Continuing the mini-series of remaking TV shows from the Eighties, next up is Remington Steele. The series is responsible for introducing Pierce Brosnan to a broader audience, leading to him becoming 007 for three films and a video game. Remington Steele ran for four full seasons and a truncated fifth. Brosnan’s popularity got him noticed by Cubby Broccoli as a possible Bond, so NBC took advantage to get the last six episodes made. As a result, Brosnan’s debut as 007 was delayed until Goldeneye instead of being in The Living Daylights.
Steele starred Brosnan as the title character and Stephanie Zimbalist as Laura Holt. Holt, being a professional detective, found that traffic wasn’t making its way to her door. She created the fictional Remington Steele to head a detective agency where she handled all the cases and customer relations for her “boss”. Brosnan played a conman who slipped into the role while escaping a complication in a past life. Holt, while annoyed initially, accepted “Steele” as useful, someone to be the fictional character and meet clients while she did the job.
Each episode was a mystery, which is natural for a mystery series. Holt used professional skills to deduce the solution. Steele, however, used his vast knowledge of classic film noir films, making connections to the mystery to a film. Most episodes weren’t tied to one specific film, but there are exceptions, such as “Vintage Steele” with The Trouble With Harry. The draw was the onscreen chemistry between Zimbalist and Brosnan and the show’s light touch, turning it into almost a romantic mystery comedy.
A remake of Remington Steele is going to succeed or fail on the casting. Whoever is hired to play the leads need to work well together. For Steele, it’s not enough to get someone with the looks. Brosnan also had a sense of humour running under the suave exterior. The new Remington Steele would have to be a modern Cary Grant, capable of being debonair and still carrying comedy. The new Laura needs to be able to portray a capable investigator, someone who has no qualms about getting dirty while still being able to fit in at society events.
The premise of the series, a woman private investigator using a male name to attract clients, is sadly believable today; society has slid back a bit since the Nineties. Episodes should be light, even when murder is involved. The “Will they or won’t they” needs to be done with a deft touch; answering that question tends to signal the end of a series as the driver of drama fizzles out. However, couple the romantic subplot with Steele’s mysterious past, and there can be a running subplot that ties the episodes together.
/Remington Steele/ had a couple of remake projects come up. Brosnan explored the idea of a Steele feature film in 2005. NBC looked at remaking the series as a half-hour comedy. While Brosnan’s project would have been faithful, neither resulted in a finished product.
Remington Steele had a good run in the Eighties, with memorable characters. Recreating that chemistry is the key to a remake. Everything else is bonus.