Saturday, March 4, 2023

Remington Steele [Media Notes 83]

I remember when I say GoldenEye in 1995. “Hey! That’s Remington Steele,” said I to myself. For Pierce Brosnan had first become known for playing the front man in 1982-1987 TV steries of that name, Remington Steele. So, when it recently became available on Amazon, I decided to watch it. It's pleasant enough.

The first thing I asked myself was whether or not it was on TV at the same time The Rockford Files was. No, it wasn’t. The Rockford Files ran from 1976 to 1980. But why would I even associate the two programs, they’re very different, no? Yes. And in a way that’s why I associated them. In any event, they’re in pretty much the same decade, one at the beginning and the other at the end.

Part of the charm – if that’s the word – of the The Rockford Files is that Jim Rockford was a down-to-earth unpretentious guy who took his licks, was something of a con man, and was buddies with Angel Martin. Nothing upscale about it. While Remington Steele is very upscale, swanky offices, tailored suits, and upscale clients. They were opposites, and you know what they say about opposites. They attract.

And there’s this, Remington Steele isn’t Remington Steele. The agency is Laura Holt’s. She’s played by Stephanie Zimbalist, who delivers these words in voice-over at the beginning of each show:

Try this for a deep, dark secret – The great detective Remington Steele? He doesn’t exist. I invented him. Follow – I always like excitement. So I studied and apprenticed and put my name on an office. But absolutely nobody knocked down my door. A female private investigator seemed do... feminine.

So I invented a superior. A decidedly masculine superior. Suddenly, there were cases around the block. It was working like a charm. Until the day he walked in... with his blue eyes and mysterious past. And before I knew it he assumed Remington Steele’s identity.

Now I do the work, and he takes the bows. It’s a dangerous way to live, but as long as people buy it, I can get the job done. We never mix business with pleasure. Well, almost never.

I don’t even know his real name.

I don’t know whether or not Steele’s, I mean Brosnan’s, real identity is revealed by the end of the show. I’m only about ten episodes into the first season.

I keep thinking about those words. There’s something a little “off” in that penultimate paragraph, and some of that is in the way Zimbalist delivers the lines. Yes, they’re flirtatious, and so is the show. Do they ever, you know, “do it”? I don’t recall, but they haven’t so far.

What those lines do is to precisely mix business with pleasure, however it is that you’re going to define those terms. Although this is a bit of an exaggeration, it’s as though the detective story was cooked up as a pretext for Brosnan and Zimbalist to flirt. If they didn’t have to solve a crime each week they’d be in bed having a grand time. Work becomes a defense against sexual pleasure.

How very American.

Maybe that’s the connection with Rockford. Rockford pals around with his dad and with Angel, even with Dennis Becker. That’s the grease that keeps the show moving along. Oh, every now and then there is a woman – a pretty serious affair with a blind psychiatrist in one of the later seasons – and every now and then he flirted a bit with Beth Davenport, his lawyer in the first two or three seasons. But whatever the show is about, it’s not flirting with sexuality. Remington Steele is. When The Rockford Files is about sex, it’s pretty straight forward about it.

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