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Moonlighting was one of those amazing shows that spawned a plethora of
clones, many of which didn't make it. Though it came after Remington
Steele, which I believe was the far more excellent show consistently,
Moonlighting got all the buzz and the excitement. Most of this was due
to the breakout performance of Bruce Willis, who, of course, became a
megastar thanks to Moonlighting. I can still see him facing a criminal
while singing "My Girl" and then indicating with his hands when the
goon should come in with the high part. It was touches like this that
made Moonlighting special.
Willis and co-star Cybill Shepherd were fabulous and had excellent chemistry. They were ably supported by Allyce Beasley, Curtis Armstrong, Charles Rocket (a brilliant choice for David's brother, who appeared in some episodes), and for several episodes, Eva Marie Saint and the late Robert Webber as Maddie's parents.
The series boasts some phenomenal episodes but when it fell, it fell hard. Ego problems, budget problems, and story direction problems began to weigh it down, and it finally crawled to an end after tons of reruns being shown in prime time when scripts were unable to be delivered. However, the heights hit in the first two seasons or so are unmatched probably by any other series for their creativity and brilliance. Moonlighting remains a wonderful and joyous part of TV history.
When I was 12 this was my favorite show on TV, but I've come to
appreciate it more in my old age. Bruce and Cybill are great, but above
all, the writing is among the best I've seen in a television series.
The nonstop sledge hammer wit for a full hour makes me laugh out loud
every episode. The scenes are always brilliantly constructed, the jokes
always intelligent. The writers never got all the credit they deserved,
I'm sure. No matter how funny one joke is, there is always a come back
line. I think you have to get past the early episodes that were a
little more serious. I didn't start watching until around the beginning
So much on TV nowadays is either over-the-top dramatic, or toilet humor. No one knows how to just have fun anymore. Moonlighting never forgot that it was just a television show, and it didn't mind poking fun at itself. Some lines that demonstrated this were, "Two teams [...] with the same story. Either someone's lying or the writers just Xeroxed the other scene", and, "What do we do now?" "Wrap this up in about 12 minutes so another show can come on the air."
After David and Maddie got together, then weren't together, then were, how did it end anyway? The show became a bit of a soap opera. But it was always a treat to watch. Everyone mentions Moonlighting's version of "The Taming of the Shrew." Some of my other favorite episodes are "The Bride of Tupperman", which ends with a hospital scene chase to 'Dem Bones, "Symphony in Knocked Flat" (guest appearance by Don King), "Yours Very Deadly" (Burt Viola's first appearance), and both Christmas episodes. And the show wouldn't be complete without the rhymes of Agnes Dipesto. If you aren't that familiar with the show, don't miss your next opportunity to see Moonlighting!
In the finest tradition of Gable&Lombard and Tracey&Hepburn, Cybil
and Bruce Willis bring drama, comedy, and wit to TV together with a sexual
tension that underscores their partnership in the Blue Moon Detective
Shepard, who plays Maddie Hayes, wakes up one morning to find out her accountant has absconded with the fortune she made as a high fashion model. Obviously it was not a stretch for Cybil to adapt to this role! In the course of finding out that she needs to sell everything, she happens in on this little detective agency(Blue Moon), she owns only because it was a great tax writeoff. The staff is morabund, and the head sleuth is a wise cracking obnoxious male chauvenist named David Addison, played by an unknown(at the time) Bruce Willis. The immediate rapport between the two brought viewers back for more. The endless stream of double entendre's, malaprops, and overall office antics made the show lovable and audiences craved for more.
Glenn Gordon Caron's writing and vision had the writers, actors, and directors take license with certain rules in primetime that were never questioned. E.G. In one particular episode Maddie asks David to get more explicit with an explanation and David responds by telling her if they get any more explicit they'll have to move the show to cable. It is precisely these departures from the norm, along with the genius idea to have the two main characters talk to each other AT THE SAME TIME, that made critics and fans follow their every move.
It's probably best to say that this show's run was cut short due to the emergence of Willis as a bonafide star. Once he made his mark on the big screen, in Die Hard, Bruce was looking for ways to exit TV. In interviews he talked of the brutal schedules for TV primetime and the difficulty in exploring the boundaries of his talents and appetite for acting. As the show fragmented the practice of in season repeat episodes was probably accepted more , if not born out of necessity. Expanded roles were given in onscreen time and plots to Allyce Beasley(who played a great Agnes DiPesto) and her Blue Moon boyfriend Herbert Viola, played by Curtis Armstrong. These shows were often almost difficult to watch, through no fault of Beasley and Armstrong, but rather the desire to see Maddie and David cavort as usual.
Reruns have been syndicated and you can find them sometimes, most recently on cable channel BRAVO. If you do see the shows, and they are regularly scheduled, it would be well worth it to look for four of my favorites...the first episode of Moonlighting's second season entitled "Brother Can You Spare A Blond", a later episode when Maddie and David have had one of their innumerable fights and they are both interviewed by Rona Barrett in an attempt to reconcile their differences, the episode that co-stars Dana Delaney as the ex-fiance that jilted David, and a classic show guest hosted by Orson Welles shot just before Welles' death. The show signifies the great love/hate relationship between the two main characters and is brilliantly shot in both color and black and white. I think you'll get the spirit and essence of this show if you see any of these.
Presently, "Moonlighting" is being shown on cable (Bravo)here in the U.S. I must say watching these episodes after fifteen years brings back a lot of joy for me. It was one of my favorite shows of the '80's. I remember enjoying the verbal sparring between Maddie and David. It was also fun to watch what antics David would pull. True, some episodes weren't all that great, but what T.V. show has been truly perfect? Anyway, for the most part "Moonlighting" was a wonderful show that was well-written. As I watch these episodes again, I'm struck by how beautiful Cybill Sheperd was photographed and how young looking Bruce Willis was. (I think they've aged pretty well.)Last night I saw "Twas the Episode Before Xmas" and loved how they (writers and actors) frequently broke through the "fourth wall". That's another thing I loved about the show. It frequently broke through the "fourth wall". In all, "Moonlighting" was a witty romantic comedic show that put a whole new spin on the detective show genre.
Moonlighting went on the air in January of 1985 as a mid season replacement,
beginning with a two hour TV movie pilot episode. The reviews were mixed -
and so was the pilot. Was this a detective drama? A romantic comedy? It
appeared it was trying to be both. Within a couple of episodes it became
clear that creator Glen Gordon Caron was planting the show firmly in the
field of romantic comedy - a good choice because it was in these moments
that the series would really shine.
By the third episode it was clear they were on to something original, or if not completely original, at least written and executed better than anything else on TV at the time. The Tracy-Hepburn like sparring between Shepherd and unknown actor Bruce Willis, and the sophisticated writing by Caron and the other writers just got better and better as they finished their first half season of ten episodes.
The highlight of that first batch was the celebrated "black and white" episode, "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice." In it Maddie and David interview a client who owns a once famous LA nightclub (like the Coconut Grove), which is about to be torn down. There they learn of a mysterious murder that occurred there in the 40's, still unsolved, that revolved around a trumpet player having an affair with the band's married girl singer. The singer's husband was killed and both the trumpet player and the songstress claim the other did the deed. Of course David assumes the woman framed the musician. Maddie feels it was much more likely the sleazy guy did it. Each of them daydream their version of events in 1940's black and white, with Bruce playing the trumpeter and Cybill the singer. Each of their mini-stories works as film noir homage, and the pairing of the two versions come off even stronger. In addition it allowed us to see David and Maddie in a romantic setting without having to put the characters directly into that kind of plot killing situation. The episode won Emmy nominations for everyone involved, including Cybill and Bruce. Bruce won.
Which brings up "the troubles." How many giant egos can one series sustain? Tension began to mount between Shepherd, Willis, and Caron. Cybill was the "star" - but she was essentially playing straight man to Willis. His manic character and split second timing were the force driving the chemistry forward. By the time they were filming the first full season - he was as recognizable as she was. And after years of struggling and starving in New York - he was enjoying every minute of his new found fame.
And then there was Glen Gordon Caron. He was very much a "hands on" producer and had very definite ideas about where he wanted to take the series. His perfectionism frustrated his cast and writers. Several times the crew would begin filming an episode while the writers were still writing. Caron had a commitment to the network for 22 episodes per season. He never delivered more than 20. His shooting regularly went off schedule and over budget. The quality was there on the screen ("Atomic Shakespeare" - a riff on the Taming of the Shrew was practically a movie in and of itself), but the show began to tick off viewers who complained about all the reruns while they waited for a new episode.
As the series moved into its second full season it hit a creative peak:
· The aforementioned Taming of the Shrew
· Big Man on Mulberry Street - with a musical sequence by "Singing in the Rain" director Stanley Donen
· The four Sam and David and Maddie episodes with Mark Harmon as the straight up astronaut whose proposal forces Maddie and David to confront their feelings.
Then it happened. A confluence of events that seemed to drain the show of all its life:
· Maddie and David "did it" - killing off the eternal suspense.
· The writers, tired of all Caron's tirades and very much in demand with all their Moonlighting awards, left the series. Caron had to bring in a fresh crop.
· Cybill Shepherd became pregnant with twins. The timing of the pregnancy would prevent her from filming between September and at least December - a prime production period.
· Glen wrote the pregnancy into the show - and had Maddie flee LA for home - for months. This allowed him to film Shepherd's scenes alone during the summer. Of course with 3000 miles between Maddie and David it's hard to get much zippy chemistry going.
Coming from the creative high of the second season, the letdown in the third year was all the more apparent. By the time they dumped the baby (a miscarriage) at the beginning of the fourth season - the magic was clearly gone. Shepherd and Willis were anxious to move on to more lucrative film projects, and the final season was only a slight improvement over the disappointing previous year.
But, as the nursery rhyme goes - when it was good, it was very very good. In addition to the episodes mentioned above, try to catch some of these on cable:
· "My Fair David" - Maddie bets David can't go through a week without breaking out into some Motown ditty, or making crass sexist comments.
· "Devil in the Blue Dress" with Judd Nelson and Whoopie Goldberg
Only 21 comments proceed this one on this particular thread. That is
incredible to me. For in the middle and late 1980s MOONLIGHTING was one
of the biggest (if not the biggest) phenomenons to hit television.
It dared to take a normal type of show - the detective show - and turn it into a mind blowing experience as it's battling heroine and hero confronted cases, each other, and the universe weekly. Mattie Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) and David Addison (Bruce Willis) ran a detective agency together, only because it was Mattie's last asset after her accountant ran off with her fortune (a later episode allowed them to confront the scoundrel). Addison was running the small agency, but since Mattie now depends on it for her income she takes over running it and collides head on with Addison. He is a self-satisfied male chauvinist, and she is a determined feminist. But despite their rigid points of view they are attracted to each other. So the result (normally) is that they get a client, and in analyzing the client's problem it raises some issues that actually confront Mattie and David in their lives, but the audience in it's lives too. The only other regulars were Allyce Beasley as Agnes DiPresto, their receptionist who always had a poetic effusion to greet the customers on the phone, and Curtis Armstrong as Herbert Viola, a late arrival who is the firm's bookkeeper and David's back-up man (and eventually Agnes' boyfriend).
I think the episode most people recall from this show is the experiment with Shakespeare's TAMING OF THE SHREW, wherein Willis was Petruchio and Shepherd was Katherine. Certainly it was a nice spoof, especially as Shakespeare's play is out of step with present day views about sexual equality. But the Shakespearean dialog was also spoofed - leading to the concluding line (which suggested my "summary line" above). But it was not the only good episode. The one where Agnes and Herb solve a case by themselves was interesting - and the conclusion where Mattie and David burst into the room to congratulate them, and then turn around with Mattie saying, "And hopefully next week we'll have more to do in the episode." was a good one too. So was one with Joseph Maher as an angel talking to Willis as Mattie and David's child in embryonic state. The birth of the child was expected by the audience, but at the last moment the writers have poor Mattie miscarry. Maher cheers up Willis by saying he shouldn't fear - he may end up the new baby on one of two other current shows then on television that had expectant parents!
The writing, at it's best, shoved this show to the heights. In the middle of an argument, Mattie tells David she does not give "a flying frig" for his opinion. David looks at her quizzically, and says he doesn't know what she means by "a flying frig". She looks at him casually and says, "That doesn't matter...(they turn towards the viewing audience)...THEY KNOW WHAT I MEAN!" In a moment of pure genius the dialog would suddenly pick up a life of it's own and become pure Dr. Seuss, with everyone in the scene joining in. There were in-jokes about other shows. In an episode based on IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, Mattie discovers what would have happened if she had sold the detective agency (as she originally planned). It is bought by a husband and wife pair of detectives who we never see: the Harts, from HART TO HART. But we see their factotum assistant Max (Lionel Stander) still working for them. In another episode, David (in a fit of emotion) begs Mattie to run off with him and forget the agency. "If anyone has any problems, let that old lady from the movies on the other channel solve them for them.", he says. He's referring to Angela Lansbury in MURDER SHE WROTE on CBS.
With all the delays in production, all the unfortunate ego clashes, and even the dip in the series quality in the last year, MOONLIGHTING was a terrific show. It rarely is revived today, which given it's quality is a terrible shame and waste.
Finally after years of waiting, the series that marked the career best of both Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd was finally released on DVD. They did a great job on the menus and so forth, but they absolutely destroyed one of my favorite episodes titled, "The Lady in the Iron Mask." They changed all the music which was originally very dark and moody and replaced it with this shrill garbage which even drowns out the dialogue in some places. At the end of the episode the hotel chase sequence was originally accompanied by the William Tell Overture which was the perfect choice for a hilarious climax. On the DVD however, they play the same crap that they played throughout the entire episode. Shame on you for whoever is responsible. It's better than not having the DVD out at all, but it just makes me mad.
The writers were #$%& geniuses! I curse both Bruce Willis and Cybil
Shepherd for letting their egos get in the way of a brilliant series.
I also thank them for the roles they played to perfection.
Love/Hate...just like their characters.
This was one of the few shows my whole family liked. My father would laugh like a hyena and quote the lines for days.
Non stop puns and jokes almost made you HAVE to see the repeats over and over to catch 'em all.
The David Addison character, despite his brashness, made it clear he'd give you the shirt off his back.
And despite Maddy Hayes' pompousness, her heart was pure gold.
Brilliant. Up there with Night Court as one of the best of the 80's.
Moonlighting was one of those shows that I didn't watch at first but once
caught an episode I was hooked.
The constant sparring of Maddie and David was excellent with a lot of
acknowledgement to the camera. I even enjoyed the episodes where Agnes
Dipesto and Herbert Viola were given more screen-time.
My favourite episodes include the feature length first episode, "The Lady in the Iron Mask", "Atomic Shakespeare", "The Straight Poop", "It's a Wonderful Job" and "Poltergeist III Dipesto Nothing".
It's currently airing on a cable channel in the U.K. and although not all episodes were good the majority were very well written with many memorable scenes.
"Moonlighting" had the same basic template as "Remington Steele" (which
"Moonlighting" creator Glenn Gordon Caron also wrote for), but the two shows
were ultimately so different that it never really felt like a ripoff. (In
any case, "Remington Steele" itself felt a bit like "Hart To Hart," about
which the less said the better.)
The show's troubled backstage production is the stuff of legend (if Sky 1 viewers think the arrival of new episodes of "The Simpsons" is an event, they don't remember this show's travails - a new episode on ABC was practically a headline story); so self-reverential was "Moonlighting" that the episode "The Straight Poop" was actually about the show's backstage drama, with Rona Barrett (real-life gossip maven) hosting and interviews with Cybill Shepherd's ex Peter Bogdanovich and, amusingly, Pierce "Steele" Brosnan. But though the problems really affected the show to the extent that some episodes had to focus on David and Maddie's secretary Agnes and the agency's new recruit Herbert, it never really became unwatchable.
And at its best, "Moonlighting" was a gem; with dazzling wordplay, real sparks between Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd (although Shepherd never getting recognised by the Emmys was justified), and some occasionally good mysteries to boot. Listing all the highlights the show produced would take too long, but the show deserves its place in history for, among others:
1. "It's A Wonderful Maddie": Maddie finding that in an alternate timeline the Blue Moon Detective Agency has been taken over by Jonathan and Jennifer Hart (Maddie and Max together: "Don't I know you from somewhere?") and that David has wound up marrying Cheryl Tiegs - a much better choice than Cybill Shepherd methinks.
2. "The Murder's In The Mail": For the "man with a mole on his nose" scene with the doorman.
3. What the narrator at the start of one of the episodes called "those silly chases they like to do on 'Moonlighting'."
4. "Atomic Shakespeare": In which a boy who has to miss "Moonlighting" to study "The Taming of the Shrew" leads us into a very amusing reshaping of the yarn ("10 Things I Hate About You" was good, but can that give you a medieval wedding ceremony with "Good Loving"?).
5. The movie-length pilot, complete with the full version of the wonderful Lee Holdridge-Al Jarreau theme song over the credits.
6. "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice." Orson Welles and Bruce Willis. A match made in heaven.
7. "Camille": Especially the climax.
Bruce Willis can look back on this with pride; Cybill Shepherd had nowhere to go but down. And the show's writers (Caron, Jeff Reno and Ron Osborn, Roger Director, Chris Ruppenthal, Debra Frank and Carl Sautter...), I salute you. A true classic.
Too bad the Anselmo case was never solved, though.
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