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Steele, Remington Steele,
This review is from: Remington Steele - Season 1 [DVD]  (DVD)
The name is Steele. Remington Steele.
Before the advent of reality TV and gritty cop shows, detective shows were apparently the thing -- and the 1980s show "Remington Steele" was a standout. The mixture of humor, romantic tension and high-gloss detecting is constantly entertaining.
Laura Holt (Stephanie Zimbalist) worked hard to become a private eye, only to discover that sexism was holding her back. So she invented a fake boss, Remington Steele, who was always conveniently absent when clients came to talk to his "assistant." The deceptive little system works perfectly... until Laura tries to protect a multimillion-dollar jewel collection, and runs into a man (Pierce Brosnan) who now claims to be Remington Steele.
The flesh-and-blood Remington Steele is dapper, intelligent, loves old movies, and is a master criminal. Laura can't expose him without exposing her own fraud, so she comes to a tenuous truce with him: She'll let him stay, and finance his apartment and living, if he behaves himself and doesn't mess around with her detecting. Her assistants Murphy and Bernice (James Read and Janet DeMay) don't like it, but they have to accept him.
But Steele doesn't want to stay in the shadows. He begins to take an interest in solving cases, and helps Laura find a missing video game genius, deal with a body in a winery, and encounter the Yakuza, murderous fellow P.I.s, B-movie queens, smut publishers, insomniacs, old lovers, divorce lawyers, and much more. All the while, Laura tries to figure out who Steele really is, as they try to figure out how they feel about each other.
Humorous detective stories are not an easy thing to do -- they can easily descend into slapstick or idiocy. "Remington Steele" straddled the line perfectly. The first two episodes are rather grim, but by episode three we have Brosnan's charming smirks and the slightly oddball cases that the show became known for. Okay, maybe Laura's on-the-run striptease was a bit much, but Steele's look of shock is worth it.
Surprisingly, not much has aged about this show. Sure, we have some ludicrous 80s hair and clothing, and computers were in their infancy. But the storylines are still hugely entertaining, the sort of stories that could be easily transferred (well, most of the time) to the 1920s, 2000s, or most places in between. And they're peppered with old movie references, courtesy of Steele's little obsession.
Pierce Brosnan, pre-Bond, gives Steele the right amounts of earnestness and smoothness, quoting old movies and enthusiastically needling Murphy. Zimbalist does an almost equal job; she gets a bit smug in some scenes, but overall carries it well as the Beatrice to Pierce's Benedick. The two stars have remarkably electric chemisty -- a shame they didn't like each other.
DeMay and Read aren't as good -- they were only in one season -- primarily because their characters seem rather one note. And the various guest stars are very good, whether old ladies or distinguished actors, such as Zimbalist's father Efram Jr. And keep an eye out for a young Sharon Stone in a very brief role.
A deeply entertaining and well-written series, "Remington Steele" managed to bridge the gulf between detective shows and dry comedy. Fun, tense and intelligent.