Moonlighting is an American dramedy television series created by Glenn Gordon Caron and starring Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd as private detectives which is a mixture of drama, comedy and romance that is now considered one of the greatest spoofs of television detective shows.
The show's theme song is performed by popular jazz singer Al Jarreau and became a minor hit. The show made Willis a major star while reviving Shepherd's acting career.
The series aired in the USA on ABC from 3 March, 1985 to 14 May, 1989. There are 66 hour-long episodes in five seasons.
Moonlighting originally aired in South Africa on the old SABC channels in the late eighties and early nineties. It later aired on TopTV's Fox Entertainment channel. See "Seasons" below for seasonal broadcast dates and times.
The series revolved around cases investigated by Blue Moon Investigations and its two partners, Madelyn 'Maddie' Hayes and David Addison.
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 show's storyline begins with the reversal of fortune of a former model, Hayes, 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 a detective agency helmed by the devil-may-care Addison.
In the pilot episode, he convinces Hayes to keep the business and run it in partnership with him.
The show also starred Allyce Beasley as Agnes DiPesto, the firm's quirky receptionist who regularly answered the phone in rhyming couplets.
In later seasons, Curtis Armstrong - familiar as Booger from the Revenge of the Nerds films - joined the cast as Herbert Viola, a temporary employee turned Blue Moon investigator and a 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" a la Remington Steele.
The tone of the series itself was left up to the production staff to come up with, resulting in Moonlighting becoming one of the first successful type of "dramedy" themed television series.
The show made use of fast-paced, overlapping dialogue between the two leads hearkening back to classic screwball comedy films, such as those of director Howard Hawks, but which also led to chronic delays in writing production during the series' five-year, off and on run.
One of the innovations Moonlighting brought to television was a technique called breaking the fourth wall. Fourth wall refers to the conventions separating the contrivances of a television program and its real audience, usually meaning that, at least within the confines of the show, the events and characters being presented are "real."
Moonlighting broke with this convention, with many episodes including dialogue which made direct references to the scriptwriters, the audience, the network, or the series itself.
Although a few TV series had broken the "fourth wall" before, usually by airing a short segment at the beginning or the end of an episode so the stars could wish the audience a Merry Christmas or announce a milestone episode, Moonlighting was the first television series to weave self-referential dialogue directly into the show itself.
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 a client who hired them to unsuccessfully find out if his wife was cheating on him.
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 14 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 colour so that the network wouldn't later use the colour 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 Taming of the Shrew, complete with Shakespearean costumes.
The episode was wrapped by segments featuring a teenager imagining the episode's proceedings because his mother forced him to do his homework instead of watching Moonlighting.
Also, 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 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 16 episodes per season, and never achieving the standard 22."
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 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 can't get along.
In the end, Rona gets them to apologise to one another, and promised the viewers that there was a 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 collarbone.
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
Although Moonlighting was a hit in the Nielsen ratings in its early seasons, the show's ratings began to decline after the season three finale, which infamously had Maddie and David consummate their relationship after three years of romantic tension.
Moonlighting is popularly cited as an example of a television show jumping the shark due to the two sleeping together, which many felt destroyed the sexual tension that drove the show.
However many fans of the show and an equal number of critics dismiss the "They Did It" notion that having Maddie and David sleep together led to the show's decline. Instead they argue that the extremely subpar fourth season was what brought the show into an irreversible decline.
The biggest complaint deals with the way that the writers dealt with Shepherd's real life pregnancy, which was through a controversial decision to move Maddie away from David and have her visit her parents in Chicago for the bulk of the season.
This robbed fans out of seeing Maddie and David interacting, which was at the heart of the show's appeal and robbed the show of its creative spark in the process.
When Maddie returned to Los Angeles near the end of the season, the writers tried to recreate the tension between Maddie and David by having Maddie spontaneously marry a man named Walter Bishop (Dennis Dugan), whom she met on the train back to LA.
This was widely criticised 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.
In the 1988–1989 TV season, the show's ratings declined precipitously. 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 as the world of Moonlighting was slowly dismantled and another executive lectured them on the perils of losing their audience and how fragile romance is.
The final scene was a message stating that Blue Moon Investigations ceased operations on the May 14, 1989 — and the Anselmo case was never solved (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).
In a possible acknowledgement of the role the Walter Bishop storyline played in the show's decline, the network executive was played by Dennis Dugan, the same actor who had played Bishop, and was listed in the credits as Walter Bishop rather than by his real name.
(This information is only for the run of the show on Fox Entertainment - original broadcast dates are not available.)
Season 1 (5 episodes)
Premiere: 18 May 2010 | Finale: 22 May 2010 | Daily, 15h45
Season 2 (18 episodes)
Premiere: 23 May 2010 | Finale: 9 June 2010 | Daily, 15h45
Season 3 (15 episodes)
Premiere: 10 June 2010 | Finale: 24 June 2010 | Daily, 15h45
Season 4 (14 episodes)
Premiere: 25 June 2010 | Finale: 8 July 2010 | Daily, 15h45