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David T. Cole

Moonlighting

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This show is highly quotable, but I had to go with the above for the thread title as it's my favorite from the entire series.  So much so that, to this day, any time someone says, "You could have fooled me," I have to quickly analyze whether it would be appropriate to offer up Maddie's rejoinder, because it's an automatic response.

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On one of the DVD features, Bruce Willis said he'd put the first two seasons up against anything ever aired on television, and I quite agree.  I love season three as well, although I have to be in the right mood to watch the Sam and David arc.   

 

The rest is pretty much an abomination for which I am still bitter towards Glenn Gordon Caron, and the fallacy of the "Moonlighting curse" (how the simplistic notion that "getting them together ruined the show" ever picked up speed when it was well-known even at the time the ways backstage nonsense was affecting what made air is a puzzle to me) has cast a pall over many a subsequent TV show, but in the beginning this show was just brilliant.

 

I loved the two-hour pilot when it aired, and still like it, but it's funny to go back and watch it after becoming familiar with the series, since the pacing is SO different than what would come; the pilot moves at a typical speed, but once used to the rapid-fire dialogue of the series, it feels slow.

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I loved Moonlighting and although I acknowledge that the show had issues, I absolutely HAAAAAAATE whenever current shows have the male and female lead hook up and then everyone in the press and online starts lamenting that the Moonlighting curse will strike. The connotation is that once the unresolved sexual tension is resolved in one kiss, one night of sex, or a long term relationship, the couple sucks, the show sucks, the world sucks, etc. because having them actually get together instead is worse and the should be pining after each other, flirting with each other, and playing cat and mouse forever. I thought this would be an interesting thing to discuss, especially with Moonlighting fans. Obviously I have already showed my bias, but let's talk about it!

 

For me, what ruined Moonlighting was not David and Maddie sleeping together but everything else: the writer's strike, the herky jerky scheduling (FIVE weeks between I Am Curious...Maddie and To Heiress Human, an eight month hiatus between S4 and S5), Cybill Shepherd's pregnancy, Bruce Willis's movie career, Glenn Gordon Caron leaving, and the terrible choices that the writers made with the characters in the last two seasons. Would Maddie, a woman who planned every moment of her life, really marry a man she met on a train? Would David, who loved Maddie for years, really fall in love with her cousin? Honestly, S4 and S5 felt like really bad fan fiction (which wasn't really a thing back then) where someone took the names and backgrounds of existing characters and then just made up random stories. Bad writing will kill any show whether the two main characters have slept together or not.

 

Based on how well they developed David and Maddie and their relationship over the first three seasons, I think they could have done a great job with them struggling to figure out their relationship after they slept together but that was nearly impossible to do during S4 because Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis weren't shooting any scenes together (due to her pregnancy and his movie schedule). Heh, I could write a novella about why I hate the myth of the Moonlighting curse, but I'll stop for now. Anyone else want to share their thoughts about it?

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When I saw this requested in the show request forum, I was all giddy with excitement, I made sure I took the lead for Mod on this one.

 

What is funny is that I have never ever seen it since it was on, no reruns, no DVD's, no syndication, nothing.  I watched it live and then nothing.  So I forget SO much except that I loved it when it was on.

 

I will have to do some snooping around and see how I can see episodes, any thoughts @Bastet?

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The complete series was released on DVD - seasons one and two together, then each subsequent season individually.  I own season four but have never watched it, and never even bothered to buy season five.  There are some nice special features and the packaging is pretty, so I'd recommend the DVDs for commencing a rewatch.

 

I watched it live, then in syndication on Lifetime, then again on Bravo - back when Bravo actually aired things worth watching, and put together brilliant little claymation interstitials promoting this show - and then got marginally involved in the fan campaign to get the show released on DVD.  I met some wonderful people that way, one of whom became one of my closest friends, and the two Lions Gate producers primarily responsible for the release of the season one/two set joined us for a viewing party.

 

So this show holds a special place in my heart.

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The propogation of this myth has never made any sense to me, since even at the time the show was airing it was well known what was going on behind the scenes.  So how the simplistic notion that putting the characters in bed together is what killed the show ever saw the light of day, let alone became a golden rule of television, is beyond me.

 

Glenn Gordon Caron didn't have to write Cybill's pregnancy into the show (and, indeed, thanks to Bruce's filming schedule delaying production until complications necessitated reducing her screen time, she'd already had the twins by the time pregnant Maddie returned from Chicago), and he certainly didn't have to write it in the ridiculous way that he did.  The season four presentation of Maddie is nothing short of character assassination.

 

The show imploded because of how David and Maddie were written - separated, and out of character - after doing the deed, not because they did the deed.  Linda Holmes laid it out nicely years ago, but the damn rule still haunts television.

Edited by Bastet
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That's a very cool story @Bastet - so cool to be involved in something like that and see a result for your efforts.

 

I will look into the DVD thing...maybe we can set up a rewatch at some point.

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Curtis Armstrong was recently interviewed in "Random Roles" feature at The Onion AV Club and he talks about  his stint on Moonlighting:

 

 

 

AVC: When the public found out about what the tensions were on the set, did that jibe with what you were experiencing in person?

CA: You mean were things as bad as everyone said they were? Not initially, but they got worse. When I came in, it was already—I think they had done the first season, and they brought me in, I think, primarily because they basically had a three-hander there, with Bruce [Willis] and Cybill [shepherd] and Allyce [beasley]. They always had what they would call the “DiPesto episodes,” ones where Bruce and Cybill would come on at the beginning and at the end. Well, the rest of it would be an adventure Agnes [DiPesto] had on her own. They always had one or two of those a season or something, and then they decided, well, we have to get someone else in here so she’ll have someone regular that she play off of, and Glenn Gordon Caron, who created the show, was a huge Risky Business fan, and so the idea of bringing me in appealed to him. He called Paul Brickman and said, “I’m thinking about hiring Curtis Armstrong for my show, but I need to know that he’s not an asshole and he’s reliable.” Fortunately, he was asking Paul, who’s still telling the story about how I was able to do this thing reading three months apart, and so he went on and on about it to Glenn and said, “I don’t think you have anything to worry about,” so I got hired to do that show. By the time I had been on it for a while, things were becoming more tense, and I started hearing stories from other people about how it had been in the early days when everything was Skittles and beer, and then things started to go downhill, and things started getting a lot of attention, the usual stuff. And I would say that probably 80 percent of what was reported at the time was right in some way.

AVC: Was it a case where it was creative differences? Or was it really just like Bruce Willis is becoming big, Cybill Shepherd’s star is rising again, and there are just a lot of demands?

CA: Egos. It really was egos. Creative difference—Glenn’s one of the creators of that show, and I’m sure he left under a cloud because basically Cybill forced him out. He rewrote practically every page of every script, whether his name was on it or not. He was the one who had the vision, and once he was gone, they did the best they could to maintain the vision, but it was always his vision, so there was no conflict in that respect, I don’t think. It was all personalities. It was just Cybill and Bruce were personalities that didn’t get along. They just didn’t get along. It happens, you know. If you work at a car lot, you may have the same kind of issues with somebody you work with on the car lot. Nobody writes about it. It’s just personalities.

AVC: The episodes with you and Allyce in them being the main people were getting more frequent as the show went on.

CA: That was out of necessity because Cybill became pregnant with twins, and so she was becoming less and less available, and Bruce ultimately started doing movies, so he’d be gone shooting something, and so they always wound up having to use more and more Allyce and me. And I think another advantage from their standpoint of my being there was that I was up for anything. Bruce, after a while, got tired of doing the slapstick stuff all the time, which unfortunately, the audience loved, and the writers really enjoyed doing. So they would say, “We’re dressing you up in drag again,” and he’d say, “No, you’re not.” And so, one of the great things about my being there was I would do anything they asked me to do, happily. And because I’m a comic actor, to me it was fun. It’s what I do. So they gave me all the stuff that he wouldn’t do anymore, and he got to do all the dramatic stuff that he wanted to do.

AVC: Even in the pre-Internet days, there was audience pushback when more you and Allyce were on and Cybill and Bruce were not.

CA: Well, it wasn’t so much Allyce. I think there was a lot of resentment to me being there because Allyce was on from the get-go, and they loved her. The audience adored her, and the last thing they wanted was Booger showing up. It was really more me than it was Allyce and me. I think if they had been able to figure out a way to keep Allyce busy with different people every time, the audience would have been perfectly happy with that, even if the production wouldn’t have been. That really was very much more me. I was not a popular person when I was on that show.

AVC: You mean with what the public thought?

CA: That’s what I’m saying, with the public. The writers loved me. Allyce and I got along splendidly. The producers liked me. I mean, it was a love fest as far as I was concerned. I was happy to be there, but toward the end, even Allyce had gotten burned out from it all, and I wound up being sort of the only person there who still had fun going to work, so it was pretty—it got kind of tense.

AVC: Did the public backlash start against you personally bother you at all?

CA: I don’t remember. Again, pre-Internet, so a lot of that, I didn’t get right in my face. I got the occasional hate letter, but I didn’t really look at letters much that came into the production company. So I can’t say it really bothered me that much. Some of the press was a little snobby, but that’s not the first time that’s happened.

I was not a big enough target. That’s the truth. Bruce and Cybill were that show, and they were hugely popular, and it was only the fans of the show who watched and were interested enough to have feelings one way or another about my being there. The only thing that happened would be on the ratings when we were at our peak, which was after I had joined—not because I joined, but after I joined—we reached the peak of our audience share, and what we would notice is that on the “DiPesto episodes,” by the second half hour, it would have dropped because people realized—they tuned in to see Bruce and Cybill. They saw Bruce and Cybill, then Bruce and Cybill disappear. Suddenly, they realize, “Oh, fuck… bait and switch again. Now we’re going to have to sit through an hour of watching these two,” so they’d turn it off. And that’s the main way in which you figure—you found out what was going on.

Even then, I couldn’t really find myself getting upset about it because I made a deal. I came into it. It was already established. It was a hit for the people who watched it, and I was never going to compete with Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd, and so all right, fine. It doesn’t matter to me. The point is I’m being very well paid to play a role that I enjoy. How down can you get about that?

AVC: Because the show was so different at the time, wasn’t it kind of inevitable that it wasn’t going to last? It wasn’t going to be some 10-year-long show.

CA: I don’t really know. You’d see the pity that it flared out that way, but there was no telling. Bruce, after two failed films, which no one remembers, did Die Hard, and suddenly, he’s on his way to becoming one of the most popular actors in the world and the most highly paid. You can’t keep them on the farm after that happens. Then Cybill went on to her show where she didn’t have to share the screen with Bruce Willis but wound up having to share it with Christine Baranski, and the same thing happened, where she became the breakout character, and the show was dead in two seasons.

 

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Ha, I love when actors don't give a fuck and they give us the behind the scenes scoop without trying to sugar coat things. He brings up a really good point about how different it was back before the internet. Now it's impossible for an adult actor not to feel public backlash and see the mean things that people post online.

Edited by ElectricBoogaloo
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Cybill went longer than that, Curtis (and was hilarious). 

 

As a tidbit, he was in the pilot of that series (along with "MacGillicuddy," Jack Blessing).

 

AVC: Even in the pre-Internet days, there was audience pushback when more you and Allyce were on and Cybill and Bruce were not.
CA: Well, it wasn’t so much Allyce. I think there was a lot of resentment to me being there because Allyce was on from the get-go, and they loved her. The audience adored her, and the last thing they wanted was Booger showing up. It was really more me than it was Allyce and me. I think if they had been able to figure out a way to keep Allyce busy with different people every time, the audience would have been perfectly happy with that, even if the production wouldn’t have been.

 

Wrong.  Yes, I loved Miss DiPesto, but as a secondary character.  The Agnes episodes were disappointing because I tuned in to see Maddie and David, not Agnes.  It had nothing to do with Herbert Viola.  She could have been teamed with my favorite actors playing fabulous characters, and I'd have still wanted to get back to the regular show.  The endless repeats, then we finally get a new episode and it's a clip show, or an Agnes episode.  Ugh, I'm having flashbacks to the mid '80s, when being a fan of this show was such a frustrating experience.

Edited by Bastet
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Fiction. The wriiting for most shows eventually does not live up to the standards set at the beginning. After the first couple of seasons, Moonlighting became a different show, and I stopped watching.

 

The problems with Moonlighting were triggered by internal issues.  However, the same thing often happens with shows that are retooled to try to make them more popular. In the attempt to attract more viewers, they lose the essence of what once caught the attention of the core audience.

Edited by madfortv
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It's sort of sad/funny/ironic (take your pick) that Glenn Gordon Caron had such issues with this show - and his own baby, so to speak - when he dealt with the exact same scenario (by reports) prior to this on Remington Steele. Maybe the second time around, with his leaving, he just said, "Screw it!", you know?

Once is bad, but twice had to be an awful sort of deja vu for him! (Although I guess Brosnan and Zimbalist supposedly mended fences years later, which I don't think Shepard/Willis did, or ever will.)

I will agree that when this show was good, it was on fire, and when it was bad, it was just sewer level. Broke my heart when all the BTS politics and egos and constant repeats and, eventually, the Writers' Strike of '88 killed it.

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One of the big behind-the-scenes problems with Moonlighting was Glenn's continual inability to get scripts done on time.  The actors had dialogue taped to the dashboard of the car, because they'd been handed pages right before shooting.  The production company once made the deadline for the East coast satellite feed by 20 minutes. 

So, yeah, he had to deal with co-stars feuding in a way that was unanticipated and new to him (on Remington Steele, the actors just pretty much didn't talk to each other; no throwing chairs or showing up late), but he was also his own problem.  Which is why when push came to shove in season five, he was the one shown the door.

Edited by Bastet
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I saw this show in the forums list and this immediately sprang to mind:

Maddie:  Do you know what's really sad?
David: The last 10 minutes of Lassie Come Home?

For some reason, I laughed and laughed.  Had to pause that sucker.  It still makes me giggle.

The first two seasons were so good.

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There is honestly NEVER a reference to the traffic lights being against someone that doesn't make me think of Bruce Willis riding that horse into the church.

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Whenever I watch this, I skip the wedding; it blunts the aggravation considerably.

I, too, wish I had a wall of throwing vases.

"Stuff your stuff!"
"Get thee used to this - I havest a headache."

BTW, Cybill's last name is misspelled in the "Who cares?" paragraph.

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I think "The Dream Sequence Rings Twice" is one of the greatest hours of television. Normally the flashback/fantasy episode where the characters end up in another era are stupid. This one is brilliant. They did everything to capture the look and feel of the era and it works perfectly. I love that David's dream sequence goes off the rails at the end, because it feels so right/perfect for the character. 

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