Jan 9, 2011

What I Learned from Remington Steele

by Marsha Ward

Lately I've been watching episodes of the private-eye television series from the 1980s called Remington Steele, which starred Pierce Brosnan and Stephanie Zimbalist. It became a hit because of intriguing mysteries, witty dialogue, and the romantic chemistry between the two lead characters.

The premise is this: a beautiful, intelligent, excitement-loving woman named Laura Holt, who we might nowadays call an "adrenalin junkie," determines to become a private investigator. She studies, serves an apprenticeship, and gets her license. Eventually she opens her own agency--and no one beats down the doors to hire her.

Bruised but not beaten, she invents a masculine boss who she says acts in an advisory capacity (so he doesn't interact with clients), hires a sassy secretary and a male investigator she knew from the firm she left, and soon the new agency known as Remington Steele Investigations takes off.

One day, a handsome, mysterious, blue-eyed man with a British accent (let's call him Harry) walks in the door and tries to run a con on Laura and her associates as they work on a case involving the firm guarding precious gems being used in a promotion. In a ploy to steal the jewels, he impersonates an official from South Africa, and talks his way into accompanying the agency crew on their rounds.

When the client insists on the participation of Mr. Steele, Laura goes into the song-and-dance used on such occasions, where her male investigator books a hotel room, hangs an entire wardrobe in the closets, and disturbs the bed. The usual plan is that Mr. Steele suddenly gets "called away" on an urgent case, and he is never seen by the client.

Before that can happen, the real South African official shows up and introduces himself; and the client mistakes the con man for the living, breathing Remington Steele.

In a--by turns--madcap and serious exploration of how the fictitious Remington Steele came alive, Harry assumes the role of the head of the agency, a necessary thorn in the sides of Laura Holt and her employees.

Besides the eye-candy factor, the series is enjoyable because there are lessons to learn from the characters.

First, Laura never gives up. She has a goal to run her own agency, and even though no one wants to hire a female private eye, she finds a way to achieve her goal. Her use of subterfuge leads to frustration when an interloper becomes her titular employer, but she comes to terms with the consequences of her actions and presses on.

Second, "Harry" grows and changes, from a scoff-law into a respectable citizen, from a figurehead to a useful member of the team through learning the fundamentals of investigation and applying his skills.

Writers can take a lesson from both characters. Never give up. Face up to your shortcomings and conquer them. Press forward.

Now, I think it's time for me to watch another faith-promoting, er, inspirational episode of Remington Steele. See you later!


  1. I do enjoy Remington Steele ...

    Thanks for this great blog!

  2. We enjoyed that show too! Fun to be reminded of it.

  3. I remember that show. It was good, clean fun--not like many you see today. I think I can use this post as a character analysis for reference. Thanks.

  4. Great post, Marsha, as always! I loved that show. I really like your analogy.Thanks for the great advice!

  5. Also one of my favorites--I watched a lot of that series, as well as Scarecrow and Mrs. King.

    The 80s were not a complete loss, I guess!

  6. Fun times! Good things to learn!

  7. I spent many hours watching Remington Steele as I mopped my kitchen floor. My little ones napped about the time reruns of RS were on, and I did a lot of mopping while the little ones were sleeping. Pierce Brosnon was so yummy -er, wait, I mean entertaining- to watch. I also appreciated that Laura was a strong female lead.

    Thanks for the reminder of why I like that show so much. I suddenly feel like mopping my floor...

    Shanda :)

  8. ALong with MacGyver and the A Team some of TV's best moments thanks for reminding us of it Marsha.

  9. Remington Steele was one of my favorite shows. Where do you find it in reruns? Good points for writers. Thanks.

    Cynthia Becker

  10. Loved that show! Never looked at it in this way before, but you are absolutely right. Thanks for the insight - and the fun memories.

  11. I'd forgotten about Remington Steele. Not just in writing, but in all endeavors we learn and grow and give up only if we find it's not our major goal afterall.

  12. I used to love watching this show and I've always like Pierce Brosnan. Thanks for pointing out the lessons!

  13. Thank you all for your comments. It's a good show, and does present us with lessons that have wide applications in life.

    Cynthia, I don't know if the show is playing in reruns, because I have the entire series on DVDs, but someone mentioned to me that they'd gone to hulu.com and watched it there.

  14. LOL...I was home in bed with a cold yesterday, so I found Remington Steele on hulu.com. You know, I don't think I ever saw that very first episode. I had to laugh at the 80s clothing and hair. Wow.

  15. Loved that show! Thanks for the blast from the past!

  16. Thank you for all your comments.

    Who remembers that Laura Holt created her fictitious boss's name from the brand of her typewriter and the Pittsburgh Steelers football team?


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