That’s what one of the “Remington Steele” DVDs say on its cover above the picture of a young Pierce Brosnan: Before he was Bond… It’s true before Pierce Brosnan became my generation’s James Bond, he was a con man with a heart of gold called Remington Steele. I used to go home for lunch during elementary school and I’d watch an episode while I ate. By the time Bond came out, it was Remington Steele becoming Bond. It was the same thing for me when the show “House” came on with Hugh Laurie: it was Bertie Wooster, but a doctor.
“Remington Steele” is great show for mystery or comedy writers. Stephanie Zimbalist’s character, Laura Holt, is a private detective. She isn’t getting many clients because she is a woman, so she creates a fictional boss, Remington Steele. As the opening of the show says, “suddenly there were cases around the block”. Everything is going great until Pierce Brosnan shows up and assumes the identity of Remington Steele. Laura can’t out him without losing her reputation and explaining where the real Mr. Steele is. But the man of mystery who has spent his life conning people has found a home and steady job he enjoys. He tries to help with the cases. He usually gets in the way or annoys the other detectives, but inevitably he’ll say something near the end that puts all the pieces together and solves the mystery without realizing it.
The producers and writers of the show compare it to the old Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant movies with a strong female lead who is straight-laced (most of the time) and the goofy, suave and charming male lead. One of the writers said he loves slapstick and very physical comedy so he made sure there was plenty in the scripts. Another writer said she enjoyed writing for the show because she knew the delivery would be as good if not better than she expected.
Remington Steele has funny mysteries full of games and running jokes. The greatest running joke is a con artist playing a respected detective. He’s an imposter but clients thank their lucky stars that Remington Steele is personally involved in their case. This is often followed by an awkward pause or smile from everyone else who knows. The episodes are also rich in games. Games are just what they sound like–little activities in the scene you start to pick up on and begin to expect (in a good way). In one episode called “You’re Steele the One for Me” Remington asks Laura to teach him how to be a detective. The case they have now would be perfect training ground because Laura doesn’t think there is a case. The game throughout the episode is Remington deciphering abbreviations Laura and the others are using. They say the case is CND. Complicated and delicate? he offers. Cut n dry. The secretary wants them to QWYA. Question Witnesses, Yank Answers? Quite While You’re Alive. The last one builds so much it bleeds into the next scene. Murphy, one of the other detectives, knows what Laura is talking about and pleads with her not to do it. While Murphy and Laura argue, Remington is trying to guess what they’re talking about. In the next scene when they’re about to enact their plan that we learn Laura was talking about something incredibly deadly and daring.
They aren’t hard-boiled, violent murder mysteries but they are fun. They are a nice balance of comedy and mystery. You get to see some great examples of games and you get to see a young Pierce Brosnan–that alone is worth finding the show.