It is hard to talk about Moonlighting without thinking of Cybill Shepherd. She embodied her character, Maddie, in a way that captured and held the attention of anyone watching. As exciting as her character was on-screen, Shepherd’s life off-screen may take the cake. Scott Ryan dishes all the sizzling details in Moonlighting: An Oral History. He weaves together interviews from multiple cast members, writers, directors, and producers in a way that explains what happened to Shepherd.
Featuring Shepherd as Maddie, an ex-model recently bankrupt, and Bruce Willis as David, Moonlighting follows their adventures as co-partners in detective agency Blue Moon Investigations. The flirtation and bickering between the two created tension and romance that kept the audience on their toes. After waiting two and a half years, the audience finally got their wish and David and Maddie got together in the fourteenth episode of season 3. This episode brought the highest ratings thus far, which left everyone confused as to why the show aired for only two more seasons afterwards. Some have coined this phenomenon as the “moonlighting curse”, and others, like Ryan, knew there was more to it. To figure out the mystery, he interviews over twenty people involved in Moonlighting in hopes of exposing the juicy details.
Many blame Shepherd and David for the downfall of the show, correlating how ratings dropped following the episode where they slept together. Ryan compares this logic to how scientific experiments come to a valid conclusion in a controlled environment. He makes the distinction that you cannot directly link those two facts because Moonlighting was wild, fast-paced, and not whatsoever controlled. The show began to lose its glamour off-set, where getting Bruce and Cybill to act together was a struggle of its own. Their relationship throughout the second season grew so tense that getting them to and from the set was a daily event.
While the interviewees had many good and bad things to say about Shepherd, she also had a chance to give her side of the story. Throughout the fourth season, the director was met with the challenge of producing a comedy drama without its two leads. They pieced together scrap footage Shepherd to create the illusion that she was still there, when in fact, she was off having twins. This locked the writers into pre-determined scenes and changed the dynamic of how the show went from script to set. At the same time, Willis focused his attention on Die Hard and barely hung on for this last season of Moonlighting.
The interviews revealed how Shepherd had a track record for making excuses not to film. So when she became pregnant with twins, her justifiable absence only increased their frustrations. Ryan showcases her side of the story, where she insists that twins were a very tricky pregnancy at the time and generally an overwhelming experience.
Contrary to the beliefs about the “moonlighting curse”, these interviews tell a different story of what happened to Moonlighting. With the entertainment of reading about the head-butting between Shepherd and Caron, Moonlight: An Oral History will help you remember why you fell in love with the show in the first place.
Article 4: Glenn Gordon Caron: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. // The unbelievable drama on the set of Moonlighting.
Delivering fiery romance and fast comedy, Glenn Gordon Caron’s creation of Moonlighting guaranteed its place in pop culture history. In Moonlighting: An Oral History, Scott Ryan investigates the behind-the-scenes drama of this show that pioneered network TV as we know it today. After approaching Caron and receiving his blessing, Ryan corralled the rest of the cast members, writers, producers, and anyone else he could find. Keeping a delicate balance between memory and fact, he seamlessly blends his ideas with the interviews to celebrate this magical moment in TV history.
This ABC-TV series was the first successful comedy-drama of its time, featuring Cybill Shepherd as Maddie and Bruce Willis as David. It follows Maddie, an ex-model recently bankrupt, who is persuaded by David to run Blue Moon Investigations as co-partners. Fueled by the natural chemistry of the leads, Caron nailed the perfect mix of flirtation and bickering which left the audience anxiously waiting for romance. When the episode finally came for them to consummate their relationship, audiences had already been waiting for two and a half years. Bringing the highest ratings yet, the shown then did a 180 and plummeted until its cancellation only two seasons later. Many fans and critics blame the moment when the two leads got together, but Ryan’s interviews suggest otherwise.
Much of the show’s success was nurtured by the innovation and brilliance of Caron. He had the revolutionary idea of creating a detective series where the detective cases would not be the only focus of attention. Instead, the plot ran on the comedy love story between Maddie and David. Ryan explains how writers knew that viewers were not necessarily invested in the seriousness of the detective business, rather they watched for the relationship between the two leads. After the particularly popular black-and-white episode aired, the pressure increased tenfold for writers to be even more creative. They had already introduced the breaking of the fourth wall, cold opens, and wild chase scenes. For example, they frequently broke down the fourth wall by allowing David to comment on that unimportance in the show’s dialogue or by filming the characters walking off the set amongst the crew.
Amidst all this innovative success, Caron admits how he constantly got in trouble for not having any content to shoot because he was dissatisfied with his writing. For many reasons, he abandoned his post in the fourth season as executive producer and head writer. Attempting to salvage what was left of a great show, the writers rekindled romantic sparks with Maddie and another character, to which Shepherd strongly voiced her objection. With Roger Director as the showrunner, his takeover was met with both appreciation and doubts. The interviewees noted that there was a lot more second-guessing and rewriting with Director than there was with Caron. Where Caron had had chaotic control over the show as it flourished, Director faced the challenge of saving a dying show.
Despite this chaos, perhaps the show would not have amounted to its greatness had Caron not strived for excellence with every late script written. With Ryan’s help, Moonlight: An Oral History will answer any questions you had about the ins and outs of Caron’s masterpiece. Get your copy on Amazon now.