Remington Steele - Season 1 is 22 episodes lifted from that time in our great country’s history when the 1970s were giving way to the 1980s. Every aspect of these episodes from the soft light, to the settings, to the clothes reeks of this time. Initially, the idea of a show based around a women who pretends to that she has a male boss to get more clients for her Private Detective firm seems a bit of a stretch. However, the show takes a detour when the Pierce Brosnan character shows up and assumes this role. It is here that the fun begins as we get a sort of pre-Moonlighting example of the chemistry that a career women and a sassy man can have. While I don’t know that this show was really that engaged in reality, the characters of Remington Steele are certainly engaging enough and this makes for a very solid bit of TV.
While not one of the best shows I have ever screened (I only watched it in a cursory manner when it originally aired on TV), I found that in my rediscovery process I really had an affinity for how this show was written. It seemed to be an open tip of the hat to a lot of the detective movies and film noir stories that I have seen played out on screen before. In this regard, I felt an immediate familiarity with Remington Steele - Season 1. My favorite episodes were “Steele Waters Run Deep”, simply because it focused on video games, “Hearts of Steele” because it was fun seeing Laura and Remington pretend they are an unhappy couple and “Steeling the Show” just because it focused on an aging actress. I am sucker for shows about show business.
Audio Commentary on Selected Episodes
These are commentary tracks for “License to Steele”, “Tempered Steele” and “Vintage Steele”. I love TV on DVD commentary tracks simply because the process of how a TV show gets made is so much different then that of a movie. TV seems like such a more free flowing process where the people creating it can just take an idea, try it out and if it works, great, if not they know they have a bunch more episodes to work with. Talking on these tracks are Remington Steele creators Michael Gleason, Robert Butler and writer Susan Baskin. I love hearing why certain choices were made with the Laura or Steele characters, why things did or didn’t work out or simply what the actors brought to the table to make this show unique.
Making of Featurettes
These making of pieces generally break down how this show went from being an idea, to being something that ended up on the small screen. Then they take an intelligent look at what this show became and how it evolved in it’s 5 year run. I like that they look head on at the fact that Brosnan was becoming this big star, Stephanie Zimbalist was not, and they actually talk about what this must have been like for her. It is also inspiring to see that she was such a professional that she never backed away and met Brosnan head on in the acting department. TV politics, brash ideas and inventive story lines are all on display here. This seems to underscore the idea that TV, while a tough place to work, is probably one of the most exhilarating.
There is an obvious focus on Pierce Brosnan both looking at what he was then and what he’s become now. I find it interesting that he never did become a huge star. Sure, he is a movie star and he plays lead roles in all the films he does, but if we can look again at a show like Moonlighting, I think it’s readily apparent that he didn’t “blow up” (no pun intended) like our friend Bruce Willis. These featurettes also look at the types of movies that have inspired this character and I love the candor in which everybody involved admits to taking something from all of those influences.
Full Frame 1.33:1. As I mentioned above, what really stands out to me is the soft lighting of this show. It is almost as if there is a light layer of fog over each of the shots. As a result, this show looks dated but it’s from 1982 so what can you expect? I think that there should be a compilation DVD put together that serves as a sort of time capsule for our country at various times in history. I certainly feel that that an episode of Remington Steele deserves to be a part of something like that. It captures the whole business feel of the Reagan Era. As this is a TV show, there is a smallness to it but I was surprised at how bold the show was. For example, I think the FCC would be up in arms if Remington (in today’s TV environment) asked Laura “How long have you been a dick?”. Of course we all know that he is referring to being a private detective, but I think my point is well made. This show was a nice subversion in the squeaky clean 80s.
Dolby Digital - English - Mono. Subtitled in English and Spanish. I had to turn up these disks a little louder then normal but I am becoming convinced that with all the DVDs circulating in the world that is just the nature of the beast. This also wasn’t really that big of a problem. Once I got the levels where they needed to be I was all set. This show is pretty dialogue intensive and since most of the episodes take place in a lot of “cocktail-like” establishments, you aren’t getting background music that is going to blow you out of your seat. One thing I really appreciated was Brosnan’s wry sense of humor. His ability to find a witty thing to say in almost any situation. On top of this, he was a great straight man. He never let on that he knew he was being funny and that is why he and the Laura Holt character worked so well for me.
Piece Brosnan adorns this cover wearing a tuxedo with his characteristic good looks and swagger that he knows will make the women swoon and then men hate him. The back features some tiny shots of the show, an almost cryptic description of what it’s about (you guys could have helped the uninitiated out a bit more, folks!), an extras listing and some technical specs. Inside are 4 double sided disks, housed in two plastic cases with 2 disks to each case. The minimalist packaging (which looks very 1980s) makes good use of putting a lot of content in a small amount of space. Also, on the back of the inside plastic covers, there are episode listings and brief descriptions of those episodes.
After screening this 4 disk DVD box set, I can honestly say that I have a new respect for Pierce Brosnan as an actor. Sadly, it seems that that the only parts he can play with any believability are that are suave men who woo the ladies. I guess there are worse crosses to bear but I know that as an actor, it must bother him that unless he’s Bond (or a Bond-type) nobody is going to really want to see him. Either way, he is very good, he has a terrific comedic timing and I think it would be interesting to see him play a role that wasn’t such a Blue blood.
Sadly, it doesn’t seem like Stephanie Zimbalist did much after this show. Well, that isn’t entirely true. According to IMDB she has landed her share of roles since this show ended, but they don’t seem to have really done much for her career. It’s sad only because she does have a certain something that seems like a natural for being a leading lady.
I think fans of the show will be very happy with Remington Steele - Season 1, while the newbies might catch a rerun on TV and then decide to buy or rent this box set to find out more about the show.