Monday, May 4, 2009

Remington Steele – A 1980’s snapshot in time

Before Pierce Brosnan played James Bond, before Doris Roberts played the nosy mother on Everybody Loves Raymond, there was Remington Steele,
a tantalizing and kitschy private investigator show full of glamour and romance.

The show is currently being re-run on American Life Television Network. I discovered it one day when I was home sick, and now the TiVo is programmed to pick it up every weekday. Here in Central Florida, it airs at 10 AM and again at 6 PM on Bright House cable channel 152. (For some odd reason, TV guide doesn't list the channel.)

The baseline story is complicated, but fortunately, the show’s writers repeatedly revisit the tale of how the Remington Steele detective agency was formed: Private investigator, Laura Holt (played by Stephanie Zimbalist), starts an agency and can’t get clients because she is a woman. She creates a “fake” male boss by stealing the name of her gun, a Remington, and adds the name “steel” with an “e” for flavor. After much success under her imaginary “boss,” a.k.a Remington Steele, she meets a con artist (Pierce Brosnan) who agrees to play the roll of Remington Steele to help her solve a case. The two work well together and the con artist permanently assumes the identity of Remington Steele. Season 2 brings in the colorful and delightful Doris Roberts as Mildred Krebs, a former IRS auditor, who acts as secretary, but eventually works her way into the roll of a private investigator herself. (See trailer)

What makes the show really work and gives it lasting quality is that each character, despite their good looks and poise, has a quirky personality of their very own. Over the course of the show, we wonder who Remington really is (does he even know, himself?). Remington frequently quotes and compares cases they are investigating to vintage movies from the 30s, 40s, and 50s (What’s really cool, is you can now watch those movies on TCM, so you have an inkling what he’s talking about.) Mildred Krebs is always surprising us with her seemingly unending abilities and skills. Laura Holt, the “straight man,” constantly brings the team back to reality by discussing budgets and timelines, while holding back from throwing herself at a constantly beckoning Remington. She finally gives in to Remington in season 4.

I love watching the show and relishing all the 1980s kitsch. It’s not just the high necked silk blouses, shoulder pads, big hair, and giant earrings worn by Laura. Mildred uses an old IBM computer. The printer is a noisy dot matrix printer, complete with fan fold paper fed onto a roll (do you remember those?). Cell phones? Yeah, right, No. Old designer hand held models I would kill to have (but I don’t have a land line. Hmm.) Last week, Remington ordered a giant “top-of-the-line” new-technology disk movie player, a competitor to VCRs which came in a box bigger than a microwave, along with a giant TV, the kind that takes up half the living room.

The show also has a huge list of guest stars from a “who’s who” from the TV and soap opera world. In order of appearance: Annie Potts, Sharon Stone, Jenny O’Hara, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Stephanie Zimbalist’s father), Delta Burke, Richard Backus, Michael Durrell, Judith Light, Barry Jenner, Susan Ruttan, John Larroquette, Billie Bird, Nancy Stafford, K Callan, Mary Beth Evans, Jean Smart, Geena Davis, Harry Groener, Peter Jurasik, Jennifer Tilly, Vincent Schiavelli, and Barbara Babcock, just to name a few.

Numerous actor careers were launched in part by Remington Steele, including: Paul Reiser, Randy Oglesby, Faith Prince, Miguel Sandoval, Patricia Wettig, and Joan McMurtrey.

You can see the entire list on IMDb.

Ah, my heart throbs for Pierce Brosnan – who is constantly gorgeous in designer suits and tuxedos. He is nearly always clean shaven, which makes me wonder: Why didn’t they let him shave as James Bond? Didn’t that hurt the leading ladies who kissed him?

Remington Steele originally ran for 5 seasons from 1982 to 1987. American Life is currently running season 4. (I hope they go back to season 1 when it runs out.)

No comments:

Post a Comment

What's your opinion?