Saturday, April 4, 2020

[Roll Your Own Life] The TV That Shaped Me (Part 2)

Moonlighting (1985 - 1989)

The second of my "10 TV shows that had an impact on me" is probably one that may surprise you. Expecting a whole load of SF/Fantasy series and along comes Moonlighting. As I mentioned last post, I watched a whole lot of TV. Just about anything I could absorb. While I was avidly watching series like "V", Doctor Who (especially the 5th Doctor), MacGyver, Street Hawk, Miami Vice, and the like, there was one series I thought I'd check out because I liked quirky detective series and the adverts made it look like it was going to be something special.

Turns out it was.

Moonlighting was really the first TV series I became super-obsessed with. I bought the soundtrack, taped the episodes on VHS, hunted out the songs in the massive catalogue of tunes David Addison referred to from my dad's collection of Atlantic soul classics, got the stonewash trenchcoat because Addison had one. Hell, there was just something about it. It was fast paced, quick dialogue, funny, dramatic, with a great couple of leads. Bruce Willis was what I wanted to be when I grew up (ironically, I now have a haircut like he has now) and Cybill Shepherd was cool, witty, and attractive (and usually filmed in soft focus for added effect), and took absolutely no BS.

But, on top of the funny crime solving drama that has become commonplace these days on TV (with things like Bones, Castle, Lucifer, etc.) it was radical TV. It broke the rules, it broke convention, and it broke the fourth wall. Before Deadpool or even Lovejoy had even considered turning to the camera and talking to the audience, Moonlighting did it often. It even started episodes with "cold opens" with David & Maddie (strangely, in character, not as Willis / Shepherd) sitting on the office desk talking to the audience about the upcoming episode.

Then it really broke convention with strange episodes. Two that always stand out is "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice" with its extended (and gorgeously shot) black and white sequences, and intros that feature the last screen appearance of the legendary Orson Welles (telling you that your television wasn't faulty, it's supposed to be in black and white).

And "Atomic Shakespeare" where the cast do their version of the Taming of the Shrew. I always remember Addison (as Petruchio) entering the scene on a white horse, wearing RayBans (both he, and the horse) - and the horse has a BMW symbol on its side (as Addison always drove a BMW).

It was nuts, gorgeous to look at, and frequently you'd pan back and see the camera crew - and it was all intentional. It was just revolutionary at the time, and I loved every minute of it. Of course, once the sexual tension between David and Maddie was resolved in the middle of Season 3, and Cybill Shepherd's time on screen was reduced as she was off having children, and Bruce Willis' career was taking off after Die Hard... the focus of the series slipped more and more towards Agnes DiPesto and Herbert Viola, until it was finally cancelled in its fifth year.

Of course, even then it couldn't end without a fourth-wall breaking episode of David and Maddie running through the studios as the Blue Moon Detective Agency set was being dismantled, trying to stop the series' end.

Loved it. Awesome TV.

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