Reflecting on a case in the now and noir with Moonlighting’s Maddie and David…
A favourite episode from the 1980s with the Private Detective duo dreaming of a 1940s murder most foul.
David/Maddie – Blue Moon (Moonlighting). noangelproductions and photos © Sony Pictures
This episode of Moonlighting (1985-89) boasts a prologue from a celebrity fan of this show, with the final screen performance from Orson Welles. This actor passed away a few days before his scenes were shown on television and this episode of this series dedicated to him.
Moonlighting‘s opening theme tune was written and performed by Al Jarreau. The series tells of a bankrupt model, Maddie Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) who runs the Blue Moon Detective agency. She’s an icy blonde who meets her match in her wise-cracking work partner, David Addison (Bruce Willis). The pair solving cases in (normally) weekly stand alone episodes.
The show’s supporting cast included the agency’s quirky secretary, Agnes (Allyce Beasley). Later in the show’s run, Agnes’ love interest was introduced in the form of the agency’s trainee Private Detective Herbert Viola (Curtis Armstrong). Guest stars of the show included Jeremy Irons, Eva Marie Saint, Nicholas Pryor, Brad Dourif and Judd Nelson.
This late 1980s drama-romantic comedy series had one of the best examples of on-screen sexual tension. As the show had simmering pot of attraction between the two leads, Maddie and David. Many believe that once the pair finally succumbed to their inner desires, that the series lost its lustre.
However, the show jumped the shark for me, with an unfortunate dream sequence from Maddie’s unborn baby (the storyline written in due to Shepherd’s real-life pregnancy). This with Bruce Willis cast as the baby, complete with nappy. (This in one of those you can’t unsee on-screen moments).
Remington Steele (1982-87), was the TV series which was reportedly the inspiration for Moonlighting. The show’s star Pierce Brosnan also appeared as his television character from this show in Moonlighting. This series with Brosnan and Stephanie Zimbalist to be explored in a later review.
David and Maddie’s characters were inspired as the show’s creator, Glenn Gordon Caron watched a performance of The Taming of the Shrew. A homage to this Shakespeare play features in another much-loved episode Atomic Shakespeare.
Moonlighting had other on screen references to other television great series of the time. These including Hart to Hart (1979-84) with an appearance from Lionel Stander. Stander playing his Hart to Hart character, Max.
In 1987, this episode The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice episode was rated at 34th of the TV Guide’s 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. This particular episode was based on a true life murder case. The episode is in both colour and black and white. With scenes in the then present day in colour and in the past black and white. These film noir dream sequences of a fictional unsolved murder from the 1940s and as Welles suggests “… don’t adjust your sets.”
The episode starts with a heated discussion with Maddie and David on whether they should investigate a spouse’s infidelity. Both taking opposing views on this subject. She’s against it, he’s for it. The pair employed to find photographic evidence from a concerned husband on his wife’s faithfulness.
On visiting this husband as he hopes to purchase at a run-down 1940s nightclub, the client’s worst fears are confirmed. Maddy and David have discovered that his wife has not been unfaithful, and the sale of his nightclub falls through.
The owner of the nightclub, then tells Maddie and David of the Flamingo Cove murder that took place there. This when the then married clarinet player was murdered by either Rita, his wife – a singer at the club – or her lover, Zach, the coronet player. Rita and Zach were both sent to the electric chair after reporting their lover was the murderer.
Maddie and David both taking opposing views of the events relating to the murder. Maddie believes Rita as the innocent party framed by her lover. She thinks it was Zach who callously carried out the murder.
David also believes Zach did it but as persuaded to carry it out by the now more vampish wife. A fight on their contrasting views spills over to these detectives ride home. Maddie her calling David a sexist – and vice versa – as their fight continues after they return to the office.
The pair have a battle of the sexes chemistry reminiscent of Barbara Novak and Catcher Block in Down with Love (2003). The latter pair in that more recent 1960 homage to Doris Day and Rock Hudson in Pillow Talk, it’s apparent Maddie more bothered about this bickering than David. Their bickering shown in split screens. This in a nice wee in-series nod to this movie pairing.
Later, the pair both dream of the events surrounding the murder asthe show turns to black and white. Maddie and David casting themselves as the wife and her lover in both their dreams. The dreams showing their opposing views of the events.
The all too familiar tropes, their wardrobe, appearance and sets are reminiscent of those Film Noir 1940s movies. Both stories are wonderful homages the different films, actors and plots within these genres.
In Maddie’s dream – she’s the innocent party as Rita – her character is seduced by the cornet player. Her guilt and upset regarding her husband’s murder as she’s framed by her lover. David narrates Zach’s side of the story in the first person with the spoken vernacular heard in those movies used, the wife is seen as more instrumental in the killing. However Zach going to the electric chair.
As her dream character Shepherd performs two different songs, Blue Moon and I told ya, I love ya now get out!. Both the lyrics and her performance complementing those individual dreams. The title alluding to the film, with a similar premise of a homicide in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981).
It was a lovely revisit to this series which I remember enjoying back then. This episode easily showcasing the star’s talents. These with the two versions of the story mirroring their present day characters. Shepherd showing a wonderful vocal singing performance in both dreams. Willis in his version of the tale easily showing his charismatic character’s irreverent and impish humour.
However, in both the present and past, the leads’ romantic on-screen chemistry is apparent in full force. As the pair share on-screen kisses, it’s kind of inevitable the pair would get together. As this concluded, back in the present day as a memorable episode for more reasons than one.
Chances are, you’ll love this episode as a Die Hard Bruce Willis fan and one where he and Cybill Shepherd gained a flock of admirers. It spells out their battle of the sexes banter at it best, both in black and white (and colour) as a will they won’t they dream pairing.
Weeper Rating: 😦 😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 /10
This review was added to Shroud of Thoughts 5th Annual Favourite TV Episode blogathon. Other reviews with this cast include Bruce Willis in Hollywood Hitmakers from the 1980s, Die Hard and 80s Crushes. Cybill Shepard in Chances Are and Fantasy Island.