Remington Steele: "In the Steele of the Night"

This is my second and final entry to the Second Annual Favorite TV Episode Blogathon. You can see my first post, focused an episode of I Love Lucy, here, and the other posts here.

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I was a little hesitant to make my second entry about Remington Steele. When I wrote about the show before (along with its siblings Hart to Hart and Moonlighting), the post fell with a resounding thud. I was hoping to find others who would geek out with me -- "Steele is so dreamy! David Addison is the best! Jennifer Hart didn't deserve to be a damsel so many times!" -- but it was to no avail. Despite that, I really wanted to try again with this blogathon. Maybe if I talk about one episode, it will inspire others to look the show up and then maybe I'll finally get my fan club. It's a long shot, I'm sure, but humor my delusions.

Remington Steele was a popular show that ran for five seasons, from 1982 to 1987, and it's probably best known for introducing the world to the magnificence of Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan's casting has assured the legacy of Remington, but that shouldn't be what audiences know about it. What's notable is its female lead, Laura Holt, played beautifully by Stephanie
Zimbalist. Laura is one tough lady, someone you'd never find playing a damsel in distress. Fearless and extremely intelligent, she's often shown to be better than Brosnan's Steele in many ways. Steele was her creation, in fact -- no one wanted to hire a female private detective, so Laura made up a superior named Remington Steele. The jobs came rushing in and she was able to run a successful practice.

In the first episode, Brosnan steps into the role of Steele without Laura's consent so he can try to steal the jewels she's looking after. The audience never learns Brosnan's real name and his past is rather mysterious, with only bits and pieces revealed to us as the seasons go on. He has so much fun impersonating Steele that he decides to stay on, proving to be an asset to the firm and a love interest for Laura. The show is an open commentary on sexism, with people attributing Laura's successes to Steele and clients deferring to him rather than her. It gets frustrating, which it's supposed to be -- Laura is without a doubt a better detective than Steele, but she runs the risk of exposing the fictional Steele if she corrects them. Annoyingly, the first season's DVD cover mirrors these sexist ideas by featuring only Brosnan with the tagline "Before he was Bond, he was... Remington Steele." Not cool.

In its first season, the show had not only Laura and Steele, but Murphy Michaels (James Read) and Bernice Foxe (Janet DeMay) as well. Bernice was the agency's receptionist, a good friend to Laura, and weary of Steele, who never got her name right. Murphy was a detective working for Laura, and when Steele came on the scene, they became instant rivals for Laura's affections. Sadly, co-creator and executive producer Michael Gleason decided to replace Murphy and Bernice with Doris Roberts's character, which would be a combination of the receptionist and the detective. I'll always miss you, Murph.

The episode I'm going to touch on today actually highlights Murphy, as he and Laura are invited to a small reunion of their old agency. Four years ago, Laura left the hugely-staffed Havenhurst Agency to start her own smaller one, taking Murphy with her. They're excited to get away for the weekend, and even better, they didn't tell Steele he was invited as well so they're free of him for a few days. Or so they think. That evening, Laura and Murphy get reacquainted with their old co-workers, Carl, Sandy, Donald, and Alan. Carl's had a streak of bad luck since he left Havenhurst, while Sandy found a rich husband and had a family. Donald and Alan, like Laura, started agencies of their own, Alan's completely flourishing, as evidenced by his ridiculous mansion. Everyone is sitting around and playing that age-old game "Best Murder," where they recount a tricky murder they investigated and have the others try to guess how it was done, when the doorbell rings. Laura is frustrated to find that it's Steele, but really, how can you turn away from that handsome face? (Laura may have better self-control than me. Okay, she definitely does.)

Everyone goes to bed, but not before Laura overhears Carl and Alan having an argument about something Alan promised him. Coupled with the gun Murphy found in Carl's suitcase earlier, Carl seems pretty suspicious. The next morning, Laura discovers Alan's body in the elevator, dead from a broken neck. She and Murph want to call the police, but Donald points out that if they were
hauled in for questioning, it could generate some really bad publicity for them professionally. Sandy agrees, indulging that she lied to her family about where she was going that weekend. (Her explanation is totally flimsy. "It's a marital thing." Okay...) By not calling the police, they'll have to investigate the murder themselves, which Carl says can't be done because obviously one of them is the murderer. They need someone impartial, Laura says... just as Steele jaunts up to them, chattering about breakfast and taking way too long to notice the dead body.

The other detectives think Steele is the perfect choice, but Murphy and Laura know he's really not. Steele is delighted, except, as always, he has to take his cues from Laura. The suspects are gathered and Steele asks which one of them was the last person to see Alan alive. Carl, ever the temperamental guy, explodes that he knows everyone heard him fighting with Alan last night, but it was
because Alan ruined his career. Apparently when Alan decided to open his own business, he asked Carl to copy client information from Havenhurst so he could steal them away. Carl expected a job from Alan, which Alan wouldn't give him because he was a "thief." Alan then told Donald what happened, and Donald told Havenhurst, who then fired Carl. He's been blackballed from getting a detective job ever since.

Murphy remembers the gun he spotted in Carl's room, but Carl denies he brought one. They all search his room and find nothing. Next, they go over the scene of the crime, eventually pairing off. Laura and Donald go to make coffee, with Donald voicing his concerns that Steele isn't all he appears to be. Sandy begs Murphy to believe that she didn't commit the murder, no matter what
evidence he finds that could incriminate her. Carl takes Steele aside to ask him for a job, hoping to clinch the deal by offering what he found on Alan's neck: unraveled pieces of fabric. Who killed Alan? Carl is too obvious, right? What's Sandy's deal? Was Alan hiding something? Will Steele bluff his way through this whole ordeal? (That last one's a given.)

Since Remington Steele is a mystery show, I won't spoil the last fifteen minutes for you. You can watch the full episode here, along with many others, and clearly I couldn't recommend it enough. I'm warning you, though. The classic film references from Steele are fantastic, and the antics of the Remington Steele Detective Agency can get highly addictive. Did I mention the show stars Pierce Brosnan?

 

With love,
Michaela

Comments

  1. I have only seen the first couple eps of RS -- probably the first disc's worth, because I got it from the library quite a few years ago. I was charmed by it, but we moved before I could watch more. However! I just found the first season at the thrift store of all places, so I will be watching more soon, including this one.

    I'm sad to hear that James Read isn't in the whole series, though :-( It was such a delight to see him pop up in this -- I'd had no idea he was in it at all! (But honestly, I'm watching it for Brosnan and the mysteries, I can't lie.)

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    1. How exciting! I think you'll really enjoy it. I wish I could find the series at a thrift store. I've been relegated to waiting for prices to drop on Amazon Marketplace, so I've only watched seasons 1-2. I may have to watch it on YouTube after all.

      Another James Read fan! I absolutely loved him in this show and I was so disappointed to find out he was just in season 1. I like Doris Roberts's character, but Murphy added fun tension, especially in scenes with Steele. However, Pierce Brosnan does have a way of comforting the loss... ;)

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    2. I introduced my mom to Remington Steele last week, and by the end of the first episode, she was begging me to stay up late and watch a second with her. She was soooo excited when I told her she can watch lots and lots of eps on hulu :-)

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    3. That's great! My parents are always telling me about the cool shows they've watched over the years, and it's fun discovering them. I have yet to trump them on their knowledge. "Hey, did you guys know...?" "Oh yeah! That was a good one!"

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  2. The ONLY reason it went over like a lead balloon, is because I was not there to geek out with you! Because Hart to Hart, Moonlighting and Remington Steele are great shows, nothing is hotter than a 1980s Pierce Brosnan!

    Such a great choice, I hope it inspires others to watch this show. :)

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    1. Thanks, Summer! I believe Pierce Brosnan's beauty is one of the undeniable truths in life. Whoever gave him a TV show was a genius. It's great to hear that you enjoy those shows, too! Some days I think I would be lost without my David Addison and Remington Steele.

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  3. I loved this show, but admit I haven't seen it since its original run. Particularly liked the way they would allude to old Hollywood films.

    I saw Stephanie Zimbalist co-starring with Tommy Tune in a production of "S'Wonderful". She was terrific!

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    1. Ooooh, I envy you! That experience must have been so cool. As for Remington Steele, Zimbalist was so great, she really deserves a lot of the show's praise. I didn't know about all of the film references until I watched the first episode -- I definitely fell in love after that. Pierce Brosnan excitedly talking about all of my favorite movies? Swoon!

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  4. I have been, and continue to be, a huge fan of this show. Over the years, i have seen some of the episodes so many times that at this point, I can quote the dialogue along with Laura and Steele. I thought that Laura Holt was terrific; I loved everything about her including what I liked to call her "Laura Holt" car. It was a Volkswagen Cabriolet, but to me it will always be the Laura car. to this day, if i see a similar car on the road, I will turn to my husband and say there's my "Laura" car. If you ever want someone to geek out with you over this series, you've found your 'mate.'

    Betty

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  5. My apologies for the spelling/grammar errors. I was so thrilled to read this post, and respond to it, that I didn't catch the errors.

    Betty

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  6. In response to Caftan Woman's comment re: seeing Stephanie Zimbalist with Tommy Tune, I did too. We might have been at the same performance, as I also live in Toronto. I'm a huge Broadway fan, so wanted to see Tommy, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that the bigger draw was Ms. Zimbalist. I was so awestruck that I had a friend ask her to sign my copy of the program. I still have that autographed program. And if I didn't mention it before, I love Pierce Brosnan, and love Brosnan as a movie loving Steele. Talking about this series is reminding me how much I miss watching it, I'll have to pull out the dvd's and make a point of watching a few this long weekend.

    Betty

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    1. Betty, thank you for the comments! I loved reading them. I can't believe you got to see Ms. Zimbalist too, AND an autograph?! I'm so happy I decided to write about Remington Steele -- I was convinced my post on I Love Lucy would get all the love, but it's been great to see people popping up and telling me that they adore Steele just as much. I think I'll have to pull out my DVDs this week, too. It's always nice spending time with Laura and Steele.

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    2. I can't believe that I got to see her too. And I bet that there are lots of people who "Steele" love that show(couldn't help myself). At the risk of sounding like I'm showing off a little, well maybe I am a little, I sort of met Pierce Brosnan. I volunteer at the Toronto Film Festival, and a few of his movies have been shown there, so that means that he usually comes to promote them. After the screening of one of his movies, he was standing very close to where I was, but I was so gaga, that I literally couldn't move or speak. My wonderful husband took my camera and walked up to him, well as close as he could considering the crowd and security, and took as many pictures of Pierce as he could. Did I mention that my husband is a great guy?

      As I said before, anytime you'd like to talk about any of the episodes, any series, just let me know. I'd be more than happy to provide you with a contact email address.

      Betty

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    3. Oops, meant to say any season of the Remington Steele series.

      Betty

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    4. What a great story! If I saw Pierce Brosnan, I think I'd act the same way. He reminds me a lot of Cary Grant, actually. I'll keep your offer in mind! :)

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  7. I really think Remington Steele is underrated. What a lot of people miss is that it was in many ways a pioneering show. Prior to Remington Steele when you had a man and a woman as partners, the woman was either subordinate to the man or they were equals (The Avengers comes to mind). With Remington Steele it is Laura who is clearly in charge. She's the brains. She's the muscle. It was in many ways a forerunner of Castle and similar shows in which the woman is more competent than the man! And Stephanie Zimbalist and Pierce Brosnan were both so good in their roles! Anyway, thanks for the second great post and for participating in the blogathon!

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    1. Thanks for having me! I do wish Remington Steele was better-known, especially for the reasons you discussed. Sure, it made Brosnan famous, but Laura Holt is amazing and unfortunately the sexism she experienced is still felt today. I know I fawn over Brosnan a lot, but Zimbalist created one of my favorite TV characters. And she did it all while wearing a fedora like Bogie!

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  8. Pierce Brosnan looks so young – and quite debonair (as always).

    It's good that you highlighted this episode (series) on your site. It's not a well-known show and, judging by the couple of episodes I've seen, it deserves more love than it receives.

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    1. It certainly does! I will always lament this show's invisibility. It's good to hear that you've seen at least a few episodes. I've been dying to get further along in the series, but prices are just a touch too high for my taste. Thanks for reading!

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  9. I love, love, love the concept of "Remington Steele" (and young Pierce Brosnan is among my strongest celebrity crushes). The mystery, the style, the characters, and the cons! It hits so many of my favorite story elements. I only watched parts of the first two seasons (then got frustrated by the focus on sexual tension to the detriment of more interesting stories), but this episode is one of my favorites. My favorite bit is where Steele's playing the "Best Murder" game with a story of a victim being killed by a gunshot originating from within the body. Pierce Brosnan makes it so dramatic. "Let it seep into your thoughts, invade your dreams, and then, if the answer isn't obvious to you..."

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    1. The show hits a lot of soft spots for me, too. I love that part of the episode as well -- Brosnan (and the writers) knew just when to make Steele ridiculous and when he should be serious. It's marvelous that although he's ultra suave, he's also a bit of a bumbling mess. One moment that comes to mind is a take-off of Rear Window; Steele is stuck in a wheelchair and Laura calls him for help with a suspect that's attacking her. He tries to hurry to her, but he's so unskilled with his wheelchair, it takes him many attempts to get out of his apartment. It's pretty funny, and showed what a knack for comedy Brosnan has. Thanks for stopping by!

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  10. Remington Steele is such a great show! It's nice to see people writing about it so many years later. There is steele an active on-line RS community who loves to talk about this show. The show is intelligent, classy, witty, and very timeless. I think it set the standard for the will they / won't they dynamic. I love the fact that Laura is a smart, independent woman. I'm sure many of the female fans wanted to be Laura when they grew up. As Betty mentioned, I loved her car, too! Every time I see a Cabriolet I wonder where Laura is off to.

    I was first drawn to the show back in 1982 because of Pierce Brosnan, but that's not the only reason I stayed a fan. The way the show dealt with sexism and turning stereotypes on their heads was great social commentary. Brosnan was definitely the eye candy and Zimbalist the brains. They made such a handsome couple, too, and had amazing chemistry.

    I have had the pleasure of meeting both Pierce and Stephanie. I was pretty star struck by Pierce, but he immediately put me at ease and chatted with me for a few moments. I made sure to tell him I was a fan since RS and he seemed genuinely touched to hear that.

    I had the opportunity to see Stephanie perform live with a group of fellow RS fans, and got to meet her after the show. She was warm and welcoming and took the time to chat with each of us. We told her we were fans of her from RS and she immediately got a fond smile on her face and told us a story or 2 about her time on the show. She was so down to earth - almost like she was one of us!

    I highly recommend this show to anyone who hasn't seen it yet! I believe the first 3 seasons are available for free on Hulu (if you are in the US). Don't watch it on youtube - the quality is sooo bad. You can usually pick up a copy of the dvds on ebay for about $10 a season.

    Again, thanx for blogging about this fantastic show!

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    1. Wow, thanks for your great comments! I'm starting to think I'm the only one who hasn't meet Zimbalist or Brosnan. I've started repeating to myself "There's still time..." How lovely to hear that they remembered the show fondly. I love watching their interviews on the DVDs.

      The response I've gotten on this post is so heartwarming. I was convinced no one would care about this show -- I'm so glad I was wrong! The impact of Laura and Steele's dynamic is still felt today, in my opinion, but very few have duplicated it so successfully. I'd say the closest incarnation we have right now is Castle, a show I just adore.

      Thanks for the heads-up about Hulu. I didn't think to check there. You're right that the YouTube videos aren't the best, but they'll do in a pinch.

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    2. Castle, especially the early seasons, definitely comes close to recreating that dynamic. I'm also a fan of that show.

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    3. I am a huge fan of Remington Steele Anyways, I am liquidating my memorabilia from the show which I collected over the last 15 years.

      I have an original crew jacket worn by crew/cast of the television series Remington Steele which ran from 1982 to 1987 and starred Pierce Brosnan and Stephanie Zimbalist. It is in great condition and is very rare, a collectors item. It is technically size XL but it appears to fit more of a medium size. See attached photos

      I am not sure if you are interested in purchasing this jacket, if you are interested, email me at karmish@gmail.com thanks

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  11. I was unable to attach the photos but again email me incase you are interested, and I can email you thanks.....

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    1. What a cool piece! Unfortunately, I'm saving all my money for this coming semester -- I just got back from studying abroad and I'm having some financial aid issues, so my bank account is on lockdown. But once things get better, I'll certainly reconsider! Thanks for the comment!

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