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Remington Steele was an Americanmarker television series, produced by MTM Enterprises and first broadcast on the NBC network from 1982 to 1987. It starred Stephanie Zimbalist as private detective Laura Holt and Pierce Brosnan as a roguish former white-collar thief and former con man who assumed Remington Steele's fictitious identity--without his originally having planned on doing so. The show combined the standard TV detective genre with ironic plotting and elements of romantic comedy.

In the United States of America, the show originally aired on Friday evenings, switching to Tuesday in an attempt for higher ratings. The show remained in that slot for most of its run, finally ending with a series of two hour movies.

Series history

Stephanie Zimbalist plays Laura Holt, a private detective who appears to find that her potential clients are unwilling to hire a woman. Business picks up dramatically when she invents a fictitious male superior whom she names Remington Steele, after her Remington typewriter and the Pittsburgh Steelers football team.

In the first episode, she encounters a Humphrey Bogart-loving thief, played by Pierce Brosnan, who overhears someone calling for "Remington Steele" and, in order to escape a pair of murderous thugs, impulsively assumes Remington Steele's identity. By the end of the episode, he chooses to make the alias permanent and assumes the role of Laura's "boss," an arrangement Laura accepts because of her realization that now her agency at least needs a figurehead boss.

The real name of Brosnan's character was never revealed. In one episode, trapped on an island and fearing for their lives, Steele started to open up to Laura, stating that he was of Irish origin, as was Brosnan himself. In later episodes, it was revealed that Steele did not know his own real birth name, and his attempts to discover it became a running theme. Daniel Chalmers, who was Steele's mentor and surrogate father (and revealed himself to be his true father in the end) always called him "Harry".

One running joke throughout the series was "Remington's" penchant for quoting lines from famous movies as bits of pseudo-philosophy, and occasionally using techniques from cinematic mysteries to attempt to solve crimes, with variable degrees of success. In fact Laura would usually solve the case, giving Steele the credit as part of the pretense.

A number of plotlines were openly inspired by famous film noir thrillers, such as the first-season episode "Steele Flying High," which took its lead from the Humphrey Bogart classic The Maltese Falcon.

Season 1

The first season included two recurring characters, James Read who played Holt's real partner, Murphy Michaels, and Janet DeMay, their secretary and periodic rescuer, Bernice Fox (whom Remington always misnamed "Wolfe"). Early episodes tended to be simple, focusing on the story without too much flash. 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." The series tended to focus on the sexual tension between the leads as much as the plots of the episodes themselves.

Season 2

NBC decided that the show was worthy of considerably more attention and re-tooled the format for the second season. The "new" Remington Steele was a bigger-budget production with more flash and a more lively opening credits sequence that emphasized the action and adventure of the series. Also, a 1936 Auburn Speedster--actually a replica of one--was introduced in the episode "Love Among The Steele," and it became a company car afterward.

Read was removed in order to allow the romance between Holt and Steele to develop; his character pined for Holt and the producers felt this was a hindrance, so in the second-season opener Steele and Holt explain to an IRS agent that Murphy had opened his own detective agency in Denver, and that Bernice had resigned to marry a musician. Later in the episode, the nosy IRS agent, Mildred Krebs (Doris Roberts), joined the firm as Bernice's replacement. Mildred proved to be a capable investigator in her own right, and grew to be an amalgam of Bernice, Murphy, and Laura's mother as the series progressed.

Season 3

After the success of the Season 2 premiere, which was filmed on location in Mexicomarker, NBC gave producers a bigger travel allowance for the third season, resulting in several episodes being filmed in European locations such as Irelandmarker, Maltamarker and Francemarker. (What necessitated this, in part, was the fact that the 1984 Summer Olympics were held in Los Angelesmarker, which would have interfered too much with on-site filming in the LA area.) The third season saw another opening credits sequence introduced, one that incorporated Doris Roberts as a regular.

Season 4

The final full season of Remington Steele in which Doris Roberts, Pierce Brosnan, and Stephanie Zimbalist all returned.

Brief cancellation

The series was cancelled at the end of the 1985–86 television season. After several seasons of "teasing" and nothing happening between Holt and Steele the show was deemed to have run its course, and the show was cancelled. Given the imminent end of the series, film producer Albert R. Broccoli offered Brosnan the part of James Bond for the film The Living Daylights.

Final season

Broccoli's offer to Pierce Brosnan generated a lot of publicity and interest, and NBC received a barrage of letters urging them to renew the show. The network, which still had Brosnan under contract, chose to bow to the wishes of the public, and renew Remington Steele for another year. Bond film producer Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli stated he did not want Bond to be identified with a current TV series, and instead gave the role to Timothy Dalton. Brosnan would finally become 007 in 1995. Another side effect of the surprise renewal was that Zimbalist was forced to pull out of the production of RoboCop, in which she was originally cast to play Officer Anne Lewis, a role that subsequently went to Nancy Allen.

The final abbreviated season consisted of several made-for-TV films broadcast over the course of a few months, including installments filmed on location in places like Irelandmarker. Jack Scalia joined the cast as a Romancing the Stone-inspired rival for Laura's affections. This new format was not very popular with audiences, and low ratings, coupled with reports of on-the-set tension that were due, in part, to Brosnan's resentment at losing the Bond role resulted in the series being cancelled for good in the spring of 1987, long before the release of The Living Daylights. The final scene of the series implied that Steele and Laura were about to consummate their relationship with intercourse.

Brosnan believes a Remington Steele feature film is unlikely to be produced.


Other recurring actors included:
  • Cassandra Harris (Brosnan's real-life wife) playing the recurring Felicia, one of Steele's old flames.
  • James Tolkan as Norman Keyes, an insurance investigator bent on proving Steele to be a fraud. He eventually died in the fifth season.
  • Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (father of Stephanie Zimbalist) as Daniel Chalmers, a charming con man who was Steele's mentor and surrogate father (revealed as his true father in the end) and whose real name, like Steele's, was unknown. He died in the last episode, "Steeled With A Kiss, Part Two."
  • Beverly Garland as Abigail Holt, Laura's mother.
  • Michael Constantine as George Edward Mulch, a business man with farfetched ideas only looking for fame and fortune.
  • Gary Frank as Detective James Jarvis, who suspected Steele was not all he appeared.


The success of the series led to Pierce Brosnan being compared to Roger Moore, and not only in terms of being a possible successor in the role of James Bond. In 1985, there were media reports that Moore was considering producing a movie based upon his old TV series, The Saint, and that Brosnan was a prime candidate to play Simon Templar. This project was eventually given to Val Kilmer.

Series producer Glenn Gordon Caron went on to create a similar series called Moonlighting which, at times, was considered to be in head-to-head competition with Remington Steele. Brosnan makes a cameo appearance as Remington Steele in the Moonlighting episode "The Straight Poop." Moonlighting had Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd playing detectives where there was similar sexual tension between the characters.

Rumors of discord

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 alleged that its two stars personally did not get along. This was repeatedly downplayed by both Brosnan and Zimbalist in press interviews during and since, though Brosnan strongly alluded to the situation in his biography and though later co-star Doris Roberts has since mentioned in interviews how "unpleasant" the working conditions were on the set.

DVD releases

Stephanie Zimbalist received star billing for the second-season release.
20th Century Fox has released all five seasons of Remington Steele on DVD in Region 1. 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 the air—was initially omitted from all promotional material connected with its release, as well as the DVD box itself, as Fox Video chose instead 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 not only gave Zimbalist star billing, but her photograph also appears on the box. Additionally, Zimbalist is featured on the behind-the-scenes featurettes contained therein (having been absent from the Season 1 featurettes).

Season Ep # Release Date Additional Information
Season One 22 July 26 2005
  • "Licensed to Steele" commentary with Michael Gleason and Robert Butler
  • "Tempered Steele" commentary with Michael Gleason and Robert Butler
  • "Vintage Steele" commentary with Michael Gleason and Susan Baskin
  • "Remington Steele: Season One" Featurette
  • "Remington & Laura, Murphy & Bernice" Featurette
  • "Comedy & Old Movies" Featurette
Season Two 21 November 8 2005
  • "Steele Eligible" commentary with Michael Gleason and Sheldon Larry
  • "Steele Sweet on You" commentary with Michael Gleason and Susan Baskin
  • "Hounded Steele" commentary with Jeff Melvoin
  • "Steele Action" Featurette
  • "Steele Mildred" Featurette
  • "Steele Together" Featurette
Season Three 22 April 18 2006
  • "Diced Steele" commentary with Michael Gleason and Doris Roberts
  • "Now You Steele It, Now You Don't" commentary with Michael Gleason, Jeff Melvoin, John Wirth, and Brad Kern
  • "Steele in the Chips" commentary with Michael Gleason and Stephanie Zimbalist
  • "Steele Trio" Featurette
  • "Steele Michael" Featurette
  • "The Baking of Steele in the Chips" Featurette
Seasons Four and Five 27 August 15 2006
  • "Steele on the Air" commentary with John Sakmar and Kerry Lenhart
  • "Beg, Borrow, or Steele" commentary with Michael Gleason, John Wirth, Brad Kern and Jeff Melvoin
  • "Bonds of Steele" commentary with Michael Gleason, John Wirth, Brad Kern and Jeff Melvoin
  • "Steele Fanatics" Featurette
  • "Steele Stars" Featurette
  • "Steele on the Road" Featurette
  • "Steele Farewell" Featurette

Production notes

  • Every episode title has the word "Steele" in it, in one form or another.

  • Stephanie Zimbalist co-wrote one episode of the series, "Steele In The Chips." It dealt with a no-calorie chocolate-chip cookie recipe which, ultimately, no one got.

  • A featurette on the Season 2 DVD reveals that Laura's house, seen in the first season and blown up in the second episode of the second season, was actually Stephanie Zimbalist's real-life home. (A replica was destroyed.)

  • In 1984, actor Tom Baker, best known to UKmarker and international audiences as the fourth actor to play Doctor Who, made a rare American television appearance when he played Interpolmarker agent Anatole Blaylock versus J. D. Cannon in the episode '"Hounded Steele."

Episode guide


External links

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