BOOKS… Moonlighting An Oral History (2021) by Scott Ryan

#1980s #2020s

 

Talking Moonlighting, the show that broke the mould in a 1980s TV series world…

 

Scott Ryan tells the story of this show through interviews with this show’s cast and crew telling their thoughts and feelings about this cult show.

 

Moonlighting Season 4 Opening and Closing Credits and Theme Song, Steven Brandt

 

In the Moonlighting (1985-89) TV series pilot episode, a bankrupt model, Maddie Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) takes a more active role in the City of Angels Detective Agency, a company that she owned but came to close down. This run by the wise cracking David Addison (Bruce Willis). Maddie and David then team up together as partners in the rebranded company, the Blue Moon Agency to solve cases in their own unique crazy and offbeat way. 

This 1980s TV series had me hooked then with its snappy comic dialogue, heartfelt homages, fun fourth wall moments and the more random song and dance segments. It also had the will they won’t they sexual chemistry between the lead characters Maddie and David. Later the show added a romance for the supporting characters, the agency’s kooky – but poetic – receptionist, Agnes DiPesto (Allyce Beasley) and Private Detective, Herbert Viola (Curtis Armstrong).

Moonlighting‘s on-screen and off-screen events are told in the contents of this no holds barred book, Moonlighting An Oral History by Scott Ryan. After reading the description of this book on Moonlighting, I was immediately keen to read about this 1980s groundbreaking American show. And who better to tell the truth of Moonlighting‘s story than those who starred in the show and those who worked behind the scenes.

This book is surprisingly the first book written about this television series, although his stint on Moonlighting is referred to in Curtis Armstrong’s autobiography (Revenge of the Nerd: Or . . . The Singular Adventures of the Man Who Would Be Booger). Sadly we don’t get Bruce Willis’ tales of this time and events, as although he had initially agreed to participate in this book, he was unable when it came to the time.

Ryan tells the bare bones of the story. The book predominantly tells the story using candid interviews from the cast and crew. These answers have been pieced together by Ryan and tell the Moonlighting story in a coherent way. This unique style was admittedly at first difficult to get used to, but then the logic of this method felt and understood. It makes this book more autobiographical account than a biographical one. Ryan in his compilation of these answers to his interviews tells an always honest, sometimes funny, at times heartbreaking but always interesting story of this show.

This written tribute to the show was made pleasant and enjoyable reading as this story flows well as we learn about this series. It is made all the more compelling as this was guaranteed to be a 100% honest and true account. The titles of this book’s chapters pay homage to screwball comedies, with titles such as Citizen Caron, Some Like it Not and Kiss Me, Shakespeare. These chapters boast a lovely selection of photographs that this particular Moonlighting fan had not seen before.

In this book, I discovered the true premise behind the show, as a detective series secondary to a screwball comedy love story. These characters and the story was created by Glen Gordon Caron. The book tells about the casting of the two primary leads, and how Caron’s vision was realised as he cast his dream actress for Maddie and his then hunt for her partner in crime, then finding him in a New York bartender. Ryan balances the storytelling about both the rise and fall in ratings of the show throughout the chapters. He ends the book with a heartwarming thanks to those who assisted him in this book.

It was lovely to read the warm and affectionate stories from the acting cast, with Cybill Shepherd, Allyce Beasley (Agnes DiPesto) and Curtis Armstrong (Herbert) taking an active part in the storytelling. These actors all speak warmly of their co-star, Bruce Willis. It’s lovely to learn of those roles off-screen from familiar names as Stanley Donen, who choreographed a dance sequence to a Phil Spector tune and Billy Joel who provided musical numbers used on the show’s soundtrack. And to learn of the show’s many guest stars.

It is also interesting to learn about the creative techniques used in the making of the show. The book examines those behind the scenes moments, as the cast and crew explain how specific episodes and scenes were set up and filmed. These episodes including the one where the leads consummate their relationship and of the many in-show homages to Shakespeare, film noir and Casablanca. The show also looks at the decision making behind more controversial episodes.

On reading this book, it is clear that Ryan is still a huge fan of the show, and that he misses it deeply. This passion is felt in his book, as he and the others have written an honest and truthful love letter about this show. In this book and those quotes he shares, he tells of the joys of creating this unique groundbreaking series. He clears up the misunderstandings and misconceptions that surround it. The feelings and thoughts of this cast and crew are felt strongly in this book and these are supported in every quote, remembrance and shared fact.

Ryan has done a sterling job in piecing those interviews together. It reads like the solution to an intricate 1000+ pieced jigsaw, as this book creates a detailed picture of this well loved show. And for the first time, it feels that the truth is out there. Let’s hope Ryan and those who helped him in this endeavour can be heard loud and clear, with their talk on the show that gave both the TV and film industry, a much needed “boink”.

 

A disclaimer and personal thank you to Fayetteville Mafia Press and Netgalley for giving me an Advance Reader Copy of Moonlighting An Oral History by Scott Ryan. Financial compensation was not received. However, I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed here are my own. If you would like your book to be featured or promoted here, please drop a line to me via my Contact Me Page.

 

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