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 not.
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.
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.
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 Miami 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?
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 show.
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.