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 as the role that made Brosnan a star.
Remington Steele's premise is that Laura Holt, a licensed private investigator played by Stephanie Zimbalist, opened a detective agency under her own name, but found potential clients refused to hire a woman, no matter how qualified. To solve the problem, Laura invents a fictitious male superior she names Remington Steele. Through a series of events in the first episode, "License to Steele," Pierce Brosnan's character, a former thief and con man (whose real name even he proves not to know, and is never revealed), assumes the identity of Remington Steele. Behind the scenes, a power struggle ensues between Laura and Steele as to who is really in charge, while the two carry on a casual romantic relationship.
Logo of Remington Steele
|Presented by||MTM Enterprises|
|Narrated by||Stephanie Zimbalist in character as Laura Holt (Season 1 titles only)|
|Theme music composer||Henry Mancini; incidental music by Richard Lewis Warren|
|Opening theme||"The Remington Steele Theme", composed by Henry Mancini|
|Ending theme||"Laura Holt's Tune", composed by Henry Mancini|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||5|
|No. of episodes||94 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Michael Gleason|
|Running time||60 minutes (including commercials)|
|Production company(s)||MTM Enterprises|
|Original release||October 1, 1982 – February 17, 1987|
Other recurring actors included:
Guest stars included:
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||22||October 1, 1982||April 12, 1983|
|2||22||September 20, 1983||May 22, 1984|
|3||22||September 25, 1984||May 14, 1985|
|4||22||September 24, 1985||May 10, 1986|
|5||6||January 5, 1987||February 17, 1987|
Remington Steele is best known for having launched 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 show's 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.
Remington Steele referenced 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.
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."
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 failed to "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. At first she turned the series down, not wishing to be tied down to one show, but had a late-night change of heart. Pierce Brosnan (best known then for his role in The Manions of America) 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.
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 the romantic relationship between Laura and "Mr. Steele" (she never called him "Remington" until the show's fifth season after they were “married”) while revealing elements of the characters's 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, which would be remade in 1999, with Pierce Brosnan in the lead role of Thomas Crown). 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., the real-life father of Stephanie) 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.
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 from Friday 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.
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 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.
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 "Tony" as a rival for Laura's affections.
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 affected 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. 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.
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.
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 damage their ability to work together. Doris Roberts confirmed that Zimbalist and Brosnan rarely spoke to each other and that such tension played a role in the series' end. "It was awful. They didn't talk to each other." 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: 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.
Television: In October 2013 NBC announced plans to reboot the series as a half hour comedy. NBC's deal with 20th Century Fox has screenwriters and a director attached, but no cast is yet attached.
20th Century Fox has released all five seasons of Remington Steele on DVD in Region 1 in four box sets. 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 set||Episodes||Release date|
|Remington Steele: Season One||22||July 26, 2005|
|Remington Steele: Season Two||22||November 8, 2005|
|Remington Steele: Season Three||22||April 18, 2006|
|Remington Steele: Seasons Four & Five||28||August 15, 2006|
After a nearly two decade absence from local syndication, the series returned to broadcast television and was seen from September 3 to December 31, 2012 on MeTV, and has resumed for September 2013. It is also currently airing on Family Net. Reruns have previously aired on A&E from 1995 to 1997 and again on PAX (now Ion Television) from 2000 to 2001. It has also aired in India on Star Plus in early 1990s to March 31, 1993.
MeTV also ran the series starting 29 May 2017, in place of Diagnosis: Murder, beginning with the season 2 premiere, "Steele Away with Me". Diagnosis: Murder returned on 21 August 2017, picking up from where they left off with season 8 episode 7: "Hot House".
In The UK, Freeview Channel 5USA, started showing the series from the first episode on October 30, 2017.