Judge Paul Corupe steele wishes he could fit the word "Steele" into this blurb as cleverly as the show's writers fit it into the episode titles. Hey!
"That's what I love about Mr. Steele—always here when you need him."—Laura Holt (Stephanie Zimbalist)
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 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, thus 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 the while fighting their feelings for each other.
Remington Steele: Season Three presents all 22 episodes from the show's third season on four double-sided discs:
• Steele At It
On the heels of the second season's major retooling of the show, Remington Steele's third year on NBC was its finest hour, the only time the well-remembered mystery program cracked Neilsen's Top 25. Ever since the show was moved out of a competing time slot with CBS powerhouse Falcon Crest and the plots began to focus exclusively on the characters Laura Holt and Remington Steele—resulting in fellow detective Murphy Michaels (James Read) and secretary Bernice Fox (Janet DeMay) being replaced by Doris Roberts' tough but matronly assistant Mildred Krebs—the show had finally begun to build a steady fan following.
As a result, Season Three was business as usual for the Laura Holt Detective Agency, carefully balancing the predominant romantic comedy and mystery elements with a smattering of action. Although he seems more civilized with each passing episode, Brosnan was still mining the role of a reformed cad with a mysterious past with great success, and the top-billed Zimbalist was still pulling his butt out the fire with her razor-sharp intellect. Though the pair got to do a fair share of traveling this season, hitting hotspots like Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Mexico, fans will find these episodes much in the classic mold of the show, and a continued delight to watch.
Since the previous year began with an Acapulco-based two-hour episode that heated up Holt and Steele's budding romance, the aptly named season opener on this set, "Steele At It," has the pair once again repressing their passions in the exotic French Riviera as they solve a case that pits them against blackmailers and jewel thieves. From there, the show continues to mine Steele's penchant for basing his investigations on methods used in classic film noir-tinged mysteries like The Big Sleep and Notorious—a fun, self-referential touch that comes to a head this season with the enjoyable "Maltese Steele," which sends the pair to Malta with a suitable McGuffin, as well as "Cast of Steele," which sees three aging classic Hollywood film stars (Virginia Mayo, Dorothy Lamour, and Lloyd Nolan, playing themselves) hire Holt and Steele to find out who is trying to kill them.
But the show's most pertinent mystery has always been the real identity of Remington Steele before he took the Holt Agency job, a limitless opportunity for the show's writers to pepper the audience with clues about his past, while at the same time push both detectives into new, semi-related cases. In this season, a bout of amnesia in "Steele Your Heart Away" has the pair heading off to Ireland to dig up information about Steele's criminal background, and the year ends with something of a corker—in the finale, "Steele of Approval," the agency's license is suddenly threatened because of his shady history, and Remington vanishes, putting the future of the whole Holt agency at risk.
After being conspicuously absent from the cover of the first set, Stephanie Zimbalist made it to the second season set, and now it's Doris Roberts turn to join her spotlight-hogging co-stars—though Bronsan remains absolutely front and center in Fox's continued effort to exploit his star power. The quality of this release is just as good as the show's first two seasons, surprisingly bright and sharp transfers with no artifacts or grain to speak of. 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 somewhat limited by the nature of TV audio in the early 1980s. Remington Steele: Season Three is also complemented by a solid array of extras, including three featurettes: "Steele Trio" is a ten minute mini-doc that focuses on Zimbalist, Roberts, and Brosnan's contributions to the show's third season, with all three actors interviewed for this informative and fun little piece. "Steele Michael," also ten minutes long, is more of a peek behind the scenes, featuring comments by series co-creator Michael Gleason and his young team of writers, and is followed by "The Baking of Steele in the Chips," a seven-minute look at an episode co-scripted by Zimbalist about a calorie-free chocolate chip cookie. There are also three commentary tracks on selected episodes by several writers, Gleason, and even Roberts and Zimbalist. Another impressive effort on Fox's part.
Ironically, it was the surging popularity of Remington Steele that eventually did it in. Riding high on the third season's ratings boom, Pierce Brosnan was suddenly being tapped by Hollywood for feature films, with rumors flying everywhere about possible career-making roles—including the one he would eventually score a decade later, James Bond. Those who want to see why Brosnan caused such a sensation at the time can do no better than to pick up Remington Steele: Season Three, an impressive look at the developing actor ascending to the top of his game.
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