Monthly Archives: September 2013

Laura’s Case Files

I’ve always been intrigued by the “cases around the block” that Laura references in her opening monologue. We have photos of some of them:

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Anybody care to hazard a guess on what might be the nature of the cases represented by the clients above? I look forward to your creativity!

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License to Steele

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And away we go, with the first episode of the first season of Remington Steele! “License to Steele” was the first show broadcast, but I seem to recall that it wasn’t the first episode made; that was the pilot, “Tempered Steele,” which actually aired second. Can someone more in-the-know confirm this?

The episode opens with the soon-to-be-familiar opening credits, with Laura Holt’s voiceover setting up the premise of the series:

PDVD_068“Try this for a deep, dark secret: The great detective, Remington Steele? He doesn’t exist. I invented him.

 

 

 

 

 

Follow: I always loved excitement. So I studied, and apprenticed, and put my name on an office.PDVD_101

But absolutely nobody knocked down my door. A female private investigator seemed so … feminine.

 

 

So I invented a superior – a decidedly masculine superior.PDVD_117

 

Suddenly there were cases around the block.PDVD_121

 

 

 

Having an imaginary boss is a dangerous way to live … but so far, it’s working.”

 

There are a few differences between this first opening and the one that led subsequent season 1 episodes. The voiceover, as read by Stephanie Zimbalist, feels softer, perhaps a bit “sexier” here than in the standard opener. And the “having an imaginary boss” line will be omitted hereafter, replaced by a fuller exposition of the premise once the “imaginary boss” has taken human form.

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The image of Laura accompanying Miss Zimbalist’s credit is different, too. Here Laura seems more pensive, perhaps a bit more vulnerable, than she will in the re-edited opening. (And who the heck is that random woman behind her? Can’t give an extra screen time in every episode!).

PDVD_139Our initial view of the enigmatic Mr. Steele (though of course we don’t know who he is yet) offers a dashing portrait of Mr. Brosnan flashing his brand-new $5,000 smile.* And look! It’s our first glimpse of that crooked little grin that will become so familiar and endearing over the next four seasons. I had wondered if that tilde-shaped smile was an effect of Brosnan’s bout with Bell’s Palsy, which left half his face paralyzed for a few weeks, but this is two years before he contracted that malady.hottie pierce

Brosnan seems to have since lost that lop-sided expression … perhaps his new caps didn’t fit right? Too bad. It was adorable!

One more side trip before we get to the episode itself. That letter we see being signed at the beginning of the credits:

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The text reads,

Mr. John R. Gleason

Mayfair Hotels International

555 5th Avenue

New York, New York 10055

Dear Jack:

Thank you for your kind words concerning my plan for a total renovation of your security system.

Always good to work with a man who appreciates the need for anonymity in this kind of endeavor.

I am delighted my assistant, Laura Holt, conveyed my intentions so accurately and precisely.

I look forward to our next successful association.

Sincerely,

Remington Steele

The name of the addressee piqued my interest. Remington Steele was  co-created (with Robert Butler) and executive produced by Michael Gleason. Could John R. be some relation to Michael? Is this an in-joke of the sort frequently practiced by “Scarecrow & Mrs. King,” which regularly used staffers’ real names in the scripts? A cursory Web search turned up an orthopedic surgeon with the moniker John R. Gleason, but whether he is related to Michael I cannot say. Anybody know?

Lo and behold, there is a real Mayfair Hotel in New York, though it’s not located at 555 5th Ave. (You can enjoy its 3-star, $185/night accommodations at 242 West 49th St., between Broadway and 8th Ave.)MAYFAIR HOTEL

So what’s at 555 5th Ave.? In 2013, it’s a Barnes & Noble book store.

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It’s slightly curious that the agency is apparently doing business with a New York firm, as we subsequently have no evidence that Remington Steele Investigations works outside of L.A.

Back to the letter. It’s interesting that in this missive, presumably composed by Laura herself, she refers to herself as Steele’s “assistant.”  As we shall see, she consistently introduces herself with the slightly grander-sounding title of Steele’s “associate.”  Maybe she gave herself a promotion! And finally, take note of the elegant signature, which will look rather different once the “live” version of Steele begins signing correspondence.

Whew! I’m already spent, and we’ve only just made our way through the opening credits! I’ll stop here and give you a chance to add your thoughts before we move on to Act I, Scene 1!

*I found the information about Mr. Brosnan’s dental work, along with many other delightful tidbits, in Judith A. Moose’s comprehensive compendium of all things Steele, Steele Loved After All These Years. Sadly, it’s out of print now, but is available in electronic format directly from the author for a nominal fee.

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September 28, 2013 · 2:12 am

Try This for a Deep, Dark Secret …

PDVD_068I don’t remember if I was tuned in to  NBC on October 1, 1982 – the night that a new detective series debuted on the network. I was a sophomore at Osakis High School, about to turn 16 in two days. I probably was watching, as I recall reading about the new show in TV Guide and being intrigued … as much, I admit, by the photo of the amazingly handsome leading man (a then-unknown Pierce Brosnan) as by the premise of the series. In any case, I was soon hooked on the romantic adventures of private investigator Laura Holt and the mysterious conman who assumed the identity of the suave and sexy Remington Steele.

I loved the cleverness of the writing, the series’ sophisticated, almost-retro “look,” the humor and, most of all, the romance between the leads. I wanted to be just like Laura Holt. And I just plain wanted Remington Steele. The looks, the accent, the clothes … hubba hubba. In an effort to emulate the stylish Laura, I even bought myself a tan fedora. I never actually wore it, of course;  in rural Minnesota, such affectation would stand out like, in local parlance, “a turd in a punchbowl.” And, as a smart, studious, straight-arrow Catholic girl, I was already enough of a social outcast in my small high school. My uncool status didn’t worry me, though – my role model, Laura Holt, was smart and independent and successful and I was going to be just like her.

remington steele posterWhen I entered Bemidji State University (go, Beavers!) in the fall of 1984, I brought my fantasy guy with me in the form of a very tasty poster of Mr. Steele (the very poster that Pierce Brosnan fretted about in a 1984 TV Guide interview, when he wondered, “Would De Niro do a poster?” My response: “No, De Niro wouldn’t do a poster, because teenage girls wouldn’t buy a poster of De Niro; he’s homelier than a mud fence. But if De Niro had looked like 32-year-old Pierce Brosnan, he surely would have done a poster, because he’s a smart businessman. But I digress.)

That poster brought me the only tiny kernel of cool cred I’ve ever had in my life, as the other girls on my dorm floor were very impressed. The first words my roommate said to me were, ” Ooh, it’s the hot guy from the beer commercial!” That insulted me a little, because Remington was my boyfriend and I was going to marry him … but I forgave her. I don’t know whatever happened to that poster. I wish I still had it! (I see it is available for a good price on eBay this very moment – would it be too, too sad for a middle-aged lady to pick up that little item of nostalgia?)

I remained loyal to the series all the way through the painful, barely-there 5th season. And then it was gone, and life moved on. I graduated from BSU with a B.A., then an M.A. in English, began a career in higher education. I confess I didn’t follow the careers of either Stephanie Zimbalist, whose subsequent work has been primarily on the stage, or Brosnan, whose transition into action film star specializing in shootin’, screwin’, and blowin’ things up frankly left me cold. I also felt some resentment toward the actor for all the grousing he did about the role that made him famous. His “Take This Job and Shove It” People feature still strikes me as shockingly unprofessional, and the way he ran down his acting partner in the press, no matter what the issues were between them on set, will just never be okay for me. To be honest, I remained peevish enough toward the man that I rooted for Colin Firth to win the girl in “Mamma Mia!”

Flash forward a few decades, to the fall of 2012. While dog-sitting at a home whose cable service was more expansive than my own, I discovered the MeTV network … and Remington Steele. I watched an episode, and it all came back to me. I remembered how I loved the show way back when – and I discovered that it held up astonishingly well after 30 years. It was also a lot funnier than I remembered; I found myself laughing out loud and realizing that when the world gained a Bond, it lost a truly brilliant light comedian in Mr. Brosnan. (He is at last returning to these roots in his newest film, “Love Punch” with Emma Thompson, which I am very eager to see, middling reviews notwithstanding.)

In 2012 there was a resource that wasn’t available in the 80s – the Internet. I soon found a wealth of RS-related content online, from YouTube videos to fan forums. I was in heaven! I quickly discovered, however, that the true Renaissance in Remington Steele fandom apparently occurred in 2007, the 25th anniversary of the series, and most of the fan sites I found had their heyday at that time. In short, I had missed out on lots of fun discussions, and haven’t been very successful in reviving the chatter on established sites.

Which brings me here, to my own Remington Steele episode-by-episode blog. It’s inspired by a blog for another of my favorite 80s series, “Scarecrow and Mrs. King.” My fervent hope is that others will join me here in dissecting and debating and generally celebrating this amazing series over the course of its 93 episodes. Be cautioned that this will be an affectionate, but occasionally irreverent journey. Unlike some of the most devoted fans, I don’t consider every episode to be a model of perfection, nor do I see Laura or Remington as faultless characters – frankly, they’d be pretty darned boring if they were! I look forward to digging into these two people, exploring their growing relationship and, when appropriate, pointing out their foibles (as well as plot holes, continuity errors and other oopsies that are inevitable in a long-term series).

If you come along for the ride, I hope you’ll bring your sense of humor, an open mind, willingness to  share your thoughts and, above all, the understanding that Remington Steele was, after all, “just” a TV show … albeit a wonderful, inspiring, entertaining and classic one.

So … jump right in! I’d love to hear your Remington Steele story!

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September 24, 2013 · 12:54 am

Coming soon!

I hope very soon to start a scene-by-scene, episode-by-episode dissection (I’m only a *little* obsessed) discussion of Remington Steele. Just gotta figure out how to make my new screencap software work – and get my head around how this WordPress thing works. Too much learnin’ for an old lady!

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