According to Judge Paul Corupe, this is the season where the writers ran out of clever "Steele" puns for the episode titles.
"I do the work and he takes the bows. It's a dangerous way to live, but as long as people buy it, I can get the job done. We never mix business with pleasure. Well…almost never."—Laura Holt (Stephanie Zimbalist)
Sometimes, casting is everything. Mixing romantic comedy and mystery in the tradition of The Thin Man and McMillan and Wife, Remington Steele debuted in 1982 and went on to four successful seasons on NBC. With any other actors, the show probably would have just another run-of-the-mill 1980s detective show. Thanks to Stephanie Zimbalist's cool and brilliant take on Laura Holt and Pierce Brosnan's dashing turn as Remington Steele (which directly led to his later casting as James Bond), the show has remained a popular hit for more than two decades, making it 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, actively trying to assist Laura on her cases, and even doing 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 while fighting their feelings for each other.
Remington Steele: Season Two presents all 21 episodes from the show's second season on four double-sided discs:
• "Steele Away with Me"
Though the first season of the series proved a hit with fans, big changes were afoot for the second season of Remington Steele that would send its popularity through the roof, and with good reason.
First of all, the show was wisely remodeled to focus directly on Laura Holt and Remington Steele. Gone were two characters that figured prominently in the first season: Holt's original partner and competing love interest, Murphy Michaels (James Read), and the pair's secretary Bernice Fox (Janet DeMay). Michaels apparently left to start his own rival agency while Fox is unceremoniously replaced in this season's first episode by Doris Robert's Mildred Krebs, an IRS agent investigating Steele who becomes their new assistant. The show's budget was padded considerably to accommodate a new emphasis on action rather than just simply mystery and romance.
These changes proved to be for the better. Mildred's background as an investigator (not to mention Robert's underrated talent) made her a formidable addition to Holt's agency. Her matronly appearance smartly removed her from the romantic aspect of the show entirely, allowing the stories to focus more on the sexual tension between the two principals. The bigger budget also agreed with the show as NBC made a stronger commitment to make it a hit. The season kicked off with "Steele Away With Me," a two-hour episode that takes place in beautiful, sunny Acapulco, that has Remington both kissing the reluctant Laura and parasailing into an enemy compound. These exciting moments set the mold for the remainder of Remington Steele's run.
What hadn't changed, however, was the foundation of the show. Played with a great deal of charisma by the future Mr. 007, Steele was still a reformed cad with a mysterious past who has a penchant for stealing his detection skills from classic film noir-tinged mysteries like The Maltese Falcon and Notorious (a neat, self-referential touch). As Steele stumbled through his detective charade and tried to keep up with his razor-sharp partner, the audience got to peek behind the curtain occasionally to solve one of the shows most pertinent mysteries-exactly who was Remington Steele before he took the job?
In this season's "Steele Framed," it briefly appears as though Steele was much more of a violent criminal than Holt ever imagined, and in the later "Steele Knuckles and Glass Jaws," his brief past in the boxing ring is revealed. It was a brilliant idea by the writers: a limitless opportunity to pepper the audience with clues about his real identity while at the same time pushing both detectives into cases related to Steele's past.
Interestingly, the omission of Stephanie Zimbalist from the cover of the first season DVD set (corrected with the addition of a sticker later on) was completely remedied this time out. The series co-star finally gets her name and picture on the box, though she's still in Bronsan's shadow. The quality of this release is just as good as the show's first season: surprisingly bright and sharp with no artifacts or grain to speak of. It certainly looks much better than other shows of similar vintage on DVD. The mono track is also quite good, even if fidelity is somewhat limited by the nature of TV audio in the early 1980s.
Rectifying the barebones release of the first season, Fox has even outfitted Remington Steele: Season Two with some extras, including two behind-the-scenes featurettes, "Steele Together" and "Steele Action," featuring interviews with Bronsan, Zimblaist, Roberts and the show's creative staff. There's also a brief profile of the season's new character Mildred Krebbs, plus three commentary tracks on selected episodes by several writers, director Sheldon Larry, and series co-creator Michael Gleason. Impressive!
Aside from being arguably the best season of the show, Remington Steele: Season Two has been considerably beefed up from Fox's first DVD release, with a nice selection of extras and outstanding transfers. There's no better reason to pick up this set if you're a fan of this landmark romantic comedy mystery series.
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