The Man Who Never Was
Pierce Brosnan as Remington Steele
Stephanie Zimbalist as Laura Holt
Doris Roberts as Mildred Krebs
James Read as Murphy Michaels (First Season)
Janet DeMay as Bernice Fox (First Season)
Jack Scalia as Tony Roselli (Fifth Season)
October 1982- August 1986
January 1987- March 1987
The gimmick was going to be that Remington Steele didn't exist.
As Remington Steele was originally conceived, Laura Holt's
invention of a mythical employer in order to attract business to her
agency (she came up with his name by combining the names of an
electric razor and the Pittsburgh Steelers NFL team) was the whole
concept. No Pierce Brosnan. No male lead at all.
But NBC objected (who said network hotshots are always wrong?) and
a potentially good show became a Very Good Show when creators Michael
Gleason and Robert Butler took that monkey wrench tossed into their
plans and used it to retool the show in absolutely marvelous ways.
Let's face it, the idea of having Stephanie Zimbalist's stylish
and attractive Laura Holt trying to explain away her superior's
absence to every new client certainly had possibilities. But that
approach was a one-trick pony which would have inevitably paled. Add
Brosnan's mysterious con man into the mix, however, and the
possibilities expanded exponentially.
There was the mystery of who this guy really was (we were to learn
that even he didn't know), there was the always amusing exercise of
watching "Steele" try to stay one struggling step ahead of the game
(for mystery fans, the subtext of the underlying similarity between
the private eye and the con man was a particular delight) and there
was the sexual tension between the two lead characters (a typical TV
relationship handled here probably as well as it ever was).
The series opened with "License to Steele" and with Laura's
Remington Steele Investigations caught between a rock and a hard
place. The client who hired the agency to protect a shipment of rare
jewels insisted that Steele himself oversee the operation. Brosnan's
character, who was hanging around looking to make a buck, stepped into
the role (against Laura's wishes) and we were off and running.
Remington Steele Investigations had two employees during the first
season: an associate detective, Murphy Michaels (James Read), and a
secretary, Bernice Fox (Janet DeMay). Most of the stories were solid,
well-plotted TV fare, with the Steele subplot important but not
But there were hints of things to come. We would quickly learn
that, for a guy with no past, Remington Steele had a lot of old
acquaintances. In the fifth episode, "Thou Shalt Not Steele," former
girlfriend Felicia (Cassandra Harris) wanted Brosnan to steal a cursed
painting for her. And in the next to last episode of the first season,
"Sting of Steele" (you may have noticed that all episode titles
feature some play on the title character's name), Daniel Chalmers,
Steele's con man mentor, turned up. In an inside joke of sorts,
Chalmers (who came back several times over the show's run) was played
by Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Stephanie's father. (Beverly Garland played
Laura's mother in both the above episodes, then was never seen again.)
A special two-hour episode, "Steele Away With Me," opened season
two and set the core cast for the rest of the show's run. Murphy and
Bernice were gone and IRS agent Mildred Krebs (Doris Roberts), who was
hot on Steele's tail because he'd never filed a tax return (heck, he'd
didn't exist) decided to cross over from the Dark Side and go to work
for the agency. The main plot had to do with Steele and Laura in
Mexico and a dead man with a diamond-stuffed fish. Don't ask.
The "Who is Remington Steele?" question remained a subplot
throughout the second and third seasons, now and again emerging to the
forefront. Examples? Well, there was the time it appeared that Steele
was in fact a vicious murderer ("Steele Frame"), or the time he
foolishly called attention to himself by being named one of LA's most
eligible bachelors ("Steele Eligible"). Then, of course, somebody out
his past, usually an ex-girlfriend, was always showing up, followed by
trouble ("Woman of Steele").
Steele and Laura even made periodic attempts to see if the
chemistry between them was for real. "Steele At It," which opened
season three, found them on the French Riviera, but he was more
interested in a valuable dagger than romance. Daniel Chalmers returned
to talk Steele into posing as a long-long British heir ("Blue-Blooded
Steele"), and Steele even managed to get amnesia ("Steele Your Heart
Away"), not an easy trick for someone whose past was a blank to begin
with. Mildred got to take center stage a few times each season as well
(in "Steele in the Family," season four, her nephew gets into trouble
by helping a friend hide a dead body).
But things were coming to a head. Season three closed with "Steele
of Approval," in which Steele and Laura quarreled about the future of
the agency (his lack of a past threatened the license) and he
The fourth (and last full) season became more and more about the
central characters. It opened with a two-parter, "Steele Searching,"
picking up from the season three cliffhanger. The storyline had Steele
in London, where Chalmers and Felicia (remember them?) wanted him to
assassinate the Earl of Claridge. Trouble was, evidence indicated the
Earl might be his father. No sooner did Steele get out of that mess
and back into the agency than the star-crossed duo had to confront
Laura's embarrassing appearance in (doctored) porno photos ("Steele
Blushing"). Steele was subsequently hit with another bit of amnesia,
awakening in a hotel room with no memory of the past two days to learn
that he had apparently gambled away the agency ("Forged Steele"). And
in "Beg, Borrow or Steele," the two returned from a business trip to
discover that they were reportedly dead and that Mildred had killed
The season (and, supposedly, the series) ended with "Bonds of
Steele," in which Laura married Steele rather than see him deported.
Brosnan was apparently happily off to fulfill his ambition of playing
James Bond in the movies, but, to his dismay, NBC decided all the Bond
publicity warranted enforcing a contract provision and bringing the
show back for an abortive fifth season.
It was hardly worth the trouble. Year five consisted of only a
pair of two-hour movies and a third movie shown in two parts. The
basic story of the year was that Immigration agent Tony Roselli (Jack
Scalia) tried to remove Steele from the picture because he wanted
Laura for himself. Neatly, just about everything got resolved in the
two-hour series finale, "Steeled With a Kiss." Steele inherited a
castle in Ireland. Chalmers revealed an important secret about the
past and conveniently died thereafter. And the frustrated couple
finally got to consummate their marriage.
OK, the rapid and somewhat forced resolution wasn't really very
satisfying. Still, Brosnan eventually did get to play Bond in the 1995
hit, Golden Eye; Zimbalist, an accomplished actress, was free to
return to the more serious pursuits she preferred, and devoted fans
got to see how "will they or won't they?" turned out.
It's difficult to argue that it wasn't, all in all, a happy