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Articles & Reviews

‘Steele’ is a genuine yum-yum
Detroit Free Press
Oct 1, 1982

“Remington Steele” is remarkably fresh entertainment confection, a genuine yum-yum

Put it this way: If you have food memories of such breezy, intelligent delights as “The Rogues” and ‘The Avengers” you might well enjoy the classy echoes from those shows that brighten this new NBC comedy-drama about a pair of immensely attractive private eyes ‘Remington Steele” debuts at 10 tonight (Channel 4, in Detroit}

Stephanie Zimbalist stars as Laura Holt a private investigator who invents a male boss named Remington Steele in order to get clients. Delicious complications follow when the fantasy man actually appears on the scene in the person of ridiculously dapper and sexy Pierce Brosnan.

In comparison to such pedestrian glop as ‘Matt Houston” or “Knight Rider,” “Remington Steele” absolutely glistens.

The show is produced by MTM, a sure sign of quality. The excellent theme music is by Henry Mancini. The support cast fine. And the writing, much of it from executive producer Michael Gleason, sparkles.
There is a stylish, champagne wit to the entire affair.

When Brosnan is temporarily subdued by thugs, he snappily responds: “May I get up or do you prefer me in the groveling position? And when he is about to send Zimbalist into a steaming fury concerning his identity as Remington Steele, be jauntily says, “Years from now, when you talk of this, be kind.’ Deborah Kerr to John Kerr, Tea and Sympathy,’ 1956.”

Not exactly your typical Boss Hogg television dialogue.

What is also appealing about this hour of adult escapism is the genuine romantic heat generated between Zimbalist and Brosnan. And that heat is so believable because “Remington Steele” offers the viewing audience a pair of sophisticated, intelligent lead characters who will likely never grovel for our attention.

Thank you, NBC. A modern man, a modern woman and a marvelous, entertainment are the blessings of “Remington Steele."’
 

--- From Steele Blarney Vol. 1 No. 1984


NY Times: A Stylish Success 
By John J. O'Connor
Published: May 15, 1983

NBC might seem these days to be trapped between the programming high road, with series such as ''Hill Street Blues'' and ''Cheers,'' and the exploitative low road, with violent concoctions like ''The A-Team.'' But in fact, the network is beginning to look strongest in the crucial middle ground of its schedule, most notably with a stylish private-eye series entitled ''Remington Steele.'' Currently shown on Tuesdays at 9 P.M., immediately following ''The A-Team,'' this MTM Enterprises production is frequently witty and it features what surely must be the most attractive couple on television's entertainment menu.

Stephanie Zimbalist, daughter of Ephram Zimbalist Jr., and granddaughter of the famed violinist, plays Laura Holt, a young woman who has set up her own detective agency only to find that many clients prefer male detectives. She then invents a male boss named Remington Steele, who always happens to be busy elsewhere when clients visit the office. But then one day a man claiming to be Remington Steele does indeed show up and begins to assert his authority at the agency. Played by Pierce Brosnan, the terribly suave Steele spends much of his time being either amused or mysterious.

The premise, clearly, demands more than a little faith in the inventiveness of the writers. But the results in the show's first season have been generally encouraging. The show attempts, rather successfully, to generate the kind of partnership glamour that has been marketed in every male-female detective romp from ''The Thin Man'' to ''Hart to Hart.'' The touch is light, and the overall effects are nicely appealing. Steele, for instance, is a movie buff. In the first episode, Laura Holt discovers that he has had passports listing himself as Douglas Quintain in England, Michael O'Leary in Ireland, Paul Fabrini in Italy, John Murrell in France and Richard Blaine in Australia. As it happens, each name was filched from characters that had once been portrayed by Humphrey Bogart. In other episodes, Steele has been heard quoting from ''Tea and Sympathy'' and has used films such as ''Notorious'' and ''Murder on the Orient Express'' to help solve his own mystery cases.

Miss Zimbalist has something of the cool American look - quietly chic and ready to tackle, elegantly, just about any social situation. She has some of the patrician restraint that was the hallmark of Grace Kelly, a quality that makes her reluctant but uncontrollable attraction toward Steele all the more winning.

As for the apparently irresistible Steele, with a name like Pierce Brosnan, it should come as no surprise that the actor playing him was born in Ireland. Living in England for much of his life, he was first seen in this country as the dashing hero of the mini-series ''The Manions of America,'' Agnes Nixon's saga of an Irish family battling its way to prominence in this country. Mr. Brosnan has dark good looks, which are carefully framed in ''Remington Steele'' with a dark-toned, well-tailored wardrobe. The longer he hangs around in this series, which has been renewed for next season, the more likely he is to become a favorite matinee idol.

He is already inspiring unusual viewer responses. A reader from Reading, Pa., has taken to verse to describe Steele's appeal. She writes: ''Remington Steele is my ideal/A bit of a heel/ A touch of schlameel (sic)/ But always genteel/ And lots and lots of sex appeal/ So who cares if he isn't real!'' That's the kind of loyalty from which stars can be made.



The Washington Post: Stephanie Zimbalist- 'Remington Steele' - Who's In Charge?
By: Michael Hill
November 27, 1983

"When I took this series," said Stephanie Zimbalist, star of "Remington Steele" on NBC, "I was sold a bill of goods. I wasn't always very happy last season.

"I'd rather not be specific," she said. "All I can say is it's better this year." 

"Steele," now in its second season, has been doing well amid a sad season for NBC, combining with the network's only run-away hit, "The A Team," to give NBC a decent Tuesday evening of Nielsens.

Zimbalist was stingy on specifics, but she offered a number of nonspecifics concerning her unhappiness last season and her relative contentment this year. What emerged was at least a sketch, if not a full portrait, of a star who's had to adjust to the intensity of the spotlight on her costar, Pierce Brosnan, the Irish import featured recently on the cover of People magazine, as well as some shifts in the story line of a show in which she's supposed to be the more-equal of two partners. She pointed out that she really didn't have to let herself in for the aggravation in the first place.

"I was doing just fine before the series came along," she recalled. "I was doing two  movies- of- the- week a year. I thought the series would be good for me."  The first year contained some lessons. "We were both overwhelmed by it all," she said. "There was a lot of pressure on both of us. I learned about ego, too. If I'm there and someone says to Pierce he's wonderful, you go ouch! You have to put those things aside. You have to recognize ego as a negative force."

Then there's the question of keeping the show on course. The original premise for "Remington" was that Zimbalist's character, Laura Holt, is a crack private investigator. But she's hampered by the reality that potential clients shy away from a female PI. Solution: Give the agency a male name: Remington Steele. Then along comes Pierce Brosnan as a playboy with a mysterious past and sporting the same name as her agency. As a private investigator, he can't find his way around a corner; but as a front man, he's perfect. In some episodes, however, there's been a tendency to lapse into a traditional TV stereotype, with the man calling the shots and the woman doing a lot of screaming. "The only thing I'm troubled by is when they go away from the show's premise," said Zimbalist. "I'm troubled when they forget that she's in charge. 

Although Remington is coming along as a detective, they sometimes forget that I control the agency and the purse strings.

"When they change that relationship, they change my character. That (a strong Laura Holt) is why I took the show."

There have been other changes in the show that have gone over well with its stars and the audience. Doris Roberts has been added to the cast and has had some nifty comic turns as an IRS investigator who becomes a member of the firm.

And there's a different look to the characters this year. "For me," said Zimbalist, "they wanted a softer look --fewer business suits, more silks. Whenever he can, Pierce gets out of suits and into more casual things. It loosens things up considerably.

"And we got rid of my house--it was blown up in the first episode this fall. Now I have a loft. It says
more about the character--it's more expressive." Zimbalist brings to her role a full background,
including 12 movies, two miniseries, "Centennial" and "The Golden Moment." She attended Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Va., Strasberg Institute and Dance Center West in Los Angeles, the Juilliard School in New York, and Canada's Banff School of Fine Arts.

Her mother, Stephanie, whose parents live in Georgetown, shows horses, belongs to a fly-fishing
club, attended art school in Sweden and has taught skiing.

Her actor father, Efrem, son of a concert violinist father and opera star Alma Gluck, holds a lofty place in series television, having starred in "The FBI."  Zimbalist played Inspector Lewis Erskine, the 
unflappably cool and professional FBI agent, from 1965 to 1974. Stephanie has a sister and a brother and has always enjoyed the backing of her family.

"The help for me is the moral support. No matter what we do, the family supports each other," she said. 

"Today my father's taping 'The Tempest.' I sent him flowers."
 


Dublin Evening Press: Private Eye Capers At Caton
Philip Malloy
August 6, 1984

Remington Steele the popular TV detective was at stately Carton House, in County Kildare, searching for a prize racehorse called Xanadu.

Remington had arrived from Phoenix Park in a stolen rolls and quickly pinpointed the missing racer to a small stable at me rear of the building.

It was here he was introducing Emmet Bergen and a grim accomplice to the shovel.

Steele, in a splendid black pin-stripe suit, had been closeted behind the stable door for an incredible length of time, for him, three full takes. This is the fifth set-up of the day and according to Irish location manager, Don Geraghty, they are already breezing through the script. The routine is apparently two rehearsals and one take.

If Navan born Pierce Brosnan, as Steele, and Stephanie Zimbalist, his co-star, miss a line it is an event according to veteran director Seymour Robbie.

By the end of the day they expected to have seven and a half minutes in the can. And they were due to return today for another seven and a half.

Then it is on to Dublin airport and the Phoenix Park tomorrow, and the Sally Gap, Annamoe Roundwood, Trinity Hall in Rathmines, The Docker’s Pub, The Guiness Boat, The Regent Cinema and St. Michael’s Prep School, Aislesbury Road in Dublin next week.

Within eight days Executive Producer Gareth Davies hopes to have a full fourty-six and a half-minute episode back with his bosses at MTM Enterprises In Los Angeles and Xanadu back in his well-grazed paddock.

Intent on stopping him are the formidably built Marie Come, as a villain called Mrs. Armedale and Frank Kelly, as her henchman, Skeggs.

Kelly, stripped to the waist as we spoke, accused himself of real thuggery in the story. “I’m doing my damndest to shoot someone. I’m going around with a loaded shotgun trying to find someone to shoot.”

Brosnan, after a chase through the intricate shrubbery in a pony and trap, expressed himself satisfied with the way the work was going

This was his first visit to Ireland since he made “The Manions of America” here in 1979. He may now return on a more regular basis.
He has a home in Wimbledon, which he intends to sell. And he hopes to buy a new one in County Wicklow.

Brosnan speaks in the slightly clipped tones of his TV persona, has formed a film and television production company with his wife Cassie, which they have called, Killkenny Productions. This is to enable them both to branch out as writers, producers and actors.

As we speak the evil Skeggs is plotting wanton villainy just wide of the new set-up and Brosnan departs once more to put him down.

This third series of “Remington Steele” will begin a new 22-week run in the States on September 25th. The Irish episode, which is being made at a cost of just over $900,000 is the fourth.

The last one made before the company decamped for six weeks in Europe was co-written by the co-star of the show Stephanie Zimbalist.

The daughter of “77 Sunset Strip” star Ephrem Zimbalist, Jr., Stephanie is a charmingly natural and articulate advocate of “Remington Steele”.
She admits she turned the show down twice, mainly because she didn’t want to be tied, but eventually succumbed to the sunny mixture of comedy, mystery and adventure.

She is not so sure that it is really appreciated here or in Britain, but she contends that it is her favorite TV show- with the situation comedy “Cheers”.

Miss Zimbalist’s character, Laura Holt has followed Steele to Ireland after learning he is in a sanitarium. He has apparently come here on the promise of information about his father. He stumbles on a plot to kidnap the racehorse and develops amnesia when he is clubbed by Kelly’s flunkies.

Thus the question about his ability at karate. True to the show’s format of aping old movies, Steele is involved in a double chase similar to Richard Hannay in “The 39 Steps”.

We’re hardly likely to tell here if he betters the crooked Conmee and her crew, but he does go on to further adventure in Cannes and Malta.

---From Steele Blarney Vol. 1 No. 1984


The Irish Times: Actor Steeles punter’s hearts
By Maev Kennedy
July 9, 1984

There are, of course, two stars of “Remington Steele, but only one of them was born in Meath. The Meath one moved through the Phoenix Park races on Saturday afternoon in the centre of a little riot. “Ah he is, though, isn’t he, he’s reely gorgeous!” the women demanded of their own unfortunate menfolk as they clamoured for Pierce Brosnan’s autograph.

Behind him moved his co-star, all by herself, edging her way politely through the crowds, ignored. It was only when they turned the cameras on Stephanie Zimbalist that the crowd felt it might be worth asking for her autograph, if they couldn’t get through to the gorgeous Mr Brosnan.

Gorgeous Mr Brosnan’s wife was there too, very much so. Through the entire afternoon’s filming, Cassandra Harris didn’t move further than four yards from his elbow. She looked like a woman wearing her diamonds, but not entirely sure they shouldn’t have been left in the bank vault.

“We would ask you not to look directly at our actors or at the cameras,” the director implored, “just make like you’re watching the racing.”

“Act natural, but don’t stand in front of the cameras,” gorgeous Mr Brosnan translated, “Americans!”

In “Steele Your Heart Away” - what else?- — our own Godfrey Quigley is plaing a character, ignominously described on the shooting script only as “Fat Man”, who has his Rolls Royce stolen. He spent most of the day sitting, very hot in a morning suit, at the wheel of the biggest, sleekest, glossiest open top Rolls ever seen in a teenage fantasy. “One could get very used to this,” he sighed.

The Phoenix Park racecourse people were purring with delight over the whole thing. The racecourse looked enchanting, all roses and white railings and silk dresses and silky horses shimmering in the sun. All over America they’ll be looking at this next winter and thinking Ireland really looks like that. They should be prosecuted under the Consumer Information Act.

---P.B. Chronicles Nov 15, 1984 Vol 1, Issue 5


People Magazine: Stephanie Zimbalist Interview
By: David Wallace
January 14, 1985

Stephanie Zimbalist went to a state dinner at the White House not too long ago. Her date was no star, prince or potentate. It was her married half brother, Skip. "I thought I'd meet somebody exciting there," she sighs. "It was wonderful company, but everyone was there with a mate, except Stefanie Powers. I'm sure she was hoping the same thing." No luck.

Stephanie Zimbalist, the beautiful, befreckled star of Remington Steele, daughter of Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., sweet and sophisticated at 28, the kind of woman any man would love to take home to mother, has no boyfriend. Believe it or not, "I've never met anyone who has convinced me to say, 'No, I'm not gonna take the next Spielberg film, I think I'll stay here and have a baby.'" she says. "I've never met 
anyone of that caliber."

She has, of course, tried. Stephanie came close with rock composer Tony Berg. "But he is married now and has a child." she says. Then there was Gregory Harrison (Trapper John, M.D.), a frequent co-star. "It was pretty much a flash in the pan," she says. "We had a romance going when we did Centennial. Our friendship is very solid, but our romantic thing was pfft."

The nice thing about Stephanie is that she doesn't whine about being alone. "I'm never going to be the woman behind the man," she promises. "I will never get married to the head of General Motors. 
I will never be the wife of a superstar. For those women, their lives are somebody else's...I will never be a 'Mrs. Blabidyblah!'"

Stephanie is, nonetheless, a homebody in an odd sort of home for a star: a two-bedroom bungalow in L.A.'s unfashionable Studio City, with peeling green paint that's just being replaced and no central 
air-conditioning. "I'm more interested in life than lifestyle," she says. "Lifestyle means you have to drive a certain car. I drive a 1979 Volkswagen diesel, and that's why I drive one on the show." She 
invests her money--around $20,000 per episode--in real estate and also saves it to one day make her own shows. Stephanie and childhood best buddy Robin Bernheim recently wrote a script for Remington (that still hasn't aired). Someday they hope to produce TV movies.  Stephanie is a professional woman and proud of it. "When I do interviews, I like to talk about that," she says. "You would think the women's magazines would want that, but all they want to know is my bra size." To her, TV is just a job. "I want to live the way I live," she says, "so I can go back to who I was before all this happened.

"This" is Remington, a three season success that every week has Zimbalist and co-star Pierce Brosnan solving crimes and almost falling in love or into bed.

There have been rumors of strain between them. "I wouldn't say our relationship is always smooth sailing," says Brosnan. But Zimbalist says reports of rancor have been exaggerated. "In a fun sort of 
way, this publicizing of some feud has brought us closer together," she says. "I think it had to do with shooting an episode last season at a school. The students swarmed around him, and I'm walking along and feeling like yesterday's lunch. I was saying that was hard to deal with sometimes and he said, 'Stephanie, you can go for it! All you have to do is play sexy.' It was a nice chat, but the tabloids took it and made it out that I was jealous. I'm not jealous."

Her dad, Efrem Jr. of FBI fame, doesn't think that Stephanie got her series because she can play sexy. What dad would? She go it, he says, "because she came from an extraordinary range of parts. She been blind (The Love Boat), she's been one-legged(The Long Journey Back), she was killed by a snake(Centennial), she was a murderess (The Babysitter) and she once had a test-tube baby (Tomorrow's Child)."

Stephanie is close to her family: mother Stephanie; half sister Nancy, 40; half brother Skip, 37; and grandfather Efrem (Sr.), a classical musician of considerable repute. Ask Stephanie what kind 
of man she does want, and she'll tell you about Skip. "I think I want a clone of my brother," she says. "He's the greatest guy." As a family, the Zimbalists are very...very straight. "My father was 
largely responsible for that," says Efrem Jr. "He set a wonderful example for all of us. He had a long, honorable career. But the adulation meant nothing to him."

Efrem (Sr.), now 94, lives in Reno, Nev. "My grandfather," says  Stephanie, "is the greatest man I'll ever know. I adore him... Every Tuesday night at 10, he turns on the show and watches me. He takes a nap during the day so he can stay up an watch." She's the kind of  young woman any grandfather would be proud of. Any man at all. 
 



 

Time: With class, smarts and luck, NBC has become the Cinderella network of '85 
By: Richard Corliss 
March 4, 1985

 The lead-off batter is Brandon Tartikoff, a sharp-fielding spray hitter in his sixth season as president of NBC Entertainment and third baseman on the company softball team. As Tartikoff steps to the plate against the Warner Bros. squad, a giant radio in the bleachers begins to blast out the driving theme song from Miami Vice. Inspired, Tartikoff slaps a double, leading NBC to a four-run inning. The team's "music manager" puckishly announces that all who have not hit safely must henceforth bat to the somewhat less blood- quickening theme from Punky Brewster. 

At their weekend softball games in Burbank, Calif., as in their offices nearby, Tartikoff and his NBC crew radiate the highly competitive, slightly giddy elan of a Cinderella team, up from nowhere to challenge the league leader. They have every reason to feel peacocky. After running dead last in ) prime-time audience ratings for nine years, NBC since September '84 has scrambled to within a tenth of a rating point of the dominant network, CBS, in that arcane but widely accepted Nielsen yardstick of "television homes." For those who count heads rather than houses, NBC leads in the number of viewers: 24.9 million to CBS's 23.2 million and ABC's 22.3 million, according to Nielsen. NBC also delivers more of Madison Avenue's prized target audience, the 18-49 age group; here ABC is second and CBS last. Says Joel Segal, executive vice president for broadcasting at Ted Bates Advertising: "By the standards of practically any advertiser NBC is No. 1." 

The networks make money by selling viewers, in bulk and by demographics, to advertisers; NBC has done this so successfully that, since Grant Tinker was named chairman of the network in 1981, an estimated $5 million of red ink has been alchemized into a projected $200 million profit for 1985. But what has NBC sold viewers on? Mostly a feast of slick weekly series in three broad categories: the traditional situation comedy, led by last season's phenom The Cosby Show (2nd in the yearlong Nielsen ratings to CBS's Dallas) and including Family Ties (3rd), Cheers (9th), Night Court (19th) and The Facts of Life (24th); a quartet of red-meat adventure shows, from The A-Team (6th) and Riptide (12th) to Miami Vice (33rd, with a bullet); and three Emmy-laden hours from Tinker's old production company, MTM Enterprises. Hill Street Blues (31st), St. Elsewhere (52nd) and Remington Steele (21st) may not woo the Nielsen families, but they wow the yup-scale viewers every advertiser covets. They have helped establish NBC's reputation as a Bloomingdale's among networks, the class act of mass-market TV. 

This summer the former doormat network found itself in a record hot streak: 14 consecutive weeks as No. 1. But Tinker cautions, "That's not to be confused with winning in the fall, when the new season starts, but it's a lot better to win 14 than to lose 14. It suggests that nothing has come off our fastball lately. To fall back in the new season, we'd have to have another of our historic collapses. And I just don't see it." If momentum means as much to a network's success as it does to a baseball team's, then NBC is wellfixed for the prime-time pennant race. This summer viewers got steamed up over Miami Vice, which found a regular perch among the top ten shows. Moviegoers made a bimedia star of Family Ties' Michael J. Fox, whose Back to the Future and Teen Wolf were the biggest box-office winners of the past two weeks. Fox could be the first teen throb since John Travolta to commute between a sitcom and movie stardom. Just another lightning stroke of NBC luck. 
To add muscle and luster to the new season's prime-time competition, which promises to be the tightest in years, NBC has lured the executive producer of Back to the Future, Steven Spielberg, to mastermind a suspense anthology series called Amazing Stories. With Hollywood's alltime hitmaker anchoring the Sunday night lineup, and with a flock of summer comers, Tinker figures that "this fall may be the time when NBC blows right by everybody." Tartikoff seems energized by the thrill of the chase. "In the past," he says, "every time a show bit the dust, you figured you'd be joining it. This kind of pressure is easier." 

One pressure valve is self-mocking humor, long an NBC staple. On his Late Night hour, David Letterman has provoked "feuds" with NBC stars Mr. T and Today's Bryant Gumbel. Among Letterman's supporting comedy cast is a silver- haired gent who purports to be one "Grant Tinker"; he recently celebrated NBC's No. 1 status by offering lunch money to habitues of the network commissary. The real Brandon Tartikoff, who has been host on Saturday Night Live, will play himself next week on a comedy special called Bob Hope Buys NBC?--a needling joke in itself, since NBC was the only network that did not have to concern itself with a serious takeover threat in 1985. Tartikoff can even joke about the "downside" of the Miami Vice whirlwind: "It has encouraged a lot of middle-aged men with potbellies to start wearing pastel Armani jackets over T shirts, and for that I'm eternally sorry." 
As recently as 1981, only outsiders (and Johnny Carson) were cracking jokes about NBC. An air of frantic desperation hung over the place as then Chairman Fred Silverman threw onto his schedule, and then pulled off, one expensive flop after another. To the savviest TV producers, "it was as if NBC didn't exist," recalls Gary David Goldberg (Family Ties). "We didn't go there with an idea, because we knew it would be crucified." Silverman, who had earned a reputation as a programming wunderkind at CBS and then ABC earlier in the '70s, was also scalded by the boycott of the Moscow Olympics, which left him with $34 million worth of dead summer air. Moreover, there was turmoil at the top of NBC's parent corporation, RCA: three presidents and four chairmen within a decade. It was not until the fifth chairman, Thornton Bradshaw, hired Tinker to run NBC in July 1981 that hope and trust were restored to the network. Says Steven Bochco, whose Hill Street Blues had been spawned by Silverman and produced by Tinker: "The day Grant went to NBC, the industry's attitude toward that network changed profoundly, overnight." 

In the week of his accession, Tinker outlined his master plan: "Try to attract to NBC the best creative people, make them comfortable, give them whatever help they need, and then get the hell out of the way." It surprised no one that Tinker, who would be cast as a noble Senator if Hollywood still made movies about noble Senators, proved to be a man of his word. But two funny things happened: his plan worked, to NBC's profit as well as its honor, and it was implemented by Brandon Tartikoff. At the time, Tartikoff was thought to be Silverman's Silverman: a hard-driving guy with a passion for the lowest common denominator. But as Tinker and Tartikoff discussed the multidimensional chessboard of prime-time scheduling, they realized they saw eye to eye on many things, especially the need to lure the handful of producers who could set NBC on the high road to success. In the process, according to Goldberg, "Grant brought out the best in Brandon, as an executive and as a man." Now 36, Tartikoff has become Tinker's tinkerer. 

Tartikoff is both a master and a child of the medium. Son of a Long Island clothing manufacturer, young Brandon split his spare time between playing baseball and critiquing TV shows. At Yale, where he was graduated with a B.A. in English, he took tutorials with Novelist Robert Penn Warren. Called upon one day to analyze a D.H. Lawrence story, Tartikoff suggested, "Wouldn't it be better if the girl had first seen the guy over here in his other setting, and then met the other person over there?" As Tartikoff recalls the incident, "He stared at me for a moment and said, 'Have you ever thought of going into television?' He was serious." 

So was Tartikoff. He took a job at a New Haven TV station, while playing semipro baseball for the New Haven Braves. Soon he was at Chicago's WLS-TV, run by Lew Erlicht, who introduced him to Fred Silverman. From Erlicht (now president of ABC Entertainment), Tartikoff picked up programming smarts; from Silverman, he learned the importance of loving TV. Even today Tartikoff can rhapsodize about his job as if he were a kid who has just been deeded the - candy store. "In movies," he says, "unless you make E.T., you reach maybe as many people as watched a TV show that got canceled last week. With television there's something wonderful in knowing that, if you hit, 50 million people are watching and enjoying what you've done. Wherever you go--on the street, in a restaurant, at a party--you hear about it. And that shared experience is so exciting." 

Four years ago, Tartikoff had few viewers with whom to share the experience. Hill Street Blues may be the finest dramatic series American TV has produced, but in 1981 it was a glorious anomaly on NBC's schedule. "It was also the very first show whose demographics were young, urban and upscale," Tartikoff says. "Consequently, nobody saw it, because the other 21 hours of NBC's prime time had mostly rural appeal and skewed older. Its lead-in shows were utterly incompatible; first Walking Tall, then B.J. and the Bear. If you can find one person in America who actually watched all three shows, we should give him a Hill Street jacket or something." 

Tartikoff set about devising a compatible, competitive schedule from the rubble of Silverman's legacy. It was no simple task. As Media Analyst Anthony Hoffman points out, "The producer of a TV series wants to get on the air, get a hit, keep it on long enough to have 120 episodes" that can be lucratively syndicated to local stations. But a new show is unlikely to become a hit on a network in shambles. Further, as Tartikoff notes, "a producer coming to NBC knew he might have to run against Dallas or The Love Boat. That's part of the problem of being last--you don't get to bat against your own pitching. There was one thing we could offer good producers, though: that they could make the show they wanted to make." That promise applied to Steven Bochco in 1981 even as it does today to Steven Spielberg. "I started my career directing TV," Spielberg says, "and my shows were often changed by the networks in ways I didn't like. When I returned to TV, I wanted the same freedom I have in feature films. NBC gave me those assurances, and they've been true to their word." 
From the beginning, Tinker made the equally enticing promise that NBC would give the audience time to find good new shows. That patience was frequently tested in Tinker's first two years. Before it won eight Emmys in September 1981, Hill Street regularly dwelled in the lowest-rating's precinct. During the fall of 1982, Cheers was dead last, and Co-Producer Les Charles wondered % if "maybe we should call NBC and tell them it'll get better. Instead we got calls from Brandon saying, 'Don't worry. We'll give it time.' " Soon after Family Ties made its debut, Tartikoff found himself slinking into Tinker's office: "I'd say, 'Family Ties just got a 16 share, and the renewal notice is up this week and we won't get to see another rating before we have to renew or cancel.' And he'd say, 'Brandon! Is the show still good? Do you think the ratings are going to improve? Then pick it up.' " Tinker insists there was no altruism in his strategy. "You're spending less money," he notes, "when you stick with the stuff you bought in the first place." As it happened, NBC's quality shows, however low-rated, were attracting what advertisers call a quality audience. Mad. Ave. ad mavens were discovering that a rule long applied to magazines--that 1,000 New Yorker readers are more valuable than 1,000 National Enquirer readers--made sense in prime time as well. Says Tartikoff: "When you pull a tab on the St. Elsewhere audience, you find that many of them don't watch any other entertainment show on network TV. They're well-educated, well-paid people whom certain advertisers are eager to reach because they can't be reached in these numbers anywhere else on TV. So we can make a very good living off St. Elsewhere even though it earns only a 24 share." 

Demographics pay off. Last season Hill Street's rating was about 13% lower than that of its CBS competition, Knots Landing, yet both sold a 30-sec. commercial slot for about $200,000. And while viewing of all network programming declined by 4% in 1984-85, NBC increased its share of the 18-to-49 group by 10%. NBC also benefited from the shrinking of the network audience --15% since 1980. The threshold for ratings success was shrinking, thus giving shows with more specialized appeal a fighting chance for survival. 

By 1982 NBC was revving up its Rolls-Royce schedule, but its financial graph was strictly De Lorean. A quick hit was in order, and Tartikoff lucked into it at the Larry Holmes-Gerry Cooney title bout in Las Vegas, where he saw Mr. T, fresh from Rocky III, monopolizing the crowd's attention. Back in Los Angeles, Tartikoff penned a legendary proposal to Producer Stephen Cannell: "Road Warrior, Magnificent Seven, Dirty Dozen, Mission: Impossible, all rolled into one, and Mr. T drives the car." Cannell cobbled up The A-Team, which won a 40 share in its first season and pulled hard-to-find adult male viewers back to prime time. 

In the 1983-84 season, NBC introduced nine series, all of which were canceled. Worse, most of the shows were about as sophisticated as a mud- trucking derby. "The saddest kind of failure," says Tartikoff, "is when you aim low and miss. At least when you aim higher and miss, you can hide behind your target and say, 'It's the audience's fault.' " Fortunately for Tartikoff, one night in the dead of that bleak winter his baby daughter was crying, and Dad decided to keep Mom company. He switched on The Tonight Show, where Dr. William H. Cosby, Ed.D. (U. Mass.) was telling a story about middle- aged parents trying to instruct their kids in the facts of life. Next morning, Tartikoff phoned Cosby's agent and floated yet another of his brainstorming haiku: "A black Family Ties." The following autumn The Cosby Show became the first sitcom smash since Mork & Mindy in 1978, cemented NBC's Thursday-night schedule, and propelled the network toward No. 1. 

Can NBC grab that laurel this season? Tinker and Tartikoff are pinning many of their hopes on Amazing Stories, which is slotted on Sundays at 8 p.m. against CBS's Top Ten sleuth game, Murder, She Wrote. Traditionally, notes Tinker, "people go to CBS for 60 Minutes, and many of them just sit there all night long, through some rather indifferent programming. With Amazing Stories we're asking them to get up and change that dial. And if we do hear the thunder of dials across the land, the whole face of Sunday night will change, because maybe they won't come back to CBS." NBC is spending about $800,000 per half hour--twice the budget of an ordinary show--and has committed to 44 episodes, or two years on the schedule. As Spielberg notes wryly, "Amazing Stories means a lot of money to NBC--a lot of money going out, so far." Says Tartikoff: "If it fails, it will be an expensive failure. But if we capture viewers at 8 o'clock, it will be a major and very profitable victory." 
Amazing Stories takes prime-time TV not so much back to the future as forward to the '50s, when series like Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone invited viewers on a different adventure of the imagination each week. Because Spielberg has enlisted such directors as Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Clint Eastwood, Paul Bartel and Peter Hyams (Mr. E.T. will direct two of his own the first season), each of the Stories promises a distinctive style. Hyams' episode boasts sepulchral lighting and tension as taut as piano * wire; Bartel's is a slapstick black comedy; Spielberg's two shows are wistful parables about death as creative transcendence. Each offers a unique frisson, to be relived on Monday morning at the playground or around the water cooler. 

Therein lies the daunting challenge that Amazing Stories faces. Prime-time series attract loyal viewers by their familiarity, not by offering a vagrant astonishment each week. The operative word-of-mouth phrase is "you ought to see," not "you should have seen." Amazing Stories has no continuing characters, tone or stars--not even a regular host, like Hitchcock or Rod Serling. Viewers may prefer to settle in with Angela Lansbury's rumpled caginess in Murder, She Wrote instead of taking a chance with the faceless brilliance of the Spielberg series. 

Harvey Shephard, the CBS programming chief who preferred to retool The Twilight Zone rather than take a chance on Spielberg's anthology of original stories, is convinced that Amazing Stories is actually his network's secret weapon. Shephard predicts "a high initial tune-in sample" of the NBC show, followed by a return to tele firma. And if that does not happen, all CBS has to do is contrive to let a Sunday-afternoon N.F.L. broadcast run overtime, thus pushing 60 Minutes back by ten or 15 minutes, and 60 Minutes loyalists will miss the first half of an Amazing story. That is precisely the tactic CBS used to shoot down ABC's Mork & Mindy when that hit show challenged the CBS Sunday lineup in 1979. 

NBC can hardly be faulted for encouraging Hollywood's top talent to put big visions onto the small screen. Nor can the NBC brass be accused of gambling everything on one show. The network's other new series, including Hell Town, starring Robert Blake as a vigilante priest, and the highly touted sitcom The Golden Girls, have decent shots at survival. So do any number of new entries on the competing networks' rosters. Tartikoff, one of whose ten TV commandments is the famous "All hits are flukes," is sanguine about the immediate future. "We won't be surprised," he says, "if CBS and ABC, even by sheer luck or by stepping in it, come up with a Cosby-size hit. In that case, we'll just have to regroup--and for the past three years we've been pretty good at scrambling." 

Because NBC's prime-time schedule is the most stable of the networks', Tartikoff has time to devote to the rest of the broadcast day. The Today show, the most bracing of the three sunrise coffee klatches, has mounted a strong assault on longtime ratings champ Good Morning America at ABC, while the CBS Morning News continues to flounder with the abrupt departures of Anchors Bill Kurtis and, last week, Phyllis George. The Saturday-morning kidvid schedule remains No. 1. Carson is still king of late-night, and Letterman the hippest of clown princes. Only daytime is a slum for profits when it could be a gold mine; ABC's supremacy with its afternoon soaps helps it lead NBC in total network profits, despite the tailspin ABC has taken in the evening. Recently, NBC's afternoon schedule has begun to mimic the NBC prime time of the early '80s: its ratings are still abysmal, but its share of women in the 18 to 49 age group now rivals CBS's. Each week Tartikoff hosts a "Santa Barbara lunch," in which he and his staff watch the network's newest soap and discuss how it and other daytime fare can be improved. Tinker knows habits die hard among the soap watchers. "It's like turning an ocean liner around," he says. 

One suspects that the two Mr. T's will accomplish this feat; they have worked miracles enough in prime time. The trust they lavished on producers has resulted in fruitful relationships. Tartikoff is especially well liked because he participates fully in a show's creation, unlike the committee that runs CBS. ABC has more severe problems. Lew Erlicht strikes the flagellant's pose when discussing last year's flop shows: "We had to ask ourselves in each case, 'Why did this show fail?' And usually the answer was: 'It stinks.' " As for ABC Broadcast Group President Tony Thomopoulos, Analyst Hoffman maintains that he "went Hollywood" when he took over. "That is a critical mistake," Hoffman says of Thomopoulos' style. "The production community in Hollywood likes to feel that they're the dazzlers. Tartikoff is smart enough not to compete. Compared to Thomopoulos, he's just an average slob who does his job and does it well." 

The "average slob" maintains a sense of humor about his good fortune. "Sure, it's different," he admits. "Where last year I'd have seats in the left-field stands, now I have seats in the center-field stands." And at his weekend softball games, almost everyone stops by for a "Hi, Brandon." Between innings on a recent Saturday, an NBC secretary brought her little Sarah to meet Tartikoff. "Sarah, this is Mr. Brandon," she said. "Do you know who he is? Do you remember the dog named Brandon on Punky Brewster? Well, this is the man he's named after." Unimpressed, Sarah stuffed the hem of her dress into her mouth and turned back toward the action on the field.
 


GenderWatch: Mystery Shows
University of Missouri-St. Louis Women's Studies Newsletter
BY: Lori Hlaban
September 30, 1985

I love a mystery! That's the name of an old myster show, but it's also true for me, which is why I've decided to review the women characters on the current TV private eye/detective mystery shows. This does not include the new police shows (e.g. Cagney and Lacey) or spy shows (e.g. Scarecrow and Mrs. King). 

The current mystery shows on TV are:

CBS' Crazy Like a Fox, I had Three Wives, Magnum P.I.; Simon and SImon, and Murder She Wrote.
ABC's Moonlighting and NBC's Riptide and Remington Steele. Three of the eight have women in central roles: Murder She Wrote (Jessica Flectcher), Moonlighting (Maddie Hayes), and Remington Steele (Laura Holt).

I'm not including the infamous I Had Three Wives, since I consider the central male character's three ex-wives who help him solve crimes to be throwbacks to the 'cute as a button helpful secretary; previously the only (almost central women character seen on mystery shows.

As a little background, the professional woman dectective is a fairly new character in mystery literature. Famous women dectectives have traditionally been amateurs who fall into it as nosy busybodies (Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple), women in other professions who get involved in detecting by accident (Amanda Cross’s Kate Fansler), or wives of athe male central character (the Lockridge’s Mrs. North or Dorothy L. Sayer's Harriet Vane). 

Where have the counterparts to Ellery Queen, Spenser, Mike Hammer, or even Lord Peter Wimsey been? If we are to believe the literature, they've ben waiting for their senior male partners to die violently, leaving them the agency (in debt of course) as well as a juicy murder to solve (as happened to Susan Steiner's dectective in Murder on Her Mind and P.D. James's female dectective, Cordelia Gray).

Television has been somewhat kinder -- typically there have been no deaths propelling any of our main characters into the leadership role of a dectective agency. Television seems to be trying to attract the 'new woman' by offering many female main characters -- with 'dectective' being one of the most recent. My question is: Is television showing us real women who are capable of rational thought and physical action in these new detectives? Or are they creating new glorified girl fridays? The answer seems to be "yes." The networks are giving us all of the above.
 

First, Maddy Hayes (Cybil Shepard) in "Moonlighting"

Premise: Former top model has entire fortune embezzeled, leaving her broke except for a few tax shelter investments that make no money. One tax shelter is the Addison Dectective Agency. She intends to sell, but is convinced not to by David Addison (Bruce Willis), the agency head. The agency is renamed the Blue Moon detective agency (Blue Moon shampoo was the source of Maddy's lost fortune), and Maddy becomes an "equal partner" -- with no experience in dectection.

The premise is shaky and the show is shakier. The writing tells the tale. Typical dialogue consists of one character repreating what another character just said at a highter pitch, and the original character repeating what was just repeated, etc. Both characters are made to look dumb, with Addison always getting the 'good' lines, as in this example of 'snappy repartee:' 

Maddy: David, I just don't think...

Addison: That's o.k. -- you look great.

This sort of sexist dialogue is added to nonstop sexual innuendo. Addison takes every opportunityÊtoojoke about Maddy being an "ice queen" or to explain the agency name by saying "It's because she only wants to do it once in a blue moon." If I were Maddy, I would seriously reconsider selling to regain self-esteem, if nothing else.
 

Second, Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) of "Murder, She Wrote." 

Premise: Jessica is a famous mystery writer who also solves crimes in her spare time, thereby amazing police and creating publicity for her books. It's hard to point out this show's flaws when Jessica is suca a likable character. However, she is too perfect. She always has the right answers and we never see her trying to work out the solution. She seems so nearly sexless that it's easy to imagine someone saying "Let's remake the TV series based on the Ellery Queen character, but do it with a woman this time." The writing on this show is excellent. It's truly difficult to figure out "whodunnit" before Jessica reveals the culprit, but there should be more conflict more human error and more emotion in this main character. 
 

Third Laura Holt, (Stephanie Zimbalist) of "Remington Steele."

Premise: Laura apprentices as a private dectective and opens her own agency. She changes the agency name when it becomes obvous that a woman detective is not attracting clients, adn creates a fictional male boss. A mysterious man steps in to assume the boss's identity and Laura must choose to either go along with his charade or produce the "real" boss. 

This show probably comes closest to showing a real woman dealing with some of the real problems that women in our modern society deal with, from job discrimination in the public world to agonizing over her personal relationship with this man who suddenly appears to assume the identity of her fictious boss. Those of us who have watched the show regularly have also seen both main characters grow more dependent on each other, both professionally and personally. The characters have not remained static and cardborad, but have developed realistic personalities with all their attendant quirks. For example: Laura's chocoholism, which is shown as a hysterically funny obsession when she's offered candy, and "Remington's" penchant for attempting to solve all mysteries by comparing them to plots of movies. 

I must also give the writers credit for handling the personal relationship between Laura and "Remington" in an intelligent and restrained manner. Rather than go for the easy laughs with innuendo and tasteless jokes, a la "Moonlighting," the character's frustrations and worries are explored. The personal attraction is there, but how do they handle it and remain professional? The show has been broadcast for three seasons and they have yet to manage a real date. They have walked into bedrooms together and discovered dead bodies, not romance. Because this show in its attention to detail draws the viewer into the characters' world and makes that world real, even the most tired mystery plots become interesting. The exploration of women's roles and male/female relationships is particularly enjoyable, as the writers do not opt for the "easy answers." As an aside, this show even has a "helpful secretary" (Mildred Krebs, ex IRS investigator, played by actress Doris Roberts) whom you can enjoy as a full character who contributes more to the plot than a pretty face or nice legs for the detective to admire. This show has my recommendation for a pleasant, relatively nonsexist hour of action and humor with a believeable female main character. 

All three shows discussed above will be returning to the fall schedule. "Remington Steele" and "Moonlighting are both aired on Tuesday evenings; "Murder, She Wrote" is broadcast on Sunday evenings. The other new private eye series being aired by the regular networks this fall "Lime Street" and "Spenser For Hire," appear to have no regular central female characters.

SPECIAL NOTICE DESERVED: PBS"s "Mystery!" series is beginning its new season on Thursday, October 24 with an adaptation of P.D. James's Death of an Expert Witness. This is to be the first in a series of five adaptations of works by women writers. Support women's works -- if you like what you see this season on "Mystery!" let KETC/Channel 9 know. They are viewer-supported. .

Article copyright UM-St. Louis Institute for Women's and Gender Studies. 
 


Why 'Remington' didn't have a future
By Sylvia Lawler, Television Editor
July 13, 1986

Cancellations and retentions can be odd animals. A lot of jaws wagged when NBC axed "Remington Steele," despite its placement in the top 20, but kept Fred Dryer's "Hunter." It wasn't all James Bond's fault, says NBC, because Pierce Brosnan could have done both 007 and Remington.

Here is NBC Entertainment President Brandon Tartikoff's rationale for what was, ultimately, his move. Calling the cancellation of the Stephanie Zimbalist-Pierce Brosnan starrer "a tough decision,"
Tartikoff explained the factor that go into such a decision:

"We have to look at things in terms of where it's going to play on our schedule, and we thought the cushiest position that we could play 'Remington Steele' was time period where it was, Saturday nights at 10. We looked at the performance of 'Remington Steele,' which was in a state of decline on Tues. nights the year before, moved it to Saturday night (where "Hunter" had played the year prior.) With a higher lead-in (audience) than 'Hunter' had when it was in the same time slot, 'Remington' was doing slightly less than 'Hunter.' 'Hunter' next year win be a three-year-old show and 'Remington' was
going to be going into its fifth season.

"In terms of interest in the show," Tartikoff's explanation continued, "we concluded the season with the so-called wedding of Remington and Laura which got a 29 share. Now, a 29 share, I guess in
absolute terms, is a great rating. But if you look at the 29 and 'they got married', that's about as high as we'll see with this show.  The competition that we saw facing us for next season ('Twilight
Zone" and "Spenser: For Hire") we thought actually a little tougher than the competition we faced last season (the second hour of the CBS movie and "The Love Boat.")

"I think that creatively, it had peaked, It bad done 88 to 90 stories, and with shows like that you're looking at diminishing returns. How much can you regenerate a show?

"We didn't think there was much upside to the renewal of 'Remington' and conversely, we thought that 'Hunter,' being a younger show, could have more upside."

But Tartikoff said "Remington" retained its quality to the end, and that as a reward, its writer /producer Michael Gleason was now off somewhere [on vacaction?].
 


People: Take This Job & Shove It 
August 11 1986

Trapped on Remington Steele, Pierce Brosnan sounds off on his battle to be the new James Bond

THE SPY WHO'S LOVED TOO MUCH

Pierce Brosnan, the man who would be 007, finds himself behind the eight ball as he reluctantly returns to Remington Steele

"It was", says Pierce Brosnan, "too much like a job." Admittedly a good job, with more than good pay. In a series that made an obscure Irish actor into an American TV star. With a role that painted him
debonair and slightly devilish. And an image that made him the perfect, obvious, only choice to become the next Bond, James Bond.  Although Brosnan had prospered as the roguish title character on NBC's detective series Reminton Steele, "I had just had enough," he says. In fact, "I'd had enough after two years, but I'd signed a seven-year contract." Brosnan was relieved -- "really relieved" --when Remington Steele was cancelled last May.

But wait. Put the emphasis on the past tense: was cancelled, was relieved. For just when it seemed that Brosnan, 35, had snagged one of the most sought - after and profitable roles in movie history, he now finds himself once again tied to Remington Steele, and he is not pleased.

For most of the last two months, Brosnan thought he had fulfilled an ambition of long standing, to replace Roger Moore as 007. He had settled in London. Thinking he had closed a chapter of his career, he had taken to occsionally trashing Remington Steele and the high life in L.A. He had all but signed for The Living Daylights, the $40 million Bond film originally scheduled to begin shooting this month. Then, ironically, the prospect of Brosnan as Bond revived NBC's interest in its show. The network saw a promotional windfall in beaming the man who would be Bond into America's living rooms -- particularly after more than 10,000 furious fans phoned and wrote NBC protesting the cancellation. This summer, Remington has greatly improved its ratings during reruns. In the halls of NBC, programming chief Brandon Tartikoff joked about his booboo, "Anybody can cancel a show in 59th place. It takes real guts to cancel one in ninth place."  Consequently, just last month, three days before options on the Remington cast expired, NBC made it official: The show was renewed
for six episodes as a midseason replacement.

Since then, the legendary producer and protector of the James Bond film properties, Cubby Broccoli, has been making like Dr. No. Although he had been negotiating a three-picture deal with Brosnan, Broccoli didn't want his 007 tainted by television. "He's not going to have another company riding on our publicity," says a Broccoli aide. To accomodate the movie's schedule, MTM, the production company responsible for Steele, even suggested shooting the season's first episode in Europe. "Obviously it would be to our benefit to have Pierce playing Bond, and we're not giving up on the idea," says Steele executive producer Michael Gleason. "Anything we can do, we are more than willing to do." But Broccoli has remained dicidedly cool to stopgap measures. The net result for Brosnan is a career catch-22: Because Remington was cancelled, Brosnan could do Bond. But because he might be Bond, Remington was uncancelled. And because Remington was uncancelled, Brosnan may not be able to be 007. The choice for Brosnan seems clear: Bond or bondage.

The network's decision has started a worldwide scramble for another Bond, while shooting on The Living Daylights has been postponed to late September. The producers talked to 60 aspirants in one recent week alone. Earlier Mel Gibson and Bryan Brown were considered but not screen-tested. Australian model Finlay Light was tested and so was Sam (Kane & Abel) Neill, who was a front runner at last check. But the players change constantly. After Broccoli saw The Taming of the Shrew in London, new rumors surfaced last week that actor Timothy Dalton was the first choice. If you are a handsome, breathing male with a British accent, you are a candidate.

Brosnan has not talked publicly about his dilemma since Remington's revival created it. But he was positively voluble when last interviewed in London, basking in the afterglow of what he considered
a pro forma screen test for Bond--and in the midst of filming a kind of warm-up for the part, Frederick Forsyth's thriller The Fourth Protocol, in which Brosnan plays a KGB bad guy. Had Steele been
renewed, he said, "I would have risen to the occasion, but I would have gone back to work reluctantly, just gritting my teeth. . . .

Under the circumstances [of the Bond offer], if it had gone a fifth [season], I would have been pissed off. . . . No risks were being taken, I wanted the show to get a little more hard-edged, but they
wanted to keep it like it was."  He was particularly distressed by Moonlighting, which bears more than a passing resemblance to Remington. In fact that show was created by Glenn Gordon Caron, a
former Remington writer. "Moonlighting [is] a direct steal which has just done it in a different, much fresher way," Brosnan said. "At least they take risks." Co-star Stephanie Zimbalist apparently
agrees. "Now those people are doing at Moonlighting exactly what we're supposed to be doing at Remington Steele."

Brosnan's trouble on Remington apparently involved more than creative differences: Almost from the start, stories of discord between Brosnan and Zimbalist were common,. Although the series was
conceived primarily as a vehicle for her, he got more mail and publicity. To create the character, Brosnan said, "I'd look at old Cary Grant movies, steal a little bit from him and mix in my own
personality. In some respects, it was a cross between John Cleese, Cary Grant and James Bond." Zimbalist was clearly dissatisfied with the show's shifting focus. "I have to do something," she told one interviewer in 1983, "or when this show goes off the air, all anybody is going to remember is that Pierce Brosnan starred in it." If her relations with Brosnan were occasionally frosty, they were positively frigid with his wife, actress Cassandra Harris, who reportedly saw Steele as a stepping-stone to superstardom for her husband.

In a show that relies on character chemistry, there was little combustion. As Brosnan put it, they "were never progressing in the relationship. . . . There was all this kind of cat and mouse, old
movies rubbish. . . . The people who were behind it were never courageous enough to say, "Well, let's just throw it up in the air, what we can do next, how we can keep it alive.' " On that he and
Zimbalist were agreed, and the producers' notable idea for invigorating the show --having them get married--infuriated both of them. During production earlier this year, Zimbalist said: "if they
decide to marry Remington and Laura, they can find themselves someone else to play Laura. That is not the character I signed to play." And, of course, in the season's last episode, Laura and Steele were married. Brosnan recalls, "There was a lot of tension about that." Exec producer Gleason observes: "Pierce and Stephanie are both quite vocal when it comes to their characters." Although weddings are usually Nielsen bonanzas, the union did nothing for Remington ratings.

For Brosnan, television was no longer the most becoming medium. "You learn bad habits as an actor [on TV]. As the season goes on, you take short cuts, fatigue sets in. Then your confidence goes." With it goes some measure of esteem. "The word 'star' doesn't mean an awful lot to me. 'Good actor' and having the respect of one's peers means more. You don't really get much of that doing a show like Remington Steele."

By the end of last season, Brosnan wanted to leave Los Angeles as well as the show. Despite the comforts of a home in the hills, "I was becoming so Hollywood. All it became was money--get as much as you possibly can. I just find that you can become a very boring person living in L.A. I tell you, living there on a day-to-day basis is vacuous, terribly fake." So he particularly liked the prospect of shooting back-to-back features in London: "It's extremely civilized working here".

Brosnan has long considered playing Bond a career goal, but only recently has he pursued that prospect with passion. In fact, when he was first mentioned as a candidate he was reticent. "I said, 'Why do I want to do it? It's become an institution.' " But the idea kept coming back. Roger Moore told a newspaper that Pierce was his hand- picked successor. The mushrooming attention made Brosnan reconsider. So, no doubt, did the lack of attention given Brosnan's feature Nomads, a quick fizzle released last March. Finally, he said, "I thought, if I don't do Bond and some other guy gets it and I've been such a strong contender, I'm going to be really pissed off."

Brosnan had begun to feel almost as if fate had assigned him the role. Bond, he said, was "part of my upbringing." Among the first films he saw when he moved from Ireland to England in the early '60s
were Bond flicks. "For an Irish boy, age of 11, really green, very naive, sheltered Catholic upbringing, it was just mindblowing." Some 20 years later, he would meet the maker of those movies face-to-face. It was 1981, and Brosnan's miniseries, The Manions of America, was set to premiere in America. He and wife Cassie had had to borrow $3,500 to pay for their trip to L.A., but soon he was cast as Remington Steele (after Anthony Andrews turned down the role).  Cassie, it so happened, was playing one of Bond's girls in the 1981 flick For Your Eyes Only--and they were invited to dinner at Broccoli's estate. "I remember turning to Cassie that night in this old Rent-a-Wreck car, and I was joking the whole way home saying, 'My name's Bond, James Bond.' I said, 'This is it, darling, there's no
looking back now'--little knowing that five years on, one would be stepping into the role. There are a lot of funny things that happen in one's life."

So there are. A few weeks ago, Brosnan returned to L.A., and there, barring strikes or other acts of a merciful God, he will begin shootin Remington Steele next October.



Entertainment Weekly: Guilty Pleasures: Remington Steel
Alexandra Jacobs
2001


While other girls were sneaking their first cigarettes and going to Duran Duran concerts, I was crouched on the sofa in a state of deep longing, watching Remington Steele.

Never mind how bad Pierce Brosnan's hair looked in the '80s. This was, and is, embarrassing, because the NBC series was so square. Its hero was a gold-cuff-link-sporting, silk-shirt-wearing fop. He cracked cases by relying on his encyclopedic knowledge of classic Hollywood movies. His very name--invented, the story went, by PI Laura Holt (Stephanie Zimbalist) to lend masculine clout to her struggling agency--sounded like drugstore aftershave. (What on earth did Holt murmur to him when they finally consummated their five-season flirtation--oh, Remington?)

Never mind. Zimbalist's character was such a dandy role model for an adolescent girl: strong, feminist--never mixing business with pleasure (well, almost never); never letting us forget that she did the work, even if he took the bows. The show's plots, many plundered shamelessly from Agatha Christie novels (amnesia, art heists, And Then There Were None), were in fact immensely satisfying whodunits bundled into neat, hour-long packages. And then there was the most delicious mystery of all: the ongoing question of Steele's true identity. At times, nobody seemed to know who the hell he was--not the writers, not even the character himself. Which, along with his relationship with Holt, made him a sex symbol almost as dashingly enigmatic as...James Bond.

And don't forget, every title of every episode of the show was a pun on the word "Steele." Like "You're Steele the One for Me." What can I say? It's Steele true. --Alexandra Jacobs



Dave & Maddie: Interview with Glenn Gordon Caron 
By: Cindy Klauss & Diane Hopkins
Excerpt from full article here

September 10, 2002

Diane: "We know that you wrote for "Remington Steele" before you did "Moonlighting." Did the inspiration come from seeing what you could do, what you thought you could do better with a detective show, or did it come from elsewhere?"

Glenn Caron: "Obviously, I used some of the experience that I gained on Remington Steele. I was with Remington Steele for a very, very short time. I was there really just for the first 10 episodes. And I was there largely because I sort of made it a mission in my life to work with a guy named Bob Butler who directed the pilot for Remington Steele. And really, he sort of came up with the premise for Remington Steele. He'd been carrying it around for years. Michael Gleason developed it for television, but the original idea was actually Bob's. And I really wanted to work with Bob Butler. I got to Remington Steele, worked with Bob. At a certain point, Bob was leaving. I decided to leave. So I really wasn't there as long as a question like that would suggest, although I did contribute a tremendous amount of writing to those first 10 episodes. I think they all, if not all, then most, certainly went through my typewriter at some point. And I still am very fond of my friendship with Pierce. And we were both sort of new to television, so we, you know, he and I developed a relationship. I think I was also really the first writer over there who recognized that he could be funny. In the original conception, I don't think he was thought of as particularly funny. I think Stephanie was thought of as sort of the person who was going to lead the charge of the show, and she's a wonderful actress. But, it just became clear to me hanging around with Pierce, that he had a huge funny bone and so I really tried to write to that."


Fall TV preview: ABC's pilots are at the head of the class (Excerpt)
By Alan Pergament
Sept 6, 2004

While previewing ABC's 2004 pilots, my thoughts turned to 1982, when I began getting paid to watch television. Back then, I was absolutely frightened by how much I liked NBC's new class of shows. After all, it was a struggling network that appeared lost.

And here was a rookie critic falling in love with several new shows. It made me fear that I didn't have the cynicism for the job, and cynicism was something I'd never been accused of lacking in my previous life as a sportswriter.

Little did I know that there might never be another NBC season like 1982, when "Cheers" with Ted Danson, "Family Ties" with Michael J. Fox, "St. Elsewhere" with Denzel Washington and "Remington Steele" with future James Bond Pierce Brosnan premiered.


<>Entertainment Weekly: 'Remington Steele' We're Dyin' For. . . ''Remington Steele''
EW wants pre-''Bond'' Brosnan back    

By Michelle Kung
Sept 10, 2004

Long before he was assuming identities and seducing gorgeous women as super-suave spy James Bond, Pierce Brosnan was, well, assuming identities and seducing gorgeous women as super-suave ''detective'' Remington Steele. For four glorious seasons on NBC, Brosnan's con artist-turned-investigator brought dandyism back into vogue. Nattily attired and generous with arcane film factoids, the pseudo-sleuth coasted on the diligence of his colleague (Stephanie Zimbalist) but oozed such charm that she -- and audiences -- adored him anyway. Now that Brosnan's had his fill of martinis and international mayhem, why isn't the show that jump-started it all on DVD? Fox, which holds Remington's rights, says the show is indeed ''on its radar,'' but we're Steele waiting. . .


Chicago Sun Times: Show found perfect man of 'Steele' in Brosnan
Miriam Di Nunzio
July 29, 2005

He was sexy, suave and dashing in a tuxedo, solving crimes in exotic ports of call around the globe. He also had the beautiful girl at his side in some pretty dangerous situations. And though it cost Pierce Brosnan the chance to star on the big screen as James Bond, "Remington Steele" made him a star in every sense of the word. And he eventually did wind up with the shaken-not-stirred-martini film role, anyway.

"Remington Steele," which premiered in 1982 on NBC, featured Brosnan as the title character, a "fictional" private detective concocted by female P.I. Laura Holt, played by Stephanie Zimbalist (since nobody apparently wanted to hire a woman for such precarious work). When Steele shows up at her office, the two strike up an interesting business enterprise in which Holt provided the brain power and Steele provided the brawn, of sorts. Steele's modus operandi was his use of an incomparable knowledge of big-screen classic films to solve many of their cases.

The show's first season, all 22 episodes, has just been released in a four-disc DVD set by Fox Home Entertainment.

The show's creator/writer Michael Gleason, whose television writing credits include "My Favorite Martian," "Maverick," "Peyton Place" and "McCloud," talked to the Sun-Times about the hit show.

Q. How did the show come into being?

A. Robert Butler actually came to me with the initial idea of a female P.I. who can't get work because she's a woman. So I decided, what if she creates a fictional male private investigator, and he actually shows up one day. So I wrote the pilot from that scenario.

Q. Did you always know you had your man in Pierce Brosnan?

A. He walked into the casting meeting and we were all like, "This kid's gorgeous!" He read for the part, we loved him instantly, and after we held our ground with the network [which wasn't sure about going with a relatively unknown Brosnan], they gave us the green light to hire him.

Q. Did you have visions of James Bond in your head when you created the Steele character?

A. Actually, no. But Pierce knew how to wear clothes, he spoke beautifully. He was just elegant in manner. And he could do comedy, which was key to the role. And he and Stephanie were just two consummate pros. They were faithful to the lines in the scripts. I would sit on set and just marvel at the fact that those were my words being delivered brilliantly by these two actors.

Q. Stephanie Zimbalist and Brosnan had such a chemistry on-screen.

A. They just clicked. There was a professional spark there that just came through. That was critical to the show's success.

Q. Was there a lot of backlash toward the show because a woman had to have a man front for her company?

A. Actually, Stephanie would get tons of letters from women's groups because her character was a beautiful, smart, strong woman. Laura Holt was the brains. [Laughing] Remington Steele was the sex object. 

 


TV Guide: Pierce Brosnan's Pell's Palsy
 May 2006

Question:
Here's a weird question. Do I remember something about  Pierce Brosnan having a stroke when he was doing Remington Steele, or  am I imagining that? — Dana S., Betterton, Md.   

Televisionary: 
You're not imagining it, Dana, but you're a little off.  Brosnan, who costarred with Stephanie Zimbalist on the NBC sleuth show  from October 1982 to March 1987, was hit with Bell's palsy, a partial  paralysis of the face, just before a Tonight Show appearance.  According to a 1984 TV Guide story and interview, the actor at the  time believed he contracted a virus that led to the condition after  shooting some shirtless scenes in a river. That may have been it, but  months of 14- to 16-hour days didn't help his health, either, and when  he walked onto the Steele set and collapsed, leading a doctor to  prescribe 12 days off, Brosnan returned after just three.

 


LA Times: Vintage Steele
An episode she'd written for a popular TV series had become something of a classic. As she watched it decades later, she remembered why.

By Susan Baskin

Susan Baskin wrote the screenplay for the Academy Award-winning film "Violet."

August 27, 2006

I was sitting in my office when the call came from Fox TV. The studio was releasing a DVD collection of the first season of "Remington Steele." Was I willing to be interviewed for a special feature about my experiences writing for the show, and an episode of mine they wanted to highlight?

Remington Steele. It was a name out of my past. I searched through my office for tapes of the show, pulling each one out like old evening wear stored in the back of my closet. That night I watched them, not knowing what to expect after all these years. Like a classic little black dress, each episode held up. It was clever. It had charm. It was funny.

"Remington Steele" was the first television series for which I wrote, a first job for many of its writers. Most of us were young. Single. Just married. Or having flings. And the irreverent tone of the show fit us like a snug pair of jeans.

The writing staff worked out stories together, throwing ideas around in a good-natured free-for-all, filled with inevitable one-upmanship. The beginning shows centered around Remington. Who was he? What was his past? The only woman, I presented the revolutionary notion of writing about the brains behind the operation, Laura Holt. There had to be more to Laura than the buttoned-up professional we saw on the screen. What about lovers? What if an old flame turned up? My husband had just returned from a business trip to Rancho Cucamonga, a name intrinsically funny to me. There were wineries there. What if we set the story in a winery? What if? What if? My episode, "Vintage Steele," was born.

Feeding the maw of a weekly television series means writing quickly. Long nights. I wrote my script. Did rewrites. On the first day of shooting, I drove out to the location—a winery, yes, in Rancho Cucamonga. There were the actors. Director. Camera and cables. All this hullabaloo.

Unlike my own kids, I didn't grow up in a media-saturated culture, where cashiers, as well as studio heads, can recite weekend box-office receipts. You turned on the TV and images appeared on the screen, like magic. You never wondered how. Now there was magic of another kind, seeing a world made real because of the words I'd written.

I did other episodes for "Remington Steele," went on to different shows, wrote films for television and features. "Remington Steele" went off the air.

Just the other night, I watched the DVD, special features and all, for the first time. As I listened and watched, I realized that in the paradoxical way our culture discards its products ever faster, only to reclaim them in order to savor—and profit from—the past, "Remington Steele" had become something timeless. Like memory.

At the end of the first season, the executive producer told me that "Vintage Steele" was being submitted for an Emmy that year. It didn't win. It didn't get a nomination. But promise beckoned in that first blush of working life, the heady bouquet of the future rose.

And I understood, whether on the glittering road to the Emmys, or in the satisfaction of filling the first blank page of a script, a single truth moves the laughter and tears called forth from the audiences that Norma Desmond so poignantly calls "those wonderful people out there in the dark": In the beginning, there is the word.



Sound & Vision Magazine

Talking TV on DVD with Remington Steele's Michael Gleason

September 2005

Mike Mettler sits down with the co-creator of Pierce Brosnan's NBC "romantic-comedy/mystery" series to chat about the Season 1 DVD, the show's famous quoted movie lines, and how Steele really got his name.


It must be very satisfying for you to see one of your pet creations finally make it to DVD.

My wife and I were just watching the DVD, and it looks terrific. It was fun to see again after all these years.

You did commentary tracks on the first two episodes [“License to Steele” and “Tempered Steele”] along with your co-creator, Robert Butler. That must have been a nice memory jog for you.

Yes. The funniest comment came from Bob while we were watching the pilot. He said, “You know, we weren’t as bad as we thought we were. This is pretty good.” [laughs]

The show hasn’t really been in syndication lately, so the DVD is a good way for people to touch base with it again — or attract people who’ve never even seen it at all.
That’s true. It went five years — four and a half seasons [1982–87]. It’s tough when you mention to somebody a show that occupied your life seven days a week for years, and they look at you blankly.


As far as the format itself goes, how do you feel about getting a TV series onto DVD? Do you enjoy watching shows that way?

Yeah. I think it’s terrific. Glenn Caron — Glenn Gordon Caron — is a close friend of mine, and he was with us as a chief writer [and supervising producer] for the first half of the first season [12 of 22 episodes]. He just had the first two seasons of his show Moonlighting come out together on DVD, and that’s a wonderful set.

Glenn did an interview for the Remington DVD, and he was telling me they had problems clearing the music rights for the Moonlighting DVD. That’s because he used a lot of different sources. We, on the other hand, had Henry Mancini. [Mancini wrote the themes for the show and the main characters.]

How was it, working with Mancini?

He was terrific. Almost hard to believe we had him.


And how perfect for him to have put a bit of an Irish twist on Remington’s character theme. [Pierce Brosnan, who played Steele, is Irish.]

Henry was such a wonderful guy. He even came to the first table reading for the show to get a sense for the characters and who was playing them. A lot of composers won’t do that. But he was actually there to find out who these people were.


In the commentary for “Tempered Steele,” you note that it was technically shot as the pilot, but it wasn’t aired that way.

When we went in and pitched the concept to NBC, they gave us the go-ahead. But they also said that sometimes they greenlight a great pilot but then don’t get a great series out of it. So they said, “Give us Episode 6 first so we can see what we have here.” And after they picked it up, they said it would be wonderful to then see how Laura and Remington met. So “License to Steele” was the first to air [October 1, 1982], but “Tempered Steele” [October 8, 1982], which was slightly rewritten, was actually our pilot episode.



Another interesting thing in the “Tempered Steele” episode itself is a comment by Laura [Holt, the real brains behind the detective agency, played by Stephanie Zimbalist] about where she got the name Remington Steele — that she got it from a typewriter and a football team. [Gleason chuckles] Now is that where you got the name from?

Bob Butler came up with the name. He liked “Remington” because it was a firearm, and he just felt “Steele” was a strong name. For the show, I thought we should make how she came up with the name a little funnier.


Yeah, I always wondered if there was a Pittsburgh Steelers fan on staff or not.... Were there any other character names bandied about for Steele?

That was the only name. And it was a lock. I think it’s a great name.

During your “License to Steele” commentary, you guys mention how Phil Casnoff [who plays Ben Pearson, an agent whom Steele impersonates in a previous scene] did such a great job as Frank Sinatra [in the 1992 TV miniseries Sinatra]. He later played a Russian character on Oz, the HBO prison show.

Yes, he was excellent! I loved him in that. I loved that show; it was brilliantly done.

It’s interesting to see what people become later on.
And he was wonderful in our show. He added some seriousness to Remington’s mocking attitude.


Who was mainly responsible for the movie lines that Remington would always be spouting?

I have to plead guilty to that. A few of the people over there [at the network] wanted me to take them out, but I’d never seen that on a show before. And we found that as we went along, in the few episodes where we didn’t have them, viewers got upset.

We were trying to do a 1930s Thin Man/ romantic-comedy/ mystery show. And the opinion was, because we were trying to do that, maybe the movie references were kind of soft. But they were one of the most popular things in the series, so I’m glad I held onto them.

You’d always look forward to that every episode, thinking, “What hard-boiled movie line are we going to get this time?”

On the commentary, I note how those references really helped with plot. They’d trigger a character, a plot point, a tic, something.

And when in doubt, have somebody wear a fedora, right?
That was Stephi’s idea, and I thought it was a terrific one. She looked so damn good in them.

Have you spoken to her about the DVD at all? She’s not in any of the extras.

I’d been looking at some of the interviews and no, she’s not on them. Maybe she’ll be on future ones.


Anything not on the DVD that you thought, “This would have been a cool extra to include”?

It’s interesting. We never really had a blooper reel. We had two of the most professional actors I’ve ever worked with. I was talking to Pierce about this, the fact that he was trained in England. American actors tend to come in and want to rewrite the script from start to finish. Because of his background, he’d say the lines as written, and so did Stephanie.

I would always say, “If you don’t like a line, let me know and I’ll change it. Don’t go changing things. Because when we’re trying to do jokes, the rhythm of the line is very important, and any extra words will screw up the rhythm of the joke. And we’re also trying to do mystery, so don’t be saying, ‘He was killed by a knife,’ when he was killed by a shotgun, you know?” But they did it beautifully, and we held the guest stars to say the words as written.

As a writer, that must have been a great thing to have people respect your work to that degree.

It was beautiful, it really was.


Ever any talk of doing a “Where are they now?” update for the show?

Actually, no. But Pierce has been talking about doing a Remington Steele feature. He wouldn’t be Remington, but he’d be in it.

He had very fond memories of Remington in the interview he did for the DVD. He was very kind toward the show. And now he’s a big movie star. [laughs] So it all worked out, just like one of our plots.



Were there any stories you didn’t get a chance to write for the show that you would have liked to have done?

When Laura and Remington got married, I would have liked her to say, “We can’t work together now because we’re married.” So he would go off and start up his own agency but pay someone to hire Laura to work on his cases — which she wouldn’t know. So at night, when they’d have pillow talk, she’d tell him about her case — his case. And I thought that would have been funny if he was using her as an investigator and she didn’t even know it.


He could have hired the Blue Moon Detective Agency to do it. I don’t suppose since you were on NBC and Moonlighting was on ABC that you could have crossed over the characters. Was there ever any talk of doing that?

Well, Pierce did a guest shot on Moonlighting, a cameo. I have to assume it was after we were off the air.

[Brosnan appeared in “The Straight Poop,” an episode during Moonlighting’s third season on ABC that aired January 6, 1987. In his uncredited cameo, Brosnan says that he and Maddie Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) considered working together but instead decided to go their separate ways. Steele was still on the air then — but just barely. The last installment of the five-episode final season aired April 17, 1987.]


One last thing: Would you be able to do this show today?

No, I don’t think so. I mean, we have lady bounty hunters on TV now, so I don’t think anyone would believe that people wouldn’t go to a female private eye. It was a series of its time. In the ’80s, you wanted Humphrey Bogart and Sam Spade to be your private eyes, not a pretty little girl.