Glenn Gordon Caron
Cybill Shepherd……….Madelyn “Maddie” Hayes
Bruce Willis……….David Addison, Jr.
Allyce Beasley……….Agnes DiPesto
Lions Gate Home Entertainment presents a Picturemaker production in association with ABC Circle Films. Written by Glenn Gordon Caron. Produced by Jay Daniel. Total running time: 20 hours. Unrated.
Moonlighting: is it a drama or a comedy? Well, comedies are only supposed to be thirty minutes. But it’s a one-hour show. So it must be a drama, right? If you ask me, this is a comedy with dramatic elements. Not a dramedy. I guess you could call this show a “comma.” Better get Maddie and David and the rest of the Blue Moon Detective Agency to solve that one.
When this show first premiered on ABC, I was two years old about to be three. But as I got older and started to watch TV shows like Silver Spoons, Mr. Belvedere, and Webster. I had no interest in Moonlighting. Maybe it’s because there were no kids on the show; nobody I could relate to. Twenty years after the fact, I have come to enjoy the show.
Working as a screenwriter for the TV show Remington Steele, Glen Gordon Caron was in a creative stupor. He wasn’t cheery. Oh, sure, it was a paycheck, but he wanted something with a little more oomph. When he was hired by ABC to make shows exclusively for the network, Caron had one of those Godfather moments. He was made an offer he couldn’t refuse. But, it wasn’t all champagne dinners and caviar dreams. His first two pilots were rejected. For his third project the executives at ABC gave Caron the “set-up” for the show. They wanted a detective show with a guy and a girl. It was during this period in the 80’s where every network had a detective show. Which is surprising, since detective agencies are few and far between.
Caron had his work cut out for him; but he made it work. When asked if he could have any two actors to play Maddie and David, Caron has always said his ideal cast would be Jessica Lange and Bill Murray. While he was writing the pilot episode and writing the dialogue for Maddie, though, Caron envisioned Cybill Shepherd in the role. He had been a fan of her work since Taxi Driver.
David Addison was the most difficult part to cast. With the success of Caddyshack and Ghostbusters Bill Murray already had a movie career ahead of him. And a movie star never wants to go back to television; that is, unless it is only a cameo spot. Because Hollywood has this unwritten rule about movie stars and TV personalities. Basically, when a movie star goes from the silver screen to the TV screen it is the “Kiss of Death.” The actors who can’t get meaty roles in films must resort to starring in television comedies and dramas. Or, if it is a personality who wants to stay in the limelight (say Paula Abdul), he or she goes the reality route.
Eventually, Bruce Willis was cast in the David Addison role, much to the displeasure of ABC. There’s no way TV viewers would believe the attraction between Cybill and Bruce, executives thought. Maybe it’s a good thing executives aren’t casting directors.
On March 3, 1984, Moonlighting debuted on ABC. In the two-hour pilot we can evaluate the characters with ease. Cybill Shepherd as Madelyn Hayes plays the straight man (or in this case the straight woman). She’s the more sensible of the two. Sure she yells and screams at the sight of a knife in a guy’s back, but she leaves David to break out the one-liners while she rolls her eyes at him. David is an extrovert in the greatest sense. With a receding hairline and his musings on everyday life in the 80’s, David is both arrogant and adorable. This dynamic duo has a way about them. If the roles were reversed this show would fall into the pitfall of early season cancellation. But the witty banter between Maddie and David is hard to surpass – or even match.
Nowadays, it is hard to sustain a show with just two central characters. Especially comedies. Think about it. It’s a bold assumption. There is some validity to my claim, however. Doing a 22, 23, or 24 episode season is a tough racket. Most TV characters need friends (save for Dr. Gregory House). With friends come relationships. Moonlighting is a romantic comedy that disguises itself as a detective show. Since day one it revolved around one relationship. The romanticism was always susceptible because Maddie and David would be close then distant. Today, TV executives use a kiss or a wedding between two characters as a way to stimulate the relationship. It is also a helpful ratings ploy. Glenn Gordon Caron used the sharp dialogue between Maddie and David as vocal foreplay. Never the full Monty but enough to entice. Just goes to show you how much television has changed in the last twenty years.
The premiere established what the show would become. When former fashion model Maddie Hayes goes broke she finds that one of her few remaining liquid assets is ownership of the Blue Moon Detective Agency. So she quickly sashays into the Agency convinced that she will liquidate the enterprise. But alas, she meets the peculiar employees and gets caught up in their strange cases.
One strange employee is the receptionist, Agnes DiPesto (Allyce Beasley). Ms. DiPesto was primarily regulated to lines of rhyme during the first few episodes. Eventually, she would blossom into a scene-stealer herself. Missing from the first two seasons is the appearance of Curtis Armstrong – best known as “Booger” Dawson in Revenge of the Nerds – as Herbert Quentin Viola. When he joins the fray, in Season 3, you sense a sexual tension develop between his character and Ms. DiPesto. That in mind, it may be safe to say that when day turns to night Allyce and Herbert do a little moonlighting of their own.
VIDEO: How does it look?
The show may bring a smile to your face but the video transfer may not. That isn’t to say Glenn Gordon Caron’s creation has the worst quality ever seen on a DVD release; it’s just not as pristine as some of the newer shows. The biggest imperfection is grain. The graininess isn’t so bad that you will strange your eyes while watching the show, though. When you watch the promos for the pilot episode, you’ll release that the show has much better quality; no tracking lines to be seen. Moonlighting is presented in its original fullscreen presentation (1.33:1).
AUDIO: How does it sound?
The soundtrack is remastered in Dolby Digital 2.0. It is serviceable in its attempt at presenting the rapid back-and-forth repartee between the two stars. The only time where the audio track is a little off key, to me at least, is when listening to the commentary tracks. Sometimes you will have to use your remote to adjust the volume accordingly.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Five group commentaries and three featurettes to satisfy your love (or newly discovered love) of the show!!!
Twenty-one years after Maddie and David waltz onto our television screens, this show makes its second debut on DVD. (The first incarnation was the Pilot episode being released by Anchor Bay Entertainment.) Many people will buy this collection simply for the show. The extras are an afterthought. But since I am a new viewer to this program, I found the features to be helpful in understanding the show’s concept. So, I hope others will to.
Starting with Disc 1, we begin with Not Just a Day Job, The Story of Moonlighting, Part 1. The booklet included in this collection is a little misleading. It says the feature is a half-hour long. Not so. It runs a little less than 15 minutes. The featurette acts like a retrospective on what it took to get the show off the ground. The behind-the-scenes look at Moonlighting includes newly recorded interviews with the cast and crew. Also on the disc you can see how the pilot episode was advertised by watching six promos. Not very creative, but they get the point across.
Disc 6 includes the second part of the Moonlighting featurette. Entitled Inside the Blue Moon Detective Agency, The Story of Moonlighting, Part 2, this extra explores the unpredictable nature of the show. At times the show was unable to meet all its airdates. Sometimes it was finished and in the can for satellite broadcast within 30 minutes of the show’s airtime. The featurette also spends some time on the making of “The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice” episode. A black-and-white technical achievement much to the displeasure of ABC executives. They wanted the show shot in color and then drain the color to have only black and white colors present. Glenn Gordon Caron would have none of that. He shot the episode in black-and-white and got the assistance from MGM to transfer it for airplay. That’s what I call resourcefulness.
Also included with Disc 6 is an 11-minute feature about The Moonlighting Phenomenon. Cast, crew, and fan club members dish up their two cents about the show. It is revealed that the show is a screwball romance, not a detective show. Women would see the show from Maddie’s point-of-view; the men related to David because he was a man’s man a guy’s guy. Moonlighting as a mid-season replacement is really a blessing in disguise. In the beginning, the show under performed in the Nielsen ratings. But summer came and reruns helped Moonlighting gain an audience.
It’s amazing how executives can underestimate a show. Take Cheers, for instance. Can you imagine this show ever being on the chopping block? But it was. For the first two or three years it was near the dreaded “axe”. Thankfully, shows like 24 and Veronica Mars have the creativity to release their shows on DVD before the next season begins.
Audio commentaries are made available for five episodes on discs 1, 3, and 5. The first commentary is for the “Pilot” episode with Glenn Gordon Caron, director Robert Butler, editor Artie Mandelberg, and producer Jay Daniel participating. If you are interested in knowing what episodes Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd contribute, you can hear them in “My Fair David” and “Every Daughter’s Father is a Virgin,” respectively.
Listening to Bruce Willis and director Will Mackenzie during the episode there is a laid back sensibility. Interesting comments are few and far between. Sometimes the show goes without any discussion by the participants. For more information on the show, listen to Glenn Gordon Caron.
Overall, the special features for the first two seasons of Moonlighting deliver, even though the set is not overloaded with featurettes and other extras. But there is just enough material here to hold your interest.