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:
But absolutely nobody knocked down my door. A female private investigator seemed so … feminine.
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.
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!).
Our 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.
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:
The text reads,
Mr. John R. Gleason
Mayfair Hotels International
555 5th Avenue
New York, New York 10055
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.
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.)
So what’s at 555 5th Ave.? In 2013, it’s a Barnes & Noble book store.
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.