There used to be a game my friends and I would play that goes like this:
Think of two single sentence description of a man and a woman, then
follow that with "They're both detectives." No matter what the first
two sentences are, it will sound like a TV detective show. Try it
out: "He's an overweight out of work circus clown. She's
the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. They're both detectives."
I would almost be willing to bet that Moonlighting creator Glenn
Gordon Caron was playing that game when he came up with the idea for this
show: "She's a famous fashion model whose lost all of her money.
He's a sly schemer who really needs a job. They are both detectives."
The difference is that Caron was able to turn this standard guy-girl detective
team plot on its ear and created a wonderfully funny and different type
of TV show: Moonlighting. Now the first two seasons of this
ground breaking series are available on DVD.
Maddie Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) was a very popular, and very well paid,
model until she'd earned enough money and retired at a very young age.
She spent her days lounging around her large house in Bel Aire and living
a life of leisure. That is until she returned from a cruise and discovered
that her business manager had drained her bank accounts, sold all of her
liquid assets and stolen all of her money. The only thing she was
left with were several small businesses that she had for tax write-offs,
and they were all losing money. So she went around and informed the
managers of these businesses that she was liquidating them.
That's where she meets David Addison (Bruce Willis). He's running
a detective agency that she owns. His sexist, arrogant attitude ensures
that she takes an instant dislike to him, but he won't accept that the
agency has been closed. He calls her and follows her around trying
to convince her that the agency is worth keeping. When a man steps
out of an elevator, hands Maddie a watch, and then falls over dead, Maddie
finds herself in the middle of an investigation whether she likes it or
Naturally, they do keep the agency open and decide to run it together.
The only problem is that David and Maddie get along like oil and water.
They just don't see things the same way. David always has an angle,
and Maddie wants to do things on the up and up. So they argue and
fight a lot, but underneath it all, they do respect each other. As
a matter of fact, it might be more than respect. Could these two
opposites really be falling for each other?
Maddie: I hope you understand it's nothing
personal. I just hate you.
David: Ya know, I respect you so
much for telling me that.
The humor of the show comes from the interaction of Maddie and David.
They hate each other, but they also need each other for the Blue Moon Detective
Agency to work. The dialog was very fast paced, with Maddie and David
frequently interrupting and talking over each other. The banter between
the two leads is reminiscent of His Girl Friday with barbed phrases
being thrown about throughout the series with devastatingly comic effect.
This speed reading of the script may have been confusing to some people
at first, but it gave the show a kinetic and dynamic feel. It also
made up for the plots which, truth be told, were never that engaging.
The reason that this show works as well as it does, is because you like
both of the characters, and they are often both right when they argue.
(As well as both being wrong.) They just see things form a different
perspective, and the audience can see that, even if the characters can't.
Neither of them are the bad guy of the show, they just end up butting heads.
Another thing that makes the show so good is the density of the jokes.
You don't catch everything the first time through. Even after watching
an episode a couple of times, there will be new things that you find.
This is a show with a lot of repeat play value.
Maddie: Get you hand off of my behind.
David: Is that your behind?
Is that my hand? That's the thing I like about this place, you learn
something new every day.
Maddie: Would you get serious!
David: Maddie, I just had my hand on your
behind. If I get any more serious they're gonna move us to cable.
Moonlighting was a very audacious show too . Even beyond the rapid
dialog, (which was something you just didn't do back then) there was a
lot about the show that was edgy. They filmed a majority of an episode
in black and white, they would have David and Maddie talk to the camera,
and they had Orson Welles give a short preface to an episode (which aired
for the first time just days after he died.) You just don't call
up Orson Welles and ask him to be in a TV show. But the creative
staff of Moonlighting did. They didn't let convention stand in their
way, and the show was the better for it.
As for the cast, it was very good. As the show went on the gossip
papers were full of stories about Cybill Shepherd fighting with Bruce Willis
and creator Glenn Gordon Caron, but whatever truth those rumor might hold,
she was perfect for the role. Shepherd had been a fashion model, and
had a confidence and grace that was prefect for the role. She also
looked at ease and natural (not to mention stunningly beautiful) wearing
incredibly expensive clothes and furs which she often did in the show.
Aside from her looks and manner, she could also keep up with the Willis,
throwing out quips just as rapidly as he did. She, above all else,
made the show in my opinion.
Bruce Willis was good in his breakout role. He hadn't had any
other real work before this show (though he did appear in an episode of
Vice after he worked on Moonlighting, thought the Vice
episode was aired first) but does a very credible job. He comes across
as a party frat boy, but he also made David Addison a three dimensional
character. One who is jealous of his brother and isn't sure how he
feels about Maddie. He's able to make the sexual tension between
David and Maddie feel almost palpable at times, and then in the next scene
make you wonder if he wasn't just joking.
David: You always this much fun this early
in the morning?
Maddie: You're gonna die wondering.
The plots themselves were often standard mystery fare, things you'd
find happening on Murder, She Wrote or some other detective show.
The mysteries themselves weren't the appeal of the show, it was a case
of the journey being more fun than the destination.
That wasn't always the case however. Every once in a while they'd
do something different and those were the best shows. The parody
of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew (which is not included in
this set...you'll have to wait for the next season set for that gem) was
excellent, but the best show, arguably, in the series is The Dream Sequence
Always Rings Twice (which is included.) In that episode Maddie
and David hear that about an unsolved case that happened decades ago, and
they come to different opinions about what really happened. The case
involves a love triangle that ended in murder. David thinks the woman
was the guilty party, and Maddie thinks the man is. As they go to
sleep, each of them has a dream where they envision themselves, and their
partner, as the suspects in the case. Filmed in black and white,
this was just a wonderful episode. Each dream was filmed in a different
style of movie, which was a stroke of genius. This is one of those
shows where everything just falls into place and really works well.
This was a favorite show of mine when it first aired in the mid-80's.
Seeing it again for the first time since it left the networks I found it
still funny, but not as fresh. Maybe it's because I know what will
happen eventually with the show (having watched it through the wretched
fourth season) or maybe it's because there have been similar styled shows
since this left the air, but it comes across as a bit trite and not as
cutting edge as it was when it first aired. That isn't to say it
isn't still a lot of fun, it is. The interaction between Maddie and
David is still as invigorating as it ever was, and though it isn't as fresh.
This is still a very enjoyable show. (Especially when you can watch
it without all the production delays that plagued the series.)
This set include the pilot and first 23 episodes of the series on six DVDs.
The two channel mono (the show was never in stereo) mix was good for
a show of this age. The sound was clean and the fast dialog came
through loud and clear. The one thing that I was really pleased to
see is that they kept all of the original music to the show (as best as
I could determine.) Not only the songs that are an integral part
of the show, such as when David Sing Money (That's What I Want)
but also the background music. The Rolling Stone's You Can't Always
Get What You Want and the O'Jay's For the Love of Money are
included along with many more.
The full frame image looks very good too. The colors are clear
and not faded and the details are fine. The show doesn't have that
old look to it that shows from the 80's sometimes have, where everything
looks a little dull. On the digital side, things look good also.
There weren't any major compression artifacts to mar the picture.
A nice looking set of shows.
There are a number of good extras included with this disc. The
best bonus item is a two part featurette: The Story of Moonlighting.
This half hour (total) show gives a fairly thorough behind the scenes look
at the show. Glenn Gordon Caron, the creator/executive producer/writer
of the show along with some of the other creative staff as well as the
Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepard talk about the genesis of the show, the
way it was shot, the fights with the network, how much the show cost, and
the many delays that occurred. This was an excellent look at the
The Moonlighting Phenomenon is an 11-minute piece about who popular
the show was. This wasn't nearly as exciting as the other featurette.
This mainly talked with critics and fan club members about how much fun
it was to watch the show.
There are also two minutes worth of Moonlighting Pilot Promos
in addition to several commentary tracks. The commentaries are on
the following episodes:
The Pilot episode with writer/creator Glenn Gordon Caron, Director
Robert Butler, Editor Artie Mandelgerg and Producer Jay Daniel:
This was an interesting commentary. They talk about how the show
came about, as well as the creative team's first meeting with Cybil Shepard.
They talk about the shooting of the pilot as well as the sequences that
the network had problems with. There are several amusing anecdotes,
but my favorite is about Bruce Willis: the first time they filmed the fight
scene, Bruce was making sound effects every time he threw a punch.
The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice by director Peter Werner,
Co-writer Debra Frank, and creator Glenn Gordon Caron: another fun and
interesting commentary. They talk about the script and how unusual
it was to film a TV show in black and white, as well as unfilmed sequences.
This commentary also discusses all of the Emmy nominations the show received
this year (16) and the fact that they only won one for "best editing".
My Fair David with Director Will Mackenzie and Actor Bruce Willis:
This wasn't the best commentary. They really didn't have a lot to
say, and there was a lot of dead air. (I mean A LOT of dead air.)
'Twas the Episode Before Christmas with director Peter Werner,
producer Jay Daniel and actor Allyce Beasley (Miss DiPesto). This
was another good commentary with a lot of anecdotes about creating the
show, the difference between filming a sitcom and a show like Moonlighting,
why the show was shot the way it was. They give interesting information
throughout the show.
Lastly. Cybill Shepherd has a commentary track on Every Daughter's Father is a Virgin.
This is a good show that has a lot of replay value. Watching it
now, nearly 20 years after it debuted, Moonlighting isn't as audacious
and edgy as it was when it was first on, but it is still a lot of fun.
Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd still have a lot of screen chemistry and
their quick and witty banter is still very entertaining. It's great to
be able to see the show again, especially with out the production delays
that plagued the show. Recommended.