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DVD Review: Moonlighting – Season Three

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Ode to Miss Dipesto

The wait is now over
And now we all can see
The cases that Blue Moon
Handled in season three.

Haunted houses, Jilted lovers,
A detective’s life is a thrill.
David and Maddie hit the sheets,

sending the show straight downhill

For those unfamiliar with the series, Moonlighting was a detective show from the latter half of the ‘80s, but it had much more in common with the screwball comedies of the ‘30s and ‘40s, driven by the verbal fireworks and sexual tension between lead characters, Maddie Hayes and David Addison. The show was very funny and the characters were well aware of it, illustrated by their self-referential jokes and constantly breaking the fourth wall, reminiscent of the Hope and Crosby Road pictures.

The show was both a critical and popular hit. It received numerous nominations, won some awards, and finished the 1986-87 season in the Top-10. By general consensus, season three is when the show the peaked before spiraling out of control and losing its luster. Unfortunately, like many relationships, once the chase is consummated, dynamics change. In the movies, when the guy finally gets the girl, they roll the credits and don’t have to deal with the hard parts. Moonlighting didn’t have that luxury when David and Maddie slept together. When the next episode aired a month later, some of the magic was lost.

Plus, the writing was already so on the wall that the staff was having trouble maintaining the high level of quality that they had achieved. While the producers were creating some amazing, inventive bits of television, they were constantly late delivering episodes to the network, creating only 15 episodes this season, actually 14 1/2 episodes since one is a clip show. It was always worth the wait, but the public wasn’t used to only seeing a couple of new episodes a month, so they grew restless with so many reruns, as I’m sure the advertisers did.

Season three is memorable for three major items: the addition of junior detective, Curtis Viola, a sidekick for David and a love interest for Ms. Dipesto; the love triangle between Maddie, David, and Sam, played by Mark Harmon; and quite possibly the most memorable episode of the entire series, “Atomic Shakespeare,” which saw the cast transported into a retelling of Taming of the Shrew.

The DVD set has a great feature called “Memories of Moonlighting,” a half-hour documentary about the third season with the producers, actors and writers. It is particularly noteworthy because it has the reunion of Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis, whose behind-the-scenes dislike became a constant feature in the tabloids.

Four of the episodes have commentary tracks. Co-executive producer Jay Daniel speaks on “Big Man on Mulberry Street,” a special episode because it involved a dance routine directed by Hollywood legend, Stanley Donen, who directed Singin’ in the Rain. Series creator Glen Gordon Caron and Harmon talk about “Sam and Dave,” which is the first of three episodes that featured Harmon’s character. Caron, Willis, Shepard and Daniel discuss the rigorous making of “Atomic Shakespeare.” Willis is simultaneously hysterical and annoying as he ruins future viewing of the episode by pointing out scenes cut together that were shot at different times. Shepard still seems annoyed by having to wear those heavy costumes.

“The Straight Poop” features four female fans that were involved clubs and web sites that pushed for the DVD release of the series. They know a great deal of trivia, but they are very annoying. Listening to them yammer on was hard to take not only due to the tone of their voices but they were a little too into the show. One raved about the image of the setting sun against the red sky during the closing credits. I couldn’t make it through the episode listening to them.

Still funnier than most things on television today, Moonlighting is a classic, one of the best shows to have aired the ‘80s. Buy Season Three and go back and get Season One & Two for your TV DVD collection; rent the remaining seasons and see how you like them.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
  • http://www.moonlighting21.com Diana

    “Still funnier than most things on television today, Moonlighting is a classic, one of the best shows to have aired the ’80s.”

    If you don’t mind me saying so, “Moonlighting” was one of the best shows ever, not just from the 80’s. It’s an influential series that shows today still pay homage too in one way or another. “Bones” is one and “Keen Eddie” was another.

    (By the way, I am NOT one of the fans commenting on the Straight Poop, but our publication, Moonlighting Strangers–with cast and crew interviews–promoted the Reunion Campaign as well as the DVD release).

    http://www.moonlighting21.com

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    there were definitely a bunch of laugh-out-loud bits on this show. my favorite: willis’ character had spent the night in the office due to much drinking…during the usual yell-fest, maddie says something like “just LOOK at yourself”…to which willis just rolls his eyeballs back in his head in an attempt to ‘look at himself’.

    heck, it’s makin’ me grin right now!

    great chemistry.