Moonlighting – The 1980s TV Show That Invented Dramedy

David and Maddie, Bruce Willis, Cybill Shepherd
I caught the very first episode of the Moonlighting TV show by accident, when it was first broadcast on British television on BBC2. Back then I had never heard of the moonlighting cast of Bruce Willis and, even though Cybill Shepherd was a movie star before she appeared on Moonlighting, I hadn’t heard of her either, and Moonlighting wasn’t exactly launched in the UK with a massive fanfare. It only took that one episode, though, for me to get totally hooked on the show. I loved the on-off, would they wouldn’t they, relationship between David Addison and Maddie Hayes, and I loved the fact that you never quite knew what to expect from each episode. It was the shows slightly off the wall, quirky side that really appealed to me.

The Moonlighting TV show ran in the US from 1985 to 1989. The show won awards, made a star out of Bruce Willis and it resurrected the flagging career of Cybill Shepherd. It also broke many of the boundaries of TV, like the breaking of the so-called fourth wall, and amazing exchanges between Maddie and David were just brilliant.

If you never watched Moonlighting before, then I urge you to give it a go. It’s a love affair, a slapstick comedy and a detective drama, all rolled into one. Here are ten facts about Moonlighting to bring back the memories of one of the best TV shows of the 1980s.

1. It was supposed to be a detective show
Moonlighting was originally conceived as a purebred detective show. ABC executive, Lewis H. Erlicht, approached Glenn Gordon Caron, the creator of Moonlighting, about producing a detective show that had a big star in it. Caron, on the other hand, wanted to do a romance. Ultimately, Erlicht agreed, saying “I don’t care what it is, as long as it’s a detective show.” And so, the Moonlighting TV show was born.

2. The scripts for Moonlighting were twice the length of most other scripts
Because of the wonderful scenes where Maddie and David argued and often talked over each other at a rapid pace, the written scripts of many episodes of Moonlighting were two to three times longer than they were for most other hour long shows. Despite this, the speed that Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd delivered the dialogue still meant that extra filler scenes had to be filmed to fill the hour long time slot.

David and Maddie, Bruce Willis, Cybill Shepherd3. Moonlighting was the first ever TV “dramedy”
The show was a unique combination of drama and comedy that eventually became known as dramedy, a show with equal parts drama and comedy. Most episodes contained some form of a mystery for the Blue Moon Detective Agency to solve, which would run alongside the on-going classic comic love-hate relationship of the two main characters, David Addison and Maddie Hayes. Moonlighting became the first ever show to be nominated for both Best Drama and Best Comedy by the Directors Guild of America in the same year.

4. It was one of the most expensive TV shows made at the time
At the time that Moonlighting was made, the average TV show took around 7 days to shoot, while Moonlighting would take up to 14 days per episode. It was the attention to detail that made the shoots so lengthy and the intense, complex dialogue that had to occur between David and Maddie, much of which was written on the same day as it was shot. Most episodes cost in the region of $900,000 to make, which was unheard of in those days.

Moonlighting, Maddie Hayes, Cybill Shepherd
5. The most expensive episode to shoot was "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice"
The episode “The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice" was a brilliant episode of moonlighting where David and Maddie, having argued about who committed an unsolved murder 40 years ago, then dream about solving that murder. Caron insisted the episode be filmed with authentic black and white film and that brought the cost of that single episode up to a staggering $2m and it took 16 days to make.

6. The chemistry between Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis was real
That spark of sexual chemistry that you see between Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis was more than just mere acting; it existed in real life too. Cybill Shepherd has often commented on the attraction that existed between the two stars, but never confirmed if anything ever really came of it other than flirting.

7. The show was notorious for its reruns
While the show was first being aired on TV they often had to resort to showing reruns of earlier episodes. This was simply due to the fact that new episodes weren’t ready on time, because of all the attention to detail that was being put into them.

Moonlighting, Maddie and David, Bruce Willis, Cybill Shepherd 8. The show went into decline after David and Maddie finally got it together
Although Moonlighting creator, Glenn Gordon Caron, denies it, most people agree that the show lost its spark the moment that David and Maddie consummated their fiery relationship in the episode "I Am Curious… Maddie". Once the show lost that, would they wouldn’t they, tension, the spark was never quite the same again.

9. Then Cybill Shepherd got pregnant
By the time they got into series 4, the writing was on the wall for the Moonlighting TV show. Cybill shepherd was pregnant with twins and David Addison was given the part of John McClane in Die Hard, so there was little screen time when both were present at the same time. The lack of the pair being together really hurt the ratings and the shows viewing figures began to decline rapidly.

10. The end of Moonlighting
By the end of the last series of shows, Glenn Gordon Caron had left, citing differences with Cybil Shepherd as the cause, Bruce Willis was an action movie star and had lost interest in doing a weekly TV show and, frankly, the last straw for most viewers was when Maddie spontaneously married another man! I knew Maddie and David never should have gone to bed together, it was all downhill from there!

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