Ten things you didn’t know about Moonlighting

An Oral History by Scott Ryan

1. Casting agent Reuben Cannon was fired by ABC for bringing them Bruce Willis. ABC executives said that no one would believe that Bruce Willis was sexy and he wouldn’t be believable standing next to Cybill Shepherd.

2.  Their episode of Taming the Shrew was the most expensive hour of television ever made up to that point in 1986. It went  from conception to airdate in 18 days which caused the budget to be at least two times the normal amount of a television series at that time.

3. Cybill Shepherd signed on to the series after reading only half of the pilot episode. She  told creator Glenn Gordon Caron that if the second half was as good as the first, she would sign on.

4. Allyce Beasley (Ms. Dipesto) and Curtis Armstrong (Herbert Viola)  had to film a major make-out scene moments after first meeting. They asked the director if they could just take 30 minutes to chat and get to know each other before rolling around on top of a desk together.

5. The episode of “I am Curious…Maddie” is the highest rated episode of the series and had 50% off all television sets tuned in to watch Dave and Maddie finally have sex.

6. Bruce Willis went off to make Die Hard over the summer between Season 3 & 4 of Moonlighting. He was able to do this because Cybill was pregnant and was going to film her scenes over the summer, and then Bruce filmed his scenes  when he returned in the fall. These scenes became the first 6-8 episodes of Season 4.

7. Cybill Shepherd picked the song “I told Ya I Loved Ya” for the Black and White episode called “The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice.” Glenn Caron picked “Blue Moon” and she sang them both in this Emmy magnet of an episode.

8. Billy Joel sent over his song “Big Man On Mulberry St.” for use in Moonlighting. Glenn Caron decided they would use the song as a ballet to tell the story of David Addison’s first marriage through a seven minute dance sequence with Golden Globe winner Sandahl Bergman as the featured dancer.

9. Did Bruce and Cybill ever have a romantic moment in real life? For that you have to get the book and read the chapter about the pilot.

10. The series doesn’t stream or is released on DVD because of music  rights. They are working on it, but Disney would have to pay the rights today to get that to happen. With this book, maybe people will remember the series and demand that it returns for everyone to see again.

Once upon a time ABC-TV’s Moonlighting was among the most buzzed-about shows in the country, thanks largely to the bravado of creator Glenn Gordon Caron, who never met a television convention he didn’t want to break, and the sizzling on-screen chemistry between glamorous erstwhile film star Cybill Shepherd and a New Jersey bartender nobody had ever heard of before named Bruce Willis, who bickered and flirted ceaselessly on screen and engaged in epic off-screen battles that all these years later remain the stuff of Hollywood legend.

This combustible blend of creative brilliance produced some of the most acclaimed, audacious, and innovative programming of the eighties, including a black and white tribute to film noir, with an introduction by Orson Welles; a parody of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, written in iambic pentameter; an homage to The Honeymooners; and countless metafictive episodes breaking through the fourth wall — almost unheard of at the time for hourlong comedy-dramas. Without a doubt, Moonlighting helped pave the way for the era of prestige television we are now all enjoying.

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What happened next? Well, that is the question this book asks. How did a show that was hotter than the Rubik’s Cube or “Baby on Board” signs get canceled less than two years and twenty-eight episodes after airing its most-watched episode? The media dubbed it the “Moonlighting Curse.” The conventional wisdom became that if two main characters from a series got together, the show died. It happened on Moonlighting, so therefore it will happen on The X-Files or Felicity. This is why Castle, Bones, Friends, Downton Abbey, and every show since 1987 delayed, at all logical costs, their main characters getting together. But was this really the cause of the cancellation? I wanted to solve this mystery more than knowing who was the real killer in the Flamingo Cove murder.

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