CommunityPam's House Blend

Been watching 'Moonlighting' eps on DVD

Non-political post…Tim bought me the first two seasons of Moonlighting on DVD for my birthday in July, and I promised I’d wait until he came down so that we could watch episodes together. This was one of our favorite shows — it ran on ABC from 1985 to 1989. I had taped them all back when the show first aired (even being diligent enough at the time to watch while taping to cut out commercials!), but those 20-year-old tapes were in pathetic shape.

For those of you too young or didn’t watch, here’s a well-written synopsis from the Museum of Broadcast Communications:

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.

…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.

On the matter of the DVD, this is a really poorly packaged set. The insert doesn’t have basic information, like on what date an episode originally aired, even information on which episodes have commentary on them. The print on the disc indicating what number each is hardly readable. Ridiculous. I will say that the remastered prints and sound are excellent.

Incidentally, my man-crush Bruce Willis actually does commentary with director Will Mackenzie on “My Fair David” and it’s pretty funny. He hadn’t seen these episodes in 20 years, and even mentioned his line-less face (not to mention a head of hair) from those days. Cybill Shepherd is also interviewed; she looks older (as does Bruce — don’t we all), it’s refreshing to see an actress who hasn’t been bungee-jumped, pulled and botoxed herself into oblivion. She actually looks her age.

All of the cast interviews in the extras make a lot of references to the difficulties on set, including some pretty diva-like behavior by Cybill in the form of backhanded compliments about her requirement for diffusing filters to soften her face (the director said “she really didn’t need it, but insisted on it”), and recounted numerous instances where she would refuse to do a particular shot and her double was used. Ah, Hollywood. None of the tensions show up onscreen. Besides it’s not as if there aren’t male actors fixated on how they are shot. Nothing Cybill might have done could top the distraction of diva extraordinaire Tom Cruise hawking Scientology all over the sets of Mission Impossible or feeling insecure about his height in shots.

My favorite episodes?
— “The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice” – the famous B&W; episode featuring an intro by Orson Welles
— “Brother, Can You Spare a Blonde” – with a brilliantly funny Charles Rocket as David’s deadbeat brother
— “Knowing Her” – with a pre-China Beach Dana Delaney
— “Big Man on Mulberry Street” (not on this DVD), directed by Stanley Donen featuring a musical/dance homage to his films.

What are some of your favorite shows from the past that you want/have on DVD? Kate’s still waiting for Welcome Back Kotter, which, unbelievably, is not yet on DVD.

Previous post

Next post

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding