Maddie Hayes & David Addison (Moonlighting)

Created by Glenn Caron Gordon

Maddie: Wipe that stupid grin off your face.
David: This is the smartest grin I know.

Moonlighting is the TV show many of us now officially claim to hate, but once upon a time, it sure was a lotta fun. This is the television series that brought screwball romantic comedy and high-speed banter back into fashion and made Bruce Willis a star. If only we’d known what a monster we were creating…

It could even be argued that it helped usher in the era of prestige television, in its smart, hip, rule-breaking, booty-shaking attack on every television convention they–or more precisely creator and head writer Glenn Caron Gordon–could find.

In the sassy, spunky pilot, Cybill Shepherd played MADDIE HAYES, a fabulously successful (natch!) model (she was the Blue Moon Shampoo Girl) forced to liquidate after her business manager skips town with most of her assets. The City of Angels Investigations, originally purchased as a tax dodge, and run by DAVID ADDISON (Willis) is one of her doomed businesses, but an unexpected mystery throws owner and employee together, and a classic love-hate relationship blooms. Addison convinces Maddie to keep the agency going, and she re-christens it The Blue Moon Detective Agency.

That may have also been the last episode where the mystery actually had much of anything to do with the plot. The “mystery” angle forever after was really just an excuse to throw Maddie and David at each other, and let the sparks fly where they may. And to the show’s credit, the sparks did indeed fly.

Maddie was prim and proper, a good girl with very pre-set notions on almost everything, a no-nonsense prima donna intent on remaking the world in her image, wound up so tight she could almost squeak. But where Maddie was tightly-wound, David was just, frequently, hilariously tight. And unshaven and unwashed. A fast-talkin’ scam artist, a laidback lout, a rock’n’roll party boy with all the morals of an alleycat, one of the highlights of the early shows was the episode where Maddie comes into her office one morning only to find David inexplicably hanging from the back of her door, still drunk from the night before, warbling Aretha Frankin tunes.

The show was a huge hit, and at least at first deservedly so — a clever, updated spin on Hammett’s Nick and Nora screwball charm, slyly switching all the Prohibition-era talk about booze into AIDS-era double-entendre-laden ripostes on sex, and then spritzing it all with the obvious lust the two had for each other. The critics loved it. The public loved it. I loved it.

There were spin-off record deals and hype up the wazoo, Shepherd was rescued from premature obscurity, and unknown Bruce Willis became a star. It was witty and inventive, cheeky and audacious, and even the frustratingly erratic scheduling of this allegedly weekly show couldn’t scare viewers away from something that so regularly challenged the very rules of television itself. The fourth wall was frequently broken, and the writers let loose with a cavalcade of loony ideas, including musical episodes, and “very special episode” takeoffs on everything from The Honeymooners to Pygmallion (“My Fair David”) and The Taming of the Shrew (“Atomic Shakespeare,” performed–almost–entirely in iambic pentameter). There were off-the-wall, cameo-stoked fantasy sequences. One of my favourites was the second season’s “The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice” black-and-white episode, an attention-to-detail film noir take-off that was even introduced by Orson Welles. For the writers of Moonlighting, the world was their oyster, and everything was fair game–they made pop culture pop.

Unfortunately, the cast, the producers and the writers also read the reviews, and started to believe their own press. They ended up loving themselves. What had started as a often-hilarious spin on everything, became increasingly a self-referential ode to itself, a masturbatory orgy of self-love. Originality became just another gimmick, to be played solely for its own sake, while egos spun helplessly, hopelessly out of control, and the show’s on-screen bickering bleeding into real life and tabloid headlines. By the time the show, after just 66 episodes, finally crashed landed under the weight of all those egos and pretensions, Shepherd and Willis were showbiz names to reckon with, and everyone else was left with a bad taste in everyone’s mouths.

Including, apparently, the show itself. The dismal last season’s final episode ends with an extended breaking of the fourth wall, and David and Maddie confronting a TV producer, bemoaning the fact they were being cancelled.

“Don’t get me wrong, I love you two guys,” he tells them. “But can you really blame the audience? A case of poison ivy is more fun that watching you two lately. People fell in love with the two of you falling in love, but you couldn’t keep falling forever. Sooner or later you had to land someplace.”

Where they landed was on their own swords. It was a rare example of a show going out on such a brutally self-critical note, and yet it was also a reminder of the show’s take-no-prisoners charm.

Still, the show had–and has–an army of dedicated fans. There was a 2002 campaign to get the series released on DVD (they finally started releasing them in May 2005) and even a reunion campaign that, thirty or so years after the show was cancelled, was still sputtering along..

And some people think I have no life….

Since the show, Willis and Shepherd have gone on to occasionally play other private eyes — but fortunately not together. Shepherd actually appeared in Stormy Weathers, a pilot about Los Angeles private eye Sam Weathers, and Willis has played various hard-boiled, wise-cracking cops and other law enforcement offices in countless action flicks, including the mega-successful Die Hard franchise, the Shane Black-scripted The Last Boy Scout, where he played private eye Joe Hallenbeck, a pumped-up, nastier version of his David Addison character; Last Man Standing, yet another uncredited rip-off of Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest; and Once Upon a Time in Venice wherein Willis pisses away whatever charm he once possessed to play Venice Beach private eye Steve Ford.

UNDER OATH

  • Moonlighting is a show about loving movies. It is a show about loving form, and genre, and history. It is a show, such a niche show, that was made to simply be fun, to make fun with friends and the people you came to love. And for all these reasons, it is nothing short of magic.”
    — Olivia Rutigliano

TELEVISION

  

  • MOONLIGHTING | Buy this DVD Buy this video
    (1985, ABC)
    Pilot
    115 minutes
    Premiere: March 3, 1985
    Teleplay by Glenn Caron Gordon
    Producer: Jay Daniel
    Executive producer: Glenn Caron Gordon
    Theme song sung by Al Jarreau
    Starring Bruce Willis as DAVID ADDISON
    and Cybill Shepherd as MADDIE HAYES
    Also starring Allyce Beastley as Agnes Dipesto
    .
  • MOONLIGHTING
    (1985-89, ABC)
    66 60- minute episodes
    Writers: Glenn Caron Gordon
    Producer: Jay Daniel
    Executive producer: Glenn Caron Gordon
    Theme song sung by Al Jarreau
    Starring Bruce Willis as DAVID ADDISON
    and Cybill Shepherd as MADDIE HAYES
    Also starring Allyce Beastley as Agnes Dipesto
    Guest stars: Dr. Joyce Brothers, Ray Charles, Orson Welles, Rona Barrett

    • Season One Buy Season 1 & 2 on DVD
    • “Gunfight at the So-So Corral” (March 5, 1985)
    • “Read the Mind— See the Moviel” (March 12, 1985)
    • “The Next Murder You Hearl” (March 19, 1985)
    • “Next Stop Murderl” (March 26, 1985)
    • “The Murder’s in the Mail” (April 2, 1985)
    • Season Two Buy Season 1 & 2 on DVD
    • “Brother, Can You Spare a Blonde?” (September 24, 1985)
    • “The Lady in the Iron Mask” (October 1, 1985)
    • “Money Talks– Maddie Walks” (October 8, 1985)
    • “The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice” (October 15, 1985)
    • “My Fair David” (October 29, 1985)
    • “Knowing Her” (November 12, 1985)
    • “Somewhere Under the Rainbow” (November 19, 1985)
    • “Portrait of Maddie” (November 26, 1985)
    • “Atlas Belched” (December 10, 1985)
    • “Twas the Episode Before Christmas” (December 17, 1985)
    • “The Bride of Tupperman” (January 14, 1986)
    • “North by North Dipesto” (January 21, 1986)
    • “In God We Strongly Suspect” (February 11, 1986)
    • “Every Daughter’s Father Is a Virgin” (February 18, 1986)
    • “Witness for the Execution” (March 11, 1986)
    • “Sleep Talkin’ Guy” (April 1, 1986)
    • “Funeral for a Door Nail” (April 29, 1986)
    • “Camille” (May 13, 1986)
    • Season Three Buy Season 3 on DVD
    • “The Son Also Rises” (September 23, 1986)
    • “The Man Who Cried Wife” (September 30, 1986)
    • “Symphony in Knocked Flat” (October 14, 1986)
    • “Yours, Very Deadly” (October 28, 1986)
    • “All Creatures Great and … Not So Great” (November 11, 1986)
    • “Big Man on Mulberry Street” (November 18, 1986)
    • “Atomic Shakespeare” (November 25, 1986)
    • “It’s a Wonderful Job” (December 16, 1986)
    • “The Straight Poop” (January 6, 1987)
    • “Poltergeist III— Dipesto Nothing” (January 13, 1987)
    • “Blonde on Blonde” (February 3, 1987)
    • “Sam & Dave” (February 10, 1987)
    • “Maddie’s Turn to Cry” (March 3, 1987)
    • “I Am Curious… Maddie” (March 31, 1987)
    • “To Heiress Human” (May 5, 1987)
    • Season Four Buy Season 4 on DVD
    • “A Trip to the Moon” (September 29, 1987)
    • “Come Back Little Shiksa” (October 6, 1987)
    • “Take a Left at the Altar” (October 13, 1987)
    • “Tale in Two Cities” (November 3, 1987)
    • “Cool Hand Dave (Part One)” (November 17, 1987)
    • “Cool Hand Dave (Part Two)” (December 1, 1987)
    • “Father Knows Last” (December 15, 1987)
    • “Los Dos DiPestos” (January 5, 1988)
    • “Fetal Attraction” (January 19, 1988)
    • “Tracks of My Tears” (February 2, 1988)
    • “Eek! A Spouse!” (February 9, 1988)
    • “Maddie Hayes Got Married” (March 1, 1988)
    • “Here’s Living With You, Kid” (March 15, 1988)
    • “And the Flesh Was Made Word” (March 22, 1988)
    • Season Five  Buy Season 5 on DVD
    • “A Womb With a View” (December 6, 1988)
    • “Between a Yuk and a Hard Place” (December 13, 1988)
    • “The Color of Maddie” (December 20, 1988)
    • “Plastic Fantastic Lovers” (January 10, 1989)
    • “Shirts and Skins” (January 17, 1989)
    • “Take My Wife, For Example” (February 7, 1989)
    • “I See England, I See France, I See Maddie’s Netherworld” (February 14, 1989)
    • “Those Lips, Those Lies” (April 2, 1989)
    • “Perfetc” (April 9, 1989)
    • “When Girls Collide” (April 16, 1989)
    • “In ‘N Outlaws” (April 23, 1989)
    • “Eine Kleine Nacht Murder” (April 30, 1989)
    • “Lunar Eclipse” (May 14, 1989)

SOUNDTRACK

  • MOONLIGHTING Buy the CD
    (1984, MCA)
    Various artists
    A surprisingly enjoyable mix of classics (from Chubby Checker, The Isley Brothers, Percy Sledge and Billy Holiday), Al Jarreau’s version of the theme, plus Sheppard’s and Willis’ stabs at a few more classics. More entertaining than it should be. Sorta like the show.

FURTHER INVESTIGATION

  • DavidandMaddie.com
    A simply amazing web site, complete with everything you’d ever want to know about the show — a pure wonder to behold. Snazzy, great layout, and as far as I can tell, everything works! Webmaster Cindy Klaus should definitely take a bow. Colour me impressed.
  • The Virtual Moonlighting Web Site
    Wherein a small but dedicated band of fan-fiction writers have kept their beloved show going now for five more seasons (and counting).
  • Married to It!
    Hitched! Married Eyes and Their Spouses… (Well, they might as well have…)
  • The Magic of Moonlighting
    Olivia Rutigliano’s Valentine to the screwball rom-com mystery series she claims was impossible not to love (February 2021, CrimeReads)
  • Moonlighting: An Oral History (non-fiction) | Buy this book | Buy the audio Kindle it!
    (2021; by Scott Ryan)
    Ryan grills all the usual and unusual suspects involved in the show.
Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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