Moonlighting


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

Tabs

About

Moonlighting, an hour-long episodic series which aired on ABC from 1985 to 1989, signaled the emergence of dramedy as a television genre. Although the series finished its first season in a ratings tie for 20th place, it rose to 9th place in 1986-87 and tied for 12th place the following season, (in which only 14 new episodes were made). The innovative qualities of the program, however, were marked by its nomination, for the first time in the 50-year history of the Directors Guild of America, for both Best Drama and Best Comedy.

Produced by Glen Gordon Caron, Moonlighting featured high-fashion model, Maddie Hayes (played by real-life former high-fashion model Cybill Shepard), and fast-talking private eye David Addison (played by then-unknown Bruce Willis). The series' story began after Maddie's business manager embezzled most of her fortune, leaving her with her house and the Blue Moon Detective Agency, designed by the wily accountant as nothing more than a tax write-off and consisting of detective David Addison and secretary Agnes Dipesto (played by Allyce Beasley). The romantic tension between David--the smart, slovenly, party-animal and womanizer, and Maddie--the beautiful, haute couture-attired, snobbish Maddie lasted for two seasons. After this point complications on and off the set led to a plot line in which Maddie juggled relationships with David and another suitor, briefly married a third man, had the marriage annulled, and suffered a miscarriage.

The series' importance, however, lies not so much in its convoluted plots as in its unique and sustained fusion of elements characteristically associated with two distinct genres into the emergent genre, dramedy. Moonlighting clearly exhibits the semantic features of television drama: serious subject matter dealing with incidents of sufficient magnitude that it arouses pity and fear; rounded, complex central characters who are neither thoroughly admirable nor despicable; textured lighting--both the hard telenoir and the diffused lighting accompanied by soft camera focus; multiple exterior and interior settings, single camera shooting on film. But the series combines the "serious" elements with the syntactic features of television comedy. These comedic features include a four-part narrative structure (consisting of the situation, complication, confusion, and resolution), the metatextual practices of verbal self-reflexivity, musical self-reflexivity, and intertextuality, repetition (i.e., the doubling, tripling, and compounding of the same action or incident until the repetition itself becomes humorous), witty repartee, hyperbolic coincidence, and a governing benevolent moral principle within which the violent, confused, often ironic dramas of good and evil, seriousness and silliness were played out.

A full appreciation of the sophistication of Moonlighting required a level of cultural literacy (both popular and classic) rarely required by prime time television series, which was one reason the series drew accolades from critics early on. Titles of its episodes intertextually referenced the narrative premises as well as titles, authors, and even visual techniques of films, novels, dramas, poems, and plays from the 16th century through the present (e. g., "It's a Wonderful Job," "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice," "Atlas Belched," "Brother, Can You Spare a Blonde," "Twas the Episode Before Christmas," and "The Lady in the Iron Mask"). Another episode titled "Atomic Shakespeare" provided a feminist version of "The Taming of the Shrew" performed, except for the bookend scenes, entirely in iambic pentameter. Additionally, in many episodes, protagonists Maddie and David break the theatrical "fourth wall" convention with self-reflexive references to themselves as actors in a television program or to the commercial nature of the television medium. Such metatextual practices are techniques of defamiliarization which, according to certain formalist critical theories, epitomize the experience and purpose of art; they jar viewers out of the complacent, narcotizing pleasure of familiar forms and invite them to question and appreciate the artistic possibilities and limitations of generic forms. Moonlighting's use of these metatextual practices signifies its recognition of the traditions that have shaped it and its self-conscious comments on its departure from those traditions--characteristics typically attributed to works regarded as highly artistic.

The series' artistry in fusing the genre features of drama and comedy in such a way that it was both popular and critically acclaimed paved the way for such other innovative dramedic ventures as Frank's Place, Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, and Northern Exposure. Moonlighting also led a number of critics to declare that with Moonlighting American television had finally come of age as an art form.

-Leah R. Vande Berg

CAST

Maddie Hayes....................................... Cybill Shepherd

David Addison............................................ Bruce Willis

Agnes Dipesto......................................... Alice Beasley

Herbert Viola (1986-1989)..................... Curtis Armstrong

Virginia Hayes (1987-1988)..................... Eva Marie Saint

Alex Hayes (1987-1988).......................... Robert Webber

MacGilicuddy (1988-1989)......................... Jack Blessing

PRODUCERS

Glenn Gordon Caron, Jay Daniel

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

65 Episodes

ABC

March 1985   Sunday 9:00-11:00

March 1985-April 1985   Tuesday 10:00-11:00

April 1985-September 1988   Tuesday 9:00-10:00

December 1988-February 1989   Tuesday 9:00-10:00

April 1989-May 1989   Sunday 8:00-9:00

FURTHER READING

Joyrich, Lynne. "Tube Tied: Reproductive Politics and Moonlighting." In, Naremore, James, and Patrick Brantlinger, editors. Modernity and Mass Culture. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1991.

Oruch, Jack. "Shakespeare for the Millions: 'Kiss Me, Petruchio.'" Shakespeare on Film Newsletter (Burlington, Vermont), 1987.

Radner, Hilary. "Quality Television and Feminine Narcissism: The Shrew and the Covergirl." Genders (Boulder, Colorado), July 1990.

Williams, J. P. "The Mystique of Moonlighting: 'When You Care Enough to Watch the Very Best.'" Journal of Popular Film and Television (Bowling Green, Ohio), Fall 1988.

Highlights
Glenn Gordon Caron on ABC giving him the basic premise for Moonlighting and giving it his take on the private detective genre
09:21
Robert Butler on working with Bruce Willis on the Moonlighting pilot telefilm
01:20
Glenn Gordon Caron on wanting Cybill Shepherd for the lead for Moonlighting
00:49
Rona Barrett on playing herself on Moonlighting
01:32
Robert Butler on the pace of the dialogue for the pilot telefilm of Moonlighting
00:55
Glenn Gordon Caron on the decision to have the main characters consummate their relationship on Moonlighting
01:40
Who talked about this show

Rona Barrett

View Interview
Rona Barrett on playing herself on Moonlighting
01:32

Robert Butler

View Interview
Robert Butler on working with Cybill Shepard on the Moonlighting pilot telefilm
01:10
Robert Butler on Moonlighting creator Glenn Gordon Caron's sensibilities, and the pilots the two worked on before Butler directed the Moonlighting pilot telefilm
02:19
Robert Butler on the casting of Cybill Shepard and Bruce Willis (and Willis' screen test) for Moonlighting [the telefilm pilot of which Butler directed]
03:38
Robert Butler on the pace of the dialogue for the pilot telefilm of Moonlighting
00:55
Robert Butler on Moonlighting creator Glenn Gordon Caron
01:40
Robert Butler on working with Bruce Willis on the Moonlighting pilot telefilm
01:20
Robert Butler on only directing the pilot of Moonlighting
00:41

Reuben Cannon

View Interview
Reuben Cannon on casting Moonlighting
10:10

Glenn Gordon Caron

View Interview
Glenn Gordon Caron on ABC giving him the basic premise for Moonlighting and giving it his take on the private detective genre
09:21
Glenn Gordon Caron on how he cast Bruce Willis on Moonlighting
07:05
Glenn Gordon Caron on wanting Cybill Shepherd for the lead for Moonlighting
00:49
Glenn Gordon Caron on how the inspiration for Moonlighting came from "The Taming of the Shrew"; on copying the classic three-act structure and feeling the "ache" of the show
03:15
Glenn Gordon Caron on filming the pilot episode of Moonlighting with Cybill Sheperd and Bruce Willis; on making a comedic detective show
03:58
Glenn Gordon Caron on the criticism of Moonlighting being too fast; on realizing the show was a hit when it was on the cover of MAD magazine
03:13
Glenn Gordon Caron on the 16 Emmy nominations Moonlighting received, a record at the time; on his reaction to not winning any Emmys; on filming the show late to get around the censors
03:28
Glenn Gordon Caron on tricks he used on Moonlighting to try and get around the censors; you can't say "frig" on television
02:55
Glenn Gordon Caron on how Al Jarreau came to write the Moonlighting theme song
01:05
Glenn Gordon Caron on Alf Clausen doing the music for Moonlighting
01:06
Glenn Gordon Caron on the importance of music on Moonlighting; on using pop music on the show
01:01
Glenn Gordon Caron on the lack of experience Bruce Willis had when he was cast for Moonlighting ; describing him as a Lee Marvin -type
02:51
Glenn Gordon Caron on casting Allyce Beasley as "Agnes DiPesto" on Moonlighting
00:33
Glenn Gordon Caron on casting Bruce Willis on Moonlighting, contd.
03:02
Glenn Gordon Caron on his learning process on Moonlighting
02:46
Glenn Gordon Caron on slamming doors, the fast dialogue, and the musical nature of Moonlighting
04:41
Glenn Gordon Caron on shooting in cars on Moonlighting
00:40
Glenn Gordon Caron on breaking the fourth wall on Moonlighting
02:06
Glenn Gordon Caron on the running gag of the Anselmo case, the writers, and the "Tommy Shakespeare" episode on Moonlighting
00:52
Glenn Gordon Caron on the writers' room and editing and directing on Moonlighting
01:25
Glenn Gordon Caron on production problems and his egomaniacal behavior on Moonlighting
03:26
Glenn Gordon Caron on production problems with Cybill Shepherd on Moonlighting
08:38
Glenn Gordon Caron on meeting Rona Barrett and asking her to appear on Moonlighting (as a way to get an episode when there were production problems with the show)
04:31
Glenn Gordon Caron on similarities between him and "David Addison" on Moonlighting
00:51
Glenn Gordon Caron on casting Curtis Armstrong on Moonlighting
01:09
Glenn Gordon Caron on supporting characters played by Allyce Beasley and Curtis Armstrong on Moonlighting
01:16
Glenn Gordon Caron on casting Charles Rocket on Moonlighting
00:50
Glenn Gordon Caron on the decision to have the main characters consummate their relationship on Moonlighting
01:40
Glenn Gordon Caron on incorporating Cybill Shepherd's pregnancy into the storyline on Moonlighting
02:06
Glenn Gordon Caron on the classic Moonlighting episode "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice"
04:36
Glenn Gordon Caron on how Moonlighting reflected its era; on how it portrayed relationships between men and women
01:33
Glenn Gordon Caron on Stanley Donen directing an episode of Moonlighting
02:05
Glenn Gordon Caron on the classic Moonlighting episode "Atomic Shakespeare"
00:55
Glenn Gordon Caron on the ending of the classic Moonlighting episode "Twas The Episode Before Christmas"
00:51
Glenn Gordon Caron on the classic Moonlighting episode "It's A Wonderful Job"
01:25
Glenn Gordon Caron on leaving day-to-day operations of Moonlighting and his involvement with the show after that
01:50
Glenn Gordon Caron on the legacy of Moonlighting
01:54

Ron Clark

View Interview
Ron Clark on writing for Moonlighting
03:34

Alf Clausen

View Interview
Alf Clausen on working with Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd on the Moonlighting  episode, "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice"
02:32
Alf Clausen on composing music for Moonlighting
05:20
Alf Clausen on working with show creator Glenn Gordon Caron on Moonlighting
01:44
Alf Clausen on composing the music for the Moonlighting episode "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice"
01:58
Alf Clausen on composing and recording the music for the Moonlighting episode, "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice"
02:47
Alf Clausen on composing and recording the music for the Moonlighting  episode, "Atomic Shakespeare"
01:41
Alf Clausen on his duties as composer for Moonlighting
02:31
Alf Clausen on the various styles of music he used while composing for Moonlighting
01:44
Alf Clausen on composing "Maddie's Theme" for Moonlighting and composing for specific characters
02:41
Alf Clausen on the amount of music he composed for each episode of Moonlighting and his duties as an orchestrator on the show
01:41
Alf Clausen on the Moonlighting scoring reflecting the '80s and his favorite moments of working on the show including working with Ray Charles 
04:39

Judy Crown

View Interview
Judy Crown on being the hair stylist for the Moonlighting episode "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice"
04:37
Judy Crown on working with Cybill Shepherd on Moonlighting
02:52

Gerald Perry Finnerman

View Interview
Gerald Finnerman on being hired as director of photography for Moonlighting
Gerald Finnerman on being director of photography on Moonlighting
Gerald Finnerman on Moonlighting

Will Mackenzie

View Interview
Will Mackenzie on directing Moonlighting
05:50
Will Mackenzie on friction on the set of Moonlighting between Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd, and on the logistics of directing the show
06:44
Will Mackenzie on directing the Moonlighting episode "Atomic Shakespeare"
01:56
Will Mackenzie on directing the Moonlighting episode "Atomic Shakespeare"
13:31

Brandon Stoddard

View Interview
Brandon Stoddard on developing Moonlighting
03:34

All Shows

A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
J
L
M
P
R
S
T
W