During my intermediate school years, a time of questionable fashion choices and terrible hair, I got home each day at about 3:10 p.m.
After finishing chores and surfing the as-yet rather unsophisticated web (at least on my family’s antique computer), I would make myself a huge bowl of Cheerios topped with raisins and sit down on the sofa at precisely 3:56 to watch “Remington Steele.”
I knew nothing about “Remington Steele” when I first stumbled across the show in the middle of a re–aired season, but ten seconds was all it took for me to be hooked.
The lock–picking, the limousine, the witty banter, the convoluted plots, and Laura Holt’s magic ability to cruise through the horror of 1980’s fashion looking professional, cool and confident kept my eyes glued to the television for an hour, commercials and all.
And let’s not forget Remington Steele, the titular character himself, played with no shortage of wit, charm and surprising depth by a (drop-dead gorgeous) pre–Bond Pierce Brosnan.
“Remington Steele” ran from 1982 to 1987. The show focused on Laura Holt (Stephanie Zimbalist), a private eye who, tired of having men take the credit for her detective work, opens her own agency. After “no one [knocks] down [her] door,” she decides to invent “a superior. A decidedly masculine superior.” And so the Remington Steele Detective Agency is born.
The agency is a success and is secretly run by Laura, Murphy Michaels (James Read) and Bernice Fox (Janet DeMay) [who are later replaced by Mildred Krebs (Doris Roberts)], who all work to conceal the fact that Remington Steele doesn’t truly exist.
For a while, everything goes according to plan. The fictitious Mr. Steele is conveniently out of the country, on business or covering other cases when clients walk in, leaving the cases free for Laura to solve. That is, until Pierce Brosnan (whose true name is unknown) walks in, with his “blue eyes and mysterious past” and takes over the role of Remington Steele.
Madness ensues, but it is delightful and well–done insanity, tinged with a good sense of humor and production values that would impress even James Cameron.
Swoon over “Remington Steele” though I may, I do not mean to say that “Remington Steele” is not dated. There are stereotypes and elitist behavior that are often cringe-worthy and the plots sometimes border on the unbelievable. Yet the show is utterly watchable and is rendered realistic by the performances of the leads and also admirably addresses many social issues, most specifically with the character of Laura Holt.
Laura is intelligent, tough, self–sufficient and reliable. She has ashort temper, but her anger is never inarticulately expressed. She is mature and imaginative, rarely at a loss and quick to catch the smallest details. Laura single–handedly created the Remington Steele Detective Agency, and her mind is what keeps it going.
Laura’s character demands and earns your respect, but she is as contradictory as a real person. Her struggle to be recognized for her work is addressed in many episodes, and she often clashes with clients who refuse to see her as anything but a pretty face.
Laura is a great feminist heroine, and viewing her fictitious life in the context of the 1980s is one of the most interesting parts of the show. Zimbalist’s portrayal is also difficult to date, and Laura is as relatable today as she was in 1982.
“Remington Steele,” thankfully available on DVD, was and is a classic. Better performances cannot be found on TV, and if you are tired of today’s television line-up, rent, buy or borrow this series. You won’t be disappointed, I promise. And my word is my bond.