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Moonlighting
     

Moonlighting

Director: Robert Butler

Cast: Cybill Shepherd, Bruce Willis, Allyce Beasley

 

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Every DVD should only offer the joys and surprises found on Moonlighting: The Pilot. Moonlighting was special in its own time, as one of the most critically and popularly well-received network television series of the mid-'80s, and one of the most frustrating. Just at the point when the public was most interested in the program, a combination of production

Overview

Every DVD should only offer the joys and surprises found on Moonlighting: The Pilot. Moonlighting was special in its own time, as one of the most critically and popularly well-received network television series of the mid-'80s, and one of the most frustrating. Just at the point when the public was most interested in the program, a combination of production problems and difficulties with the scripts and the stars helped reduce the number of new shows to a trickle, and some of those were bizarre (starring the supporting players). But when it worked, Moonlighting worked magnificently, capturing very much the spirit of what Cybill Shepherd felt was its inspiration, Howard Hawks' 1940 romantic comedy-thriller His Girl Friday. The pilot may not have been the best episode -- the plot, dealing with a hunt for a cache of diamonds stolen by the Nazis, parallels that of Marathon Man, only with the usual '70s/'80s television detective show conventions (and one good chase scene, involving two men in glass-enclosed elevators) -- but it was the place to start, and it was different. The major point of departure was Bruce Willis. His brash mix of working-class cockiness and a sense of class, coupled with an outrageous sense of humor of a kind seldom paraded in an action vehicle, was a breath of fresh air in popular culture at the time. The film-to-video transfer on the DVD is impeccable, giving viewers a better look at the episode than anyone working on it ever believed possible in 1985. The real bonus here, beyond the fun of the program, is the accompanying narration by Bruce Willis and the show's creator Glenn Gordon Caron, and the inclusion of 15 minutes of screen tests -- that of Willis and also of an unsuccessful candidate for the role of David Addison, Harley Venton, both done with a very attractive stand-in leading lady named Mary-Margaret Hume. Venton was more conventionally good looking and had a straighter, more subdued take on the role; he was apparently more what ABC had in mind, but had he gotten the role, his and Shepherd's character never could have struck the sparks that Willis ultimately did. Willis and Caron's narration is fascinating because they sound like mirror images of each other; Caron never says it outright, but one gets a sense that he spotted something in Willis' reading for the part that triggered a sense of interior identification, as though Willis the actor could project what Caron knew he wanted in the role, beyond the writing. Their narration is a lesson in television history from the standpoint of acting, directing, and writing, as well as a celebration of the series that followed. Throughout the narration, the actor and the producer recall the rules that the series broke, often to its benefit. Unlike the inflated accounts given on these tracks by certain directors, so much of the commentary is refreshingly self-deprecating -- as when Caron proudly admits that he begged Willis not to sign to do Die Hard during a shut-down because of Shepherd's pregnancy, thinking it would kill his career. One also learns how much successful television can be the result of happenstance -- if success in the field of invention, as Edison said, was "one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration," then it seems to arise out of the same mix in certain kinds of television. Even the Al Jarreau theme song, one of his biggest selling records, was a result of one of his earlier songs being tracked temporarily into the pilot to show composer Lee Holdridge what the producer wanted; they ended up getting a new song from Jarreau. Willis also makes a very telling comment about the violence of action-adventure entertainment in the years since Moonlighting, admitting that reruns of the series are some of the few examples of his work that his children can watch. The DVD is well assembled, with a simple, straightforward menu that even includes the option of listening to Willis and Caron over the screen tests. One wishes there were some promo spots for the show, and all of the discussion between the star and the producer about details of subsequent shows makes one wish that a "Best of Moonlighting" DVD series could follow.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Greg Fagan
"The light that burns brightest burns fastest," one recalls when watching Moonlighting: The Pilot. This show made one of the more glittering TV debuts of the '80s, only to fade before the end of its fifth season. Mixing mystery, romance, and comedy, the series introduced Bruce Willis as David Addison, the head of a detective agency that was designed to lose money -- supermodel Maddie Hayes's (Cybill Shepherd) money, to be precise. Of course, wise guy Addison and princess Hayes set off sparks the moment they meet, and their chemistry assures that she will, after promising to shutter the operation and send this obnoxious clown packing, wind up joining him to run the agency. That such a cookie-cutter setup -- oh yes, they crack a convoluted case between banter sessions -- would yield an absolutely delightful 93 minutes can only be explained as one of those lightning-in-a-bottle TV miracles, thanks largely to the principals. Shepherd has never appeared quite as natural as she does here, and Willis establishes the charming persona that would eventually make him a big-screen star. His screen test for the role is included on the VHS tape, and he even adds running commentary to the DVD, along with creator Glenn Gordon Caron (Now and Again).
All Movie Guide - Perry Seibert
Although the style of the series would be quirkier than the pilot episode of Moonlighting, that two-hour start does display the excellent timing between Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd that made the show a hit. Their level of banter, which can be compared favorably with some of the best screwball comedies, seems to have appeared full-blown right from the start. The characters would grow deeper over the run of the show, adding a level of poignancy to their verbal dueling, but it is easy to see from this episode why the show was picked up for a series. There is nothing all that mysterious about the murder mystery storyline, but what is on screen is a greater mystery - a case of actors bringing out the comedic best in each other.

Product Details

Release Date:
01/25/2000
UPC:
0013131099898
Original Release:
1985
Source:
Starz / Anchor Bay
Region Code:
1
Sound:
[Dolby Digital]
Time:
1:33:00

Special Features

Full-frame presentation; Audio commentary with actor Bruce Willis and creator Glenn Gordon Caron; Bruce Willis' Moonlighting screen test

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Cybill Shepherd Madelyn "Maddie" Hayes
Bruce Willis David Addison
Allyce Beasley Agnes DiPesto
Robert Ellenstein Heinz
Jim McKrell Alan
James Karen Plastic Surgeon
Rebecca Stanley Susan Kaplan
Dennis Lipscomb Simon
Frederick Coffin Pawnbroker
Mary Hart Actor
Henry Sanders Investigator #1
Liz Sheridan Selma
Dennis Stewart Blond Mohawk
Joe Whipp Investigator #2
Rachel Bard Grandma
Blake Clark Newsstand Man
Suzanne Fagan Female Driver
Sam Hennings Jonathan Kaplan
Joan McMurtrey Mother
John Medici Andre
Brian Thompson Simon's Man
Michel Voletti Maitre D'

Technical Credits
Robert Butler Director
Glenn Gordon Caron Producer,Screenwriter
Jay Daniel Producer
William Hiney Production Designer
Lee Holdridge Score Composer
Michael D. Margulies Cinematographer
Robert Turturice Costumes/Costume Designer

Scene Index

Chapter Selection
0. Chapter Selection
1. Opening Credits/The Hit [6:04]
2. Insufficient Funds [5:52]
3. First Impressions [7:27]
4. A Bad Date And A Fast Chase [10:54]
5. Wrong Place At The Right Time [4:49]
6. The Police And The Press [6:18]
7. Late-Night Callers [6:38]
8. Under Duress [3:37]
9. Sissy Fighter vs. The Ball Of Fluff [7:24]
10. Keys To The Case [8:58]
11. Not-So-Subtle Warning [6:05]
12. Adding It All Up [3:43]
13. Hickory Dickory Dock [6:10]
14. Desperate Times, Desperate Measures [3:31]
15. The Same Time Tomorrow [2:26]
16. End Credits [3:00]

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