Moonlighting (TV series)
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Moonlighting is an American television series that first aired on ABC from March 3, 1985 to May 14, 1989 with a total of 67 episodes. The show starred Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd as private detectives and was a mixture of drama, comedy and romance that is considered a classic spoof of television detective shows.
The show's theme song was performed by popular jazz singer Al Jarreau and became a hit. The show is also credited with making Willis a major star while providing Shepherd with a critical success after a string of lackluster projects.
The series revolved around cases investigated by Blue Moon Detective Agency and its two partners, Madeline "Maddie" Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) and David Addison (Bruce Willis). The show, with a mix of mystery, sharp dialogue and sexual tension between its two leads, introduced Bruce Willis to the world and brought Cybill Shepherd back into the spotlight after nearly a decade-long absence. The characters were first introduced in a two-hour TV movie which preceded the show.
The show's storyline begins with the reversal of fortune of Maddie Hayes, a former model who finds herself bankrupt after her accountant embezzles all of her liquid assets. She is left saddled with several failing businesses formerly maintained as tax write-offs, one of which is the City of Angels Detective Agency, helmed by the carefree David Addison. Between the pilot episode and first episode, Addison persuades Hayes to keep the business and run it in partnership. The detective agency is renamed "Blue Moon Investigations" because Hayes was most famous as the spokesmodel for the (fictitious) Blue Moon Shampoo company. In many episodes, she was recognized as "The Blue Moon Shampoo Girl," if not by name.
The show also starred Allyce Beasley as Agnes DiPesto, the firm's quirky receptionist who regularly answered the phone in rhyming couplets, a la Dr. Seuss. In later seasons, Curtis Armstrong — familiar as the character Booger from the Revenge of the Nerds films — joined the cast as Herbert Viola, a temporary employee turned Blue Moon investigator and love interest for Agnes.
The series was created by one of the producers of the similar Remington Steele with the network explicitly wanting a "boy/girl detective show" à la Remington Steele. The tone of the series was left up to the production staff, resulting in Moonlighting becoming one of the first successful TV "dramedies"— dramatic-comedy, a style of television and movies in which there is an equal, or nearly equal balance of humor and serious content. The show made use of fast-paced, overlapping dialogue between the two leads, harkening back to classic screwball comedy films such as those of director Howard Hawks, but which also led to chronic script delays during production in the series' five-year, off-and-on run.
Breaking the fourth wall
Moonlighting frequently broke the fourth wall, with many episodes including dialogue which made direct references to the scriptwriters, the audience, the network, or the series itself. (For example, when a woman is trying to commit suicide by jumping into a bathtub with a television with the 3 stooges showing, Addison says, " The Stooges, are you nuts? The network'll never let you do that, lady!") Variations of this technique had been used previously in television programs such as Burns and Allen and The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, although Moonlighting was the first scripted television series to weave self-referential dialogue directly into the show's plot.
Also unlike the earlier shows, Moonlighting sometimes broke the fourth wall in much more involved and complex ways. Cold opens sometimes featured Shepherd and Willis (in character as Maddie Hayes and David Addison), other actors, viewers or TV critics directly addressing the audience about the show's production itself. In some other episodes, the plot suddenly transitioned into extended sequences which involved crew dismantling or changing the sets, characters wandering off the set into other parts of the studio, production crew stepping into the scene as a deus ex machina (e.g. a propmaster suddenly walking into the scene and taking the villain's gun away), or guest actors dropping character and referring to each other by their real names. However, other than in stand-alone openings, the main actors never stepped out of character during the episodes.
The series also embraced fantasy; in season two, the show aired "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice", an episode that featured two lengthy and elaborately produced black and white dream sequences. The episode was about a murder that had occurred in the 1940s that David and Maddie are told about by the inheritor of the then-famous nightclub where the murder had taken place. Maddie and David feud over the details of the crime, which involve a man and woman who were executed for the death of the woman's husband, with both claiming the other was the real killer and had implicated the other out of spite. After a fourteen minute set-up sequence, the show switched to two black and white dream sequences where the two dreamed their version of how the murder took place. The two sequences were filmed on different black and white film stock so that they would look like true period films. (On the commentary on the DVD it is said that they used black and white film instead of color so that the network wouldn't later use the color film).
ABC was still displeased with the episode, however, and fearing fan reaction to a popular show being shown in black and white, demanded a disclaimer be made at the beginning of the episode to inform viewers of the "black and white" gimmick for the episode. The show's producers hired Orson Welles to deliver the introduction, which aired a few days after the actor's death.
Another famous fantasy episode was "Atomic Shakespeare", which featured the cast performing a variation of The Taming of the Shrew, with David in the role of Petruchio, Maddie as Katharina, Agnes as Bianca and Herbert as Lucentio. The episode featured Shakespearean costumes and mixed the Shakespearean plot with humorous anachronisms and variations on Moonlighting's own running gags—including David riding in as Petruchio on a horse with BMW logos embroidered on its saddle blanket and repeatedly launching into the wrong Shakespearean soliloquy until the rest of the cast corrects him on which play he's in, and the Blue Moon office itself serving as Petruchio and Katharina's estate. The episode was wrapped by segments featuring a boy imagining the episode's proceedings because his mother forced him to do his homework instead of watching Moonlighting, which the mother described as "That show about two detectives? A man and a woman? And they argue all the time and all they really want to do is sleep together? Sounds like trash to me!"
In addition, the show mocked its connection to the popular Remington Steele series by having Pierce Brosnan hop networks and make a cameo appearance as Steele in one episode. The show also acknowledged Hart to Hart as an influence: in the episode "It's a Wonderful Job", based on the film It's a Wonderful Life, Maddie's guardian angel showed her an alternate reality in which Jonathan and Jennifer Hart from the earlier series had taken over Blue Moon's lease. Although Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers did not appear in the episode, Lionel Stander reprised his role as the Harts' assistant Max.
Both Shepherd and Willis sang musical numbers over the course of the show. In "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice", Shepherd performed both "Blue Moon" in Maddie's dream sequence and The Soft Winds' "I Told Ya I Love Ya, Now Get Out!" in David's, while in "Atomic Shakespeare", Willis sings The Young Rascals' "Good Lovin'". Willis also frequently broke into shorter snippets of Motown songs. "Good Lovin'", "Blue Moon" and "I Told Ya I Love Ya..." appeared on the show's soundtrack album.
Glenn Gordon Caron had to fight with ABC to put Willis in the lead role. having already signed Shepherd for both the pilot and series. Caron claims he tested Willis about a third of the way through testing over 2,000 actors, knew "this was the guy" immediately, and had to fight through twice as many more acting tests and readings while arguing with ABC executives before receiving (initial) conditional authorization to cast Willis in the pilot. ABC, according to Caron, did not feel that anyone viewing would credit there could possibly be any "believable" sexual tension between Shepherd and Willis.
Caron was at the same time developing a one hour dramedy, College Blues, and was interested in casting Willis in the lead role of a "cool" college dean balancing his love life, academic career and managing the antics of his old fraternity (shades of Animal House), but Willis was decidedly more interested in Moonlighting. Caron then tried to snag John Ritter for the lead role in College Blues, but Ritter had already committed to Hooperman, thus killing the series.
The show was plagued by production problems throughout its run, and it became notorious for airing reruns when new episodes had not been completed in time for broadcast. The first two seasons of Moonlighting focused almost entirely on the two main characters, having them appear in almost every scene. According to Cybill Shepherd,
"I left home at 5 A.M. each day. Moonlighting scripts were close to a hundred pages, half again as long as the average one-hour television series. Almost from the moment the cameras started rolling we were behind schedule, sometimes completing as few as sixteen episodes per season, and never achieving the standard twenty-two."
Glenn Gordon Caron partly blamed Cybill Shepherd for production problems:
"I don't mean to paint her as the sole bearer of responsibility for the discord. But if I said to you, 'You're going to have a great new job – it's a life-defining job – but you're going to work 14–15 hours a day, and by the way, you'll never know what hours those are – sometimes you'll start at noon and work until 3 a.m., other times you won't know when or where it will be [until the last minute].' It can be very difficult, it requires an amazing amount of stamina. It's easier to do if you're still reaching for the stars, it's a lot tougher if you're already a star, if you've already reached the top of the mountain."Producer Jay Daniel talked about the difficulties between the costars in the later seasons:
"Well, I was the guy that more often than not would be the one that would go into the lions den when they were having disagreements. I'd sort of be the referee, try to resolve it so that we could get back to work. So there was that side of it. Everybody knows there was friction between the two of them on the stage. In the beginning, Bruce was just a guy’s guy. Let's just say he evolved. Over the years, he went from being the crew's best friend and just being grateful for the work and all of that to realizing that he was going to be a movie star and wanting to move on. Part of that was because of his strained relationship with Cybill. That sometimes made the set a very unpleasant place to be. Cybill – I got along with her very well at times, other times I’d have to be the one who said you have to come out of the trailer and go to work. In fairness to her, she was in the makeup chair at six thirty in the morning with pages of dialogue she hadn’t seen before, she'd work very long hours, and then be back in the makeup chair at six thirty the next morning."
The delays became so great that even ABC mocked the lateness with an ad campaign showing network executives waiting impatiently for the arrival of new episodes at ABC's corporate headquarters. One episode featured television critic Jeff Jarvis in an introduction, sarcastically reminding viewers what was going on with the show's plot since it had been so long since the last new episode.
The season three clipshow episode "The Straight Poop" also made fun of the episode delays by having Hollywood columnist Rona Barrett drop by the Blue Moon Detective Agency to figure out why David and Maddie couldn't get along, as the premise to set up the clips from earlier episodes. In the end, Rona convinced them to apologize to one another, and promised the viewers that there would be an all-new episode the following week.
Even with the introduction of co-stars to relieve the pressure on Shepherd and Willis, a number of other factors caused problems: writing delays, Shepherd's real-life pregnancy and a skiing accident in which Willis broke his clavicle. To counter these problems, with the fourth season, the writers began to focus more of the show's attention on supporting cast members Agnes and Herbert, writing several episodes focusing on the two so that the show would be able to have episodes ready for airing.
Ratings and decline
During its early seasons, Moonlighting was a hit in the Nielsen ratings (and with critics and industry insiders—its second season garnered 16 Emmy nominations).
The show's ratings decline is popularly attributed to Episode #14 of Season 3, "I Am Curious... Maddie", which infamously had Maddie and David consummate their relationship after two and a half years of romantic tension. In commentaries on the third season DVD set, however, Glenn Gordon Caron, stated that he didn't feel the event led to the show's decline, but that a number of factors led to the series' decline and eventual cancellation — and in fact, while the show experienced a slight ratings decline in its fourth season, it remained in the Nielsen Top 20.
In the fourth season, however, Willis and Shepherd had little screen time together. Jay Daniel explained that, "we had to do episodes where there was no Cybill. She was off having twins. Her scenes were shot early, early on and then you had to integrate them with scenes shot weeks later. You were locked into what those scenes were because of what had already been shot with Cybill." Bruce Willis was also making Die Hard during this period. When that movie became a box office success, a movie career beckoned and his desire to continue in a weekly series waned. In a series that depended on the chemistry between the two main stars, not having them together for the bulk of the fourth season hurt the ratings.
The series lost Glenn Gordon Caron as executive producer and head writer when he left the show over difficulties with the production: "I don't think Cybill understood how hard the workload was going to be. A situation arose with her, and at a certain point it became clear that… umm…suffice it to say I wasn't there for the last year and a half."
When Maddie returned to Los Angeles near the end of the fourth season, the writers tried to recreate the tension between Maddie and David by having Maddie spontaneously marry a man named Walter Bishop (Dennis Dugan) within a few hours of meeting him on the train back to LA. This was widely criticized as a cynical and poorly executed plot development, in terms of artificially creating a love triangle storyline to try and drive the conflict of the series, which led to an even further ratings decline.
Top 30 or better
- Season 1 (1985): Not in top 30
- Season 2 (1985–86): #24 (15.5 million viewers)
- Season 3 (1986–87): #9 (19.5 million viewers)
- Season 4 (1987–88): #12 (16.2 million viewers)
- Season 5 (1988–89): Not in top 30
Neither of the principal stars was vested in the last season of the show. Bruce Willis, fresh from his Die Hard success, wanted to make movies. Cybill Shepherd, having just given birth to twins, had grown tired of the long, grueling production days and was ready for the series to end.
In the 1988–1989 TV season, the show's ratings declined precipitously. The March to August 1988 Writers Guild of America strike cancelled plans for the 1987–1988 Moonlighting season finale to be filmed and aired on TV in 3-D in a deal with Coca-Cola (though Coca-Cola did a 3-D TV deal with NBC's broadcast of the halftime show of Super Bowl XXIII in January 1989 instead) and delayed the broadcast of the first new episode until December 6, 1988. The series went on hiatus during the February sweeps, and returned on Sunday evenings in the spring of 1989. Six more episodes aired before the series was cancelled in May of that year.
In keeping with the show's tradition of "breaking the fourth wall", the last episode (fittingly titled "Lunar Eclipse") featured Maddie and David returning from Bert and Agnes' wedding to find the Blue Moon sets being taken away, and an ABC network executive waiting to tell them that the show had been cancelled. The characters then raced through the studio lot in search of a television producer named Cy, as the world of Moonlighting was slowly dismantled.
When they found Cy, he was screening a print of "In 'N Outlaws", the episode of Moonlighting that had aired two weeks earlier. Once informed of the problem, Cy lectured David and Maddie on the perils of losing their audience and the fragility of romance. Cy was played by Dennis Dugan, the same actor who had played Walter Bishop in Maddie's marriage storyline — however, Dugan was also the director of the episode, so his acting credit was listed as "Walter Bishop".
The final scene was a message stating that "Blue Moon Investigations ceased operations on May 14, 1989 — and the Anselmo Case was never solved...and remains a mystery to this day."
As the show had not produced enough episodes to gain a syndication contract, following its original run it was not widely seen until its DVD release, although it occasionally appeared on cable channels (including Lifetime and Bravo in the U.S., and W in Canada) in the 1990s and 2000s. Bravo airings often featured new claymation promos with Maddie and David using original audio clips from the series. The "Atomic Shakespeare" episode aired on Nick at Nite in 2005 as part of the network's 20th anniversary celebration. The 1985 ABC Tuesday night line-up was honored with reruns of Who's the Boss?, Growing Pains and Moonlighting, although that episode was from 1987. BBC initially carried the show in the UK, though it has since November, 2009 been shown on CBS Drama. Between 2005 and 2008 the show was frequently shown on the now defunct channel ABC1
In addition to the primary cast, several notable guest stars appeared on the series in one-time or recurring roles:
- Tim Robbins appeared in the Season 1 episode "Gunfight at the So-So Corral" as a hitman.
- Charles Rocket played Richard Addison, David's brother.
- Paul Sorvino played David and Richard Addison's father.
- Eva Marie Saint and Robert Webber played Virginia and Alexander Hayes, Maddie's parents.
- Imogene Coca appeared in one episode as Clara DiPesto, Agnes's mother.
- Mark Harmon appeared in Season 3 as Sam Crawford, a romantic interest for Maddie whose rivalry with David ultimately led to David and Maddie consummating their sexual tension.
- Brooke Adams appeared in Season 4 as Terri Knowles, a single mother for whom David volunteered as a Lamaze partner in preparation for the birth of Maddie's child.
- Virginia Madsen appeared in Season 5 as Annie Charnock, Maddie's cousin and a short-term romantic interest for David.
- Dana Delany appeared as an ex-girlfriend of David's in the Season 2 episode "Knowing Her".
- R.H. Thomson appeared in Season 4 as Dr. Steve Hill, Maddie's gynecologist during her pregnancy.
- Whoopi Goldberg and Judd Nelson appeared in the Season 2 episode "Camille."
- Timothy Leary appeared in Season 5's "Lunar Eclipse" as a minister (named Wynn Deaupayne) who marries Bert and Agnes.
- Sandahl Bergman appeared in a "dream" dance sequence in "Big Man On Mulberry Street."
- Dan Lauria appeared in the Season 2 episode "Portrait of Maddie."
- Pierce Brosnan appeared in the Season 3 episode "The Straight Poop."
- Peter Bogdanovich, who directed The Last Picture Show in 1971, starring Cybill Shepherd, also appeared in the episode "The Straight Poop."
- Rona Barrett had a large role in the episode "The Straight Poop," where she acts as a mediator in Maddie and David's turbulent professional (yet largely personal) relationship.
- Donna Dixon, Dan Aykroyd's wife, appeared as a seductive murderer and "voice of reason" to David when he landed in jail in Season 3's "Blonde on Blonde."
- Randall 'Tex' Cobb appeared as "Big Guy in Gas Station" in Season 3's "Sam & Dave."
- Demi Moore, Bruce Willis's wife at the time, is the woman with the magic attraction to David in the elevator in Season 5's "When Girls Collide."
- Don King appeared as himself in Season 3's "Symphony in Knocked Flat"
- Amanda Plummer appeared as Jacqueline "Jackie" Wilbourne in Season 4's "Take a Left at the Altar"
Lions Gate Entertainment has released all 5 seasons of Moonlighting on DVD in Region 1.
|DVD Name||Ep #||Release Date||Additional Information|
|Seasons 1 & 2||25||May 31, 2005|
|Season 3||15||February 7, 2006|
|Season 4||14||September 12, 2006|
|Season 5||13||March 6, 2007|
All five seasons have also been released on Region 2 in the UK by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Seasons one and two are included as a single box set, whilst the other seasons have been released individually.
Riptide, a once-popular detective series whose ratings had declined to the point of cancellation after airing against Moonlighting in the 1985–86 television season, aired an episode (the show's second-last) in 1986, in which that show's detectives acted as mentors to "Rosalind Grant" (Annette McCarthy) and "Cary Russell" (Richard Greene), the bickering stars of a television detective show pilot. Although their names were an allusion to Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, the characters were written as parodies of Shepherd and Willis, even adopting some of their real mannerisms and clothing styles, and their dialogue contained many nods, both obvious and subtle, to Moonlighting's writing style.
The episode was explicitly promoted by NBC (Riptide's network) as a Moonlighting parody, and was publicized as such widely enough that Riptide's producers felt obliged to clarify that they liked Moonlighting and intended the episode as an homage.
An episode of Alvin and the Chipmunks did a parody called Dreamlighting, featuring Brittany as "Bratty Hayes" and Alvin as "David Alvinson".
- ^ 
- ^ John Stanley. "Why 'Moonlighting' has ratings magic," The San Francisco Chronicle, November 17, 1985, Sunday Datebook, page 47:"Cybill Shepherd was finally living down the old Hollywood saw that the only reason she had made it into the business was because she had once been Peter Bogdanovich's girl. After years of empty, meaningless roles, she was doing something good, something that tapped her charms and natural talent."
- ^ Cliff Terry. "Why 'Moonlighting' is suddenly the talk of TV," Chicago Tribune, November 19, 1985, Tempo section, page 5: "Shepherd ... deserves the Comeback of the Year Award for rebounding from such career disasters as "Daisy Miller," "At Long Last Love" and Peter Bogdanovich ..."
- ^ a b c d A&E Biography Channel, "Bruce Willis" (2005), air date: 2008-06-27 (rebroadcast), 10-12pm EDST
- ^ Shepherd, Cybill (2000). Cybill Disobedience. Random House. pp. 206. ISBN 0-09-187807-1. .
- ^ http://featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com/entertainment_tv/moonlighting/index.html.
- ^ a b http://moonlighting21.com/jay_daniel.html.
- ^ http://nowandagain.tktv.net/review23.htm.
- ^ A writers' strike nobody wants – Los Angeles Times
- ^ Moonlighting Episode Guide: "Lunar Eclipse"
- ^ The Anselmo case was a running gag which had been mentioned in several episodes without any further information being given as to what it actually was. Mostly it served as David's excuse for not being where he was supposed to be. In one episode David set himself up in a compromising situation, apparently with another woman, by telling the woman, a Blue Moon employee, that it was for the Anselmo case.
- ^ "Spoofing Around on Riptide, Los Angeles Times, April 16, 1986.
- Encyclopedia of Television
- DavidandMaddie.com: A Moonlighting fansite
- Virtual Moonlighting
- Moonlighting Strangers Magazine
- Moonlighting – Russian site about The TV series Moonlighting
- Moonlighting at Stage 1
- Moonlighting at Ociolog.net
- Moonlighting at Allmovie
- Moonlighting at the Internet Movie Database
- Moonlighting at TV.com
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