12 January 2003 | Victor Field
The one that got it right.
"Moonlighting" had the same basic template as "Remington Steele" (which "Moonlighting" creator Glenn Gordon Caron also wrote for), but the two shows were ultimately so different that it never really felt like a ripoff. (In any case, "Remington Steele" itself felt a bit like "Hart To Hart," about which the less said the better.)
The show's troubled backstage production is the stuff of legend (if Sky 1 viewers think the arrival of new episodes of "The Simpsons" is an event, they don't remember this show's travails - a new episode on ABC was practically a headline story); so self-reverential was "Moonlighting" that the episode "The Straight Poop" was actually about the show's backstage drama, with Rona Barrett (real-life gossip maven) hosting and interviews with Cybill Shepherd's ex Peter Bogdanovich and, amusingly, Pierce "Steele" Brosnan. But though the problems really affected the show to the extent that some episodes had to focus on David and Maddie's secretary Agnes and the agency's new recruit Herbert, it never really became unwatchable.
And at its best, "Moonlighting" was a gem; with dazzling wordplay, real sparks between Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd (although Shepherd never getting recognised by the Emmys was justified), and some occasionally good mysteries to boot. Listing all the highlights the show produced would take too long, but the show deserves its place in history for, among others:
1. "It's A Wonderful Maddie": Maddie finding that in an alternate timeline the Blue Moon Detective Agency has been taken over by Jonathan and Jennifer Hart (Maddie and Max together: "Don't I know you from somewhere?") and that David has wound up marrying Cheryl Tiegs - a much better choice than Cybill Shepherd methinks.
2. "The Murder's In The Mail": For the "man with a mole on his nose" scene with the doorman.
3. What the narrator at the start of one of the episodes called "those silly chases they like to do on 'Moonlighting'."
4. "Atomic Shakespeare": In which a boy who has to miss "Moonlighting" to study "The Taming of the Shrew" leads us into a very amusing reshaping of the yarn ("10 Things I Hate About You" was good, but can that give you a medieval wedding ceremony with "Good Loving"?).
5. The movie-length pilot, complete with the full version of the wonderful Lee Holdridge-Al Jarreau theme song over the credits.
6. "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice." Orson Welles and Bruce Willis. A match made in heaven.
7. "Camille": Especially the climax.
Bruce Willis can look back on this with pride; Cybill Shepherd had nowhere to go but down. And the show's writers (Caron, Jeff Reno and Ron Osborn, Roger Director, Chris Ruppenthal, Debra Frank and Carl Sautter...), I salute you. A true classic.
Too bad the Anselmo case was never solved, though.