Sunday, March 30, 2014

Classic TV: Remington Steele (1982)

Pierce Brosnan's career path toward inheriting the mantle of James Bond is almost similar to that of Roger Moore, who played Bond in the 70's and early 80's. Moore had starred in a number of TV series, including Maverick and The Saint, but Brosnan needed only one series.

Brosnan, then unknown to American audiences, was cast as the title character in Remington Steele, which spent 4 full seasons, plus 3 TV-movies to make up the 5th season, on NBC from 1982-7. Steele was actually a con man, true identity never revealed, who walked right into a perfect opportunity when private eye Laura Holt (Stephanie Zimbalist) needed a male boss for her detective agency, since she was getting few clients. The romantic tension between the two developed gradually, and would have led to marriage, had NBC's Brandon Tartikoff not made the decision to cancel the series after 4 seasons. When the decision was reversed, there was still no room for a full-time slot for the 5th season, so they went with the TV-movie format.

Steele was also the first series gig for Zimbalist, a 2nd generation star, having previously appeared in the miniseries, Centennial, among others. She also had the benefit of having her father, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (ex-The F. B. I.), appearing periodically as Daniel Chalmers, a master con artist and mentor to Steele. As it would turn out, there was more to that link than previously revealed.

After making a few guest appearances in season 2, Doris Roberts (ex-Angie) joined the show full-time as IRS agent turned operative Mildred Krebs. Roberts landed the gig after an audition following a guest appearance on another NBC series, St. Elsewhere, which, like Steele, came from MTM Productions. It should be noted that after Steele & Elsewhere ended their runs, MTM never sold another series to NBC. While Brosnan finally got his license to kill as Bond, Roberts would return to series television a decade after Steele ended, returning to her comedy roots in Everybody Loves Raymond.

If you ever wondered why Moonlighting, which came along a couple of years after Steele and aired opposite Steele, seemed so similar in tone, well, series creator Glen Gordon Caron had been a writer on Steele during the first season.

Following is a trailer for a DVD release of the series:

Steele airs on Sundays on Me-TV, so if you missed the fun the first time, now's your chance to catch up.

Rating: B.


magicdog said...

Loved Remington Steele!

Even early on, we knew he'd be a great Bond!

However, Pierce Brosnan really should have been let out of his contract sooner to play Bond. The series should have ended BEFORE the "fifth season". I wonder if someone at NBC was doing some sabotage by keeping him chained to the series one more year.

The first season was a little shakey - as Mildred had yet to arrive and there were two other characters who were cut (one of them, James Read, who played "Murphy", went on to play the father to the sister witches from "Charmed"). However the chemistry between Brosnan & Zimbalist was off the charts! It was also a treat for her father, Efram to play Steele's mentor; that character seemed to battle Laura for Steele's affections.

What killed me is we never did get his real name and I think the character deserved that much in the final episode.

hobbyfan said...

Oh, that cries out for a revival, doesn't it, for the sake of closure?

magicdog said...

Actually I have heard NBC is doing just that!

They're developing a sequel series to RS, focusing on the daughter of Steele and Laura Holt. From what I've read, "Olivia Holt" will reopen her parents' old detective agency. Obviously having her mother's last name means that Steele preferred she have a true name rather than his false one.

It will be a 30 minute sitcom rather than a one hour series. If it goes forward I do hope Zimbalist and Brosnan can appear now and then! Preferably together!

hobbyfan said...

A sitcom sequel to Remington Steele?! Didn't they learn anything at NBC from the Munsters debacle?

Since Fox owns the rights to the series, I'd say they're the ones making the new show (having bought MTM's library). I am cringing over this one.