Thursday, 23 January 2014

Moonlighting — Killer TV no.48


ABC, 1985-89
Cybill Shepherd, Bruce Willis, Allyce Beasley, Curtis Armstrong

'David, we're standing on the deck of the Titanic and you're suggesting songs to the band.' — Maddie

Identikit: Model Maddie Hayes has gone broke, finds she owns a detective agency and teams up with its operative, David Addison and his eccentric receptionist, Agnes.

logosBig hair, big shoulders, cutesy moments, silliness — Moonlighting had all of these, but when it was in the zone, it was a dramedy that messed gloriously with TV conventions and could be a delight. It got off to a wobbly start, with creator Glenn Gordon Caron not wanting to make a boy-girl detective pilot at all, and when Cybill Shepherd pointed out to him that the script was like one of those 1940s screwball comedies, he didn't know what she was talking about. In addition, hour-long comedies were rare for a good reason — keeping the laughs going for more than half an hour on TV was not easy. And then the ABC head honcho was not mad about unknown Bruce Willis as Shepherd's leading man, either. But once on screen together (despite Willis's initial nerves), the chemistry between them sparkled and the repartee fizzed. Moonlighting loved having fun by breaking TV's rules — the stars addressed the camera, bloopers filled the end credits, stars from other shows ventured over (including Pierce Brosnan as Remington Steele), there were Shakespearean pastiches and musical interludes. In fact, to fully enjoy the layers of fun required a little more cultural literacy than most primetime shows needed. But its core charm was Maddie and David, their will-they-won't-they relationship, with their machine-gun dialogue offering a wonderful tribute to Howard Hawks's classic Hollywood comedies, such as His Girl Friday. Maddie and David consummating their relationship, Willis's success in Die Hard and Shepherd's having twins all contributed to the series running out of steam, but it was fun while it lasted.

Music: the theme by Al Jarreau was a chart hit.

Classic episode: It's got to be The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice, a noir pastiche filmed in black and white, with Cybill Shepherd given the chance to belt out some sultry numbers. Honourable mention must go to Atomic Shakespeare, a feminist twist on The Taming of the Shrew and performed, naturally in iambic pentameter.

Watercooler fact: Orson Welles made his last appearance (just days before his death) introducing the season 2 episode The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice. Other guests throughout the series' run included Eva Marie Saint, Tim Robbins, Don King, Demi Moore, The Temptations, Whoopi Goldberg, Peter Bogdanovich, Ray Charles and Pierce Brosnan (as Remington Steele).

Also see: davidandmaddie.com

Moonlighting: The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice on YouTube

NEXT: 47 The Cops

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