holt was definitely Emmy-caliber, as her facial expressions reacting to Remington's credit-stealing antics are simply priceless. Also, James Read's performance as Murphy often works nicely as a contrast to Laura & Remington. A word of caution, though: of all 22 first season episodes, avoid the "Steele's Gold" episode. It is a TV cliché quickly gone sour as our detective trio prospects for lost gold (Murphy's role is painful to watch).
Considering Bernice Foxe was given so little to do, and if "Steele's Gold" is any indication of Murphy's presence, it made sense that the second season immediately saw their roles consolidated into Doris Roberts' IRS accountant-turned-receptionist Mildred Krebs. Even so, the first season of "Remington Steele" ages exceptionally well (as compared to so many other `80s TV shows). This DVD set is well worth an investment of your time, so enjoy the fun, romance, and mystery of "Remington Steele."
Rating: 4.5/5 stars. Not every episode is a gem, but there are plenty enough for binge viewing.
The basic premise of the show is that talented, ambitious detective Laura Holt discovered that the idea of a female private detective was too much for the times. To overcome this sexist attitude she invented the very masculine Remington Steele as a cover while she did all the work. Success soon followed and aided by co-conspiritors Murphy Michaels and Bernice Fox, Laura took the agency to the top. As the series begins the agency has a very swank suite of offices, a seemingly unlimited cash flow and a very high profile case. Then 'he walks in' a conman who realises that there is no Remington Steele and sees the opportunity to turn this to his own ends.
The series is very reminiscent of the screwball comedies of the '30's and '40's. Laura and Remington are very much like Nick and Nora Charles of the 'Thin Man' series with a touch of Tracy and Hepburn style. The stories are well writen, cleverly plotted and keep the viewer guessing to the end. There are various movies references scattered through either as plot devices, lines of dialogue or references that challenge the viewer to identify on subsequent viewings, and yes it is worth watching multiple times.
The ensemble cast of the first season is delightful, Murphy and Bernice are sadly only in the first season and add so much to the story. The 'families' are also introduced here, Laura's ex, her overbearing mother both appear and even her oh-so-perfect sister is alluded to, Remington's ex (Brosnan's wife Cassandra Harris)and his mentor (Zimbalist's father Efrem) both appear and shed a little light on his past.
The extras in the dvd set are wonderful, the commentaries on the are definitely worth watching and give more insight into the series a treat for fans of the series.
Now for the complaints. First even though Doris Roberts did not join the cast until the second season the unwary would never know it looking at the packaging. Her picture appears mutiple times on while James Read's (Murphy Michaels) and Janet DeMay's (Bernice Fox) do not. Most irritating of all though is that Stephanie Zimbalist, the 'big name star' when the series came out does not give a commentary to any of the episodes, is mentioned only in passing (mostly as looking good in hats) and is listed on the dvd cover as 'also starring'. Apparently the sexist attitudes that Laura encountered in the '80's are still around.
Perhaps the presence of Glenn Caron as Executive Producer was the major reason for the show's excellence, because when he left to start up Moonlighting, Remington Steele was never the same.
I fell in love with Laura Holt in 1982, and I've fallen in love with her all over again today! I particularly enjoy the gag about such a strong young woman being unable to deal with her mother (played perfectly by Beverly Garland).
I've enjoyed Stephanie Zimbalist in other things, but this is her finest television work in my view. And it doesn't hurt that she was gorgeous!