Judge Paul Corupe steeles himself for a slew of bad puns while he delves behind the scenes of Brosnan's thwarted career as James Bond.
"The honeymoon hasn't even started yet."—Remington Steele
Sometimes, casting is everything. Mixing romantic comedy and mystery together in the tradition of The Thin Man and McMillan and Wife, Remington Steele debuted in 1982 and went on to four more successful seasons on NBC. With any other actors, the show probably would have just been a run-of-the-mill 1980s detective show. But thanks to Stephanie Zimbalist's cool and brilliant take on Laura Holt and Pierce Brosnan's dashing turn as Remington Steele, the show has remained a popular hit for more than two decades. It's a prime suspect for Fox's top-notch DVD treatment.
Facts of the Case
Tired of making excuses about a non-existent male boss to clients wary of hiring a woman, private investigator Laura Holt (Stephanie Zimbalist, The Magic of Lassie) hires an actively reforming jewel thief and con man (Pierce Brosnan, Goldeneye) to play the part of her fictional supervisor, "Remington Steele." But when the new Mr. Steele gets a taste of solving mysteries, he becomes a valued part of the agency. He actively tries to assist Laura on her cases, and even does some of the more physically dangerous legwork himself. Along with their trusted and capable secretary Mildred Krebs (Doris Roberts, The Honeymoon Killers), Holt and Steele investigate everything from blackmailing and kidnapping to espionage and murder—all the while fighting their feelings for each other.
Remington Steele: Seasons Four and Five presents all 27 episodes from the show's final two years on five double-sided discs:
• "Steele Searching Pt. 1"
Remington Steele had struggled somewhat in its first two seasons to find an audience. But after a stellar third season on NBC that saw the show finally crack Neilsen's Top 25, Brosnan, Zimbalist, and company anticipated that their fourth go-around would prove to be another ratings boon. Things didn't exactly work out that way, however, as the show's future became something of a victim of its own popularity. The second-billed Brosnan was suddenly being tapped by Hollywood, with rumors flying everywhere about possible career-making film roles—including the one he would eventually score a decade later: James Bond.
Though there may have been signs of trouble behind the scenes at the Laura Holt Detective Agency, it was another crackerjack season for the crime-solving duo that stuck closely to the show's basic comedy/mystery/action formula. Far more refined than in earlier seasons, Brosnan was still mining the role of a reformed cad with a mysterious past with great success. Zimbalist was still pulling his butt out the fire with her razor-sharp intellect. Fans will find the fourth season episodes much in the classic mold of the show and a continued delight to watch. The talented, film-buff writers once again humor Steele's penchant for basing his investigations on methods used in classic, film noir-tinged mysteries like Arsenic and Old Lace and Notorious. This fun, self-referential touch kept audiences coming back for more.
Still, the show's most pertinent mystery has always been the real identity of Remington Steele before he took the Holt Agency job. This was a limitless opportunity for the show's writers to pepper the audience with clues about his past, while at the same time pushing both detectives into new, semi-related cases. In the final episode of the third season, "Steele of Approval," the agency's license was threatened because of Steele's shady history. Remington vanishes, putting the future of the whole agency at risk. In this season's well-done premiere, "Steele Searching," Holt catches up with her fictional gumshoe in London, where he has begun a new search for his real identity. Beyond this two-parter, Steele's past is mostly downplayed this season in order to focus more on the duo's developing romantic relationship. The tension certainly heats up in one of this season's highlights, "Steele Sensitive," when an undercover job at a "sensitivity spa" results in Steele and Holt finally confessing their feelings for each other.
But audiences may have ultimately been tiring of the show's "will-they-or-won't-they" romantic subplot, as the record ratings continued to drop off throughout the year. The show was unceremoniously cancelled at the end of the fourth season, with a 60-day option on the show—on the same day as it was unofficially announced that Brosnan had finally inked a deal to star as the superspy everyone agreed he'd be perfect for. But Brosnan had signed a seven year contract with NBC, and when the casting rumor sent reruns of the show back up the Neilsen rankings, plans for a fifth season were quickly hammered out. Obligated to rehash the character one more year under threat of a lawsuit, Steele was suddenly (if regrettably) back in business, and Timothy Dalton was called in for duty at MI6 in Brosnan's place.
The resulting fifth season of Remington Steele is something of a disappointment: a heartless cash-grab by the network that really only served to keep Brosnan out of the Bond role until 1996. The protracted season starts off intriguingly, as Holt and Steele find themselves back in Mexico posing as a married couple. The subsequent six episodes (presented here as a two-hour telefilm and two, two-part hour episodes) lack the zest and wit that made the show such a hit with viewers in the first place. Despite later traveling to England and Ireland to make up for a lack of location work in season four, Brosnan doesn't look like he's having any fun at all. It's an unfortunate, unnecessary ending to a frequently good series.
Thankfully, the quality of this release is just as good as the earlier DVD sets, boasting surprisingly bright and sharp transfers with few artifacts or grain. It certainly looks much better than other shows of similar vintage out on DVD. The sound, a typical mono track, is also quite good, even if fidelity is limited by the nature of TV audio in the early 1980s. Remington Steele: Seasons Four and Five is also complimented by a solid array of extras, including four ten-minute featurettes: "Steele Fanatics" has writers and cast members sharing anecdotes about some of their most memorable fan interactions. "Steele Stars" explores some of the series' best known guest stars, including Sharon Stone, Delta Burke and Mickey Mantle, while "Steele on the Road" details the show's L.A.-based location work—but curiously, not its globetrotting episodes. Finally, "Steele Farewell" doesn't uncover the sordid history behind the show's final whimper, but instead has cast and crew patting each other on the back. There are also three commentary tracks on selected episodes by several of the show's writers, and co-creator Michael Gleason.
Those who want to see why Brosnan was pegged as Bond as early as 1986 could do no better than checking out Remington Steele: Seasons Four and Five, an impressive look at the talented actor that has received another top-notch packaging job by Fox.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Other Reviews You Might Enjoy
Scales of Justice
• Behind-the-scenes featurettes
Review content copyright © 2006 Paul Corupe; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.