Thursday, March 17, 2016

Moonlighting - Nostalgia Trip

This week's Nostalgia Trip focuses on the 1980s hit TV Show 'Moonlighting'



Hello and welcome to another Nostaliga Trip right here in the Basement... where I go all over the place with the topics I talk about

And as you can tell with the cold-open here, we're talking Moonlighting

From 1985 to 1989.... this ABC series was possibly the standard when it came to breaking the fourth wall, particularly with how it ended... now I will admit I did not watch the show when it first aired, in fact, I came across it in the late 90s when Bravo aired it at 5 PM EST.

Now for those of you who may not know, Moonlighting was in its appearance your standard 80s detective drama. Starring Cybill Shepherd as Maddie Hayes and Bruce Willis as David Addision, they would get cases, bust bad guys in what would appear to be standard formula. If my choice of phrasing may seem a bit odd... is that as the series progressed... it certainly went in a direction that was quite outside the box... that it was a 'dramady' a dramatic-comedy...

Hell it's credited that Moonlighting was the first dramedy to actually be a success... being nominated for both Best Drama and Comedy within the same year twice, 1985 and 1986 by the Directors Guild of America. Sure there were others before it, but because Moonlighting came along at the right time, it hit the right cord, as it's trademarks, such as overlapping dialog for arguments instead of the usual back and forth for such scenes, the sharp dialog, characters that were interesting and worth investing time in, really found a core audience.

Of course, we have to talk about what made the show memorable... it was breaking the fourth wall. While Sledge Hammer, another show on ABC from the same time period, made winks and references to the audience and the network... Moonlighting not only broke the fourth wall, it demolished it. Some say it was due to filling air time because of timing issues (episodes being shorter than required because of the rapid pacing), the show had cold opens that had Shepherd and Willis as their characters addressing the audience, critics, taking shots at its competition or just adding interest for the episode in question. There are time the dismantling of a set is shown (again most famously in the final episode of the series).

But lets get into some of the episodes shall we... for the most part, it's the standard our heroes are hired to investigate something or other but the show was at its best when it went outside the box, with 'fantasy' or 'dream' episodes with perhaps the most famous being 'Atomic Shakespeare' which was a spoof (well sorta) of The Taming of The Shrew, with Shepard playing Katharina... and if you know anything about Cybil Shepard's reputation... that was almost perfect. Done as a fantasy sequence, the episode was full of in jokes (a horse with BMW logos) and one of Willis best moments, singing 'Good Lovin' at the episodes climax while Shepard is bound and gag at the wedding alter. You can do a search for that on YouTube, 'Moonlighting Good Lovin' and you'll see what I'm talking about.



And speaking of that... let's talk about the music, which played a big part in the show, with Shepherd's incredible rendition of 'Blue Moon', numerous Motown references... and of course the entire episode of Big Man on Mulberry Street being a set up for a basically entire music video for Billy Joel's epic song of the same name. Then there's the theme song for the show itself written and performed by Al Jarreau which served to be his last big hit and earned him a Grammy-Nomination. The show's theme was such a hit landing #1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary charts, and placing 23rd on the Billboard Hot 100, the soundtrack itself peaked at #50 on the Billboard 200

So with all these epic things... what happened with the show? Well... some say it's credited to the 'Will They Or Won't They' factor turning into 'Oh They Did', there was a lot of romantic tension between the characters of Maddie and David and when they hooked up, it probably led to the show losing punch. Then there is the fourth season where Willis and Shepherd had very little interaction, Shepherd was having twins and Willis was also off making Die Hard, and when that ended up being a huge hit, he wasn't interested in doing a weekly TV series when he was being asked to do movie. Regardless of the reason for the ratings decline the show went out in grand style.

As I mentioned, the show was known for breaking the fourth wall so in it's final episode the final scenes sees the set being dismantled, and Willis and Shepherd as their characters racing to find out what's going on... it's a very unique and in a way 'very real' ending to a show that was a staple of ABC's lineup in the mid to late 80s. So...good news is the show is available on DVD... all four seasons, with all the extras that come standard. It's certainly a solid addition to any DVD collection.

Additional Footage And Music From 'Moonlighting' ABC, 1985-1989

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