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Friday, 22 February 2008 07:59


An equal battle of the sexes ...


USA - 1985-89 - 67 episodes (60 mins) - colour

On the surface a typical romantic comedy drama, Moonlighting was built around the love-hate relationship between mismatched partners thrown together to run a down-at-heel detective agency. Bearing a passing resemblence to the earlier Remington Steele, which Moonlighting creator Glenn Gordon Caron had previously worked on as writer and supervising producer, what made this series different were the innovations it brought to the screen.

Conscious of its own formula, the ironic nods to television's predictabilites took in-jokes to a new level; referencing both high and low-brow culture, jamming contemporary dialogue into iambic pentameter in a Shakespearean parody in one episode, and shooting in black and white - in the style of MGM musicals and Warner Brothers gangsters movies - to solve a forty-year-old case in another. But more than anything, Moonlighting effectively demolished the Fourth Wall, which let the characters start episodes by reading viewer's letters, discuss ratings or even comment on the number of reruns between new episodes.

The meticulous nature of Caron's approach meant that Moonlighting never managed to produce the requisite 22 episodes per season. During its turbulent production it wasn't uncommon for the scripts, twice normal length for a one hour production to accomodate the fast paced, razor-sharp dialogue that harked back to Howard Hawks' "My Girl Friday" and "Bringing up Baby", having to be rewritten at the last minute, with locked copies of the episodes delivered only hours before airtime.

Of all the rules the show broke, the one that lead to its eventual downfall was the resolution of the "will-they-won't-they?" aspect to Maddie Hayes and David Addison's relationship. Caving in to audience pressure for the consumation of their romance, once the characters slept together the main source of narrative tension evaporated.

Cybill Shepherd as Maddie Hayes
Bruce Willis as David Addison
Allyce Beasley as Agnes Dipesto
Curtis Armstrong as Herbert Viola


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