Moonlighting would have been a very good show even if it had just been a straight detective spoof.
What made it truly great, at least for the first three seasons, was the fearless way the writers, producers and even the stars pushed at the boundaries of the TV format.
Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd regularly broke the fourth wall by talking to the audience in character as Maddie Hayes and David Addison.
In addition, the show wasn’t afraid to experiment by indulging , and in some cases devoting whole episodes to, the writers’ flights of fancy – and their daring experiments resulted in some of the show’s best moments.
For example, one episode – The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice (above) – featured Maddie and David imagining what had happened in a decades-old murder case. It was filmed almost entirely in black in white in an impressively authentic 1940s film noir style and even boasted an introduction to the “TV experiment” by the legendary Orson Welles (in what was to be his last role, as he died shortly after filming).
Another episode featured Willis playing his own unborn son, talking to his guardian angel, in scenes set within Maddie’s womb.
This week’s first classic clip comes from the legendary Atomic Shakespeare episode, in which a young Moonlighting fan, annoyed that he is missing the latest episode of the show because he has to do his homework, imagines the characters transplanted into Shakespeare’s Taming Of The Shrew.
This next clip comes from a season four episode. This season was hampered by the fact that Shepherd was pregnant and unavailable for filming for much of it, so her and Willis were by necessity kept apart for a large portion of it.
Since a huge part of the show’s success was down to their chemistry, it was huge handicap and the show suffered what ultimately proved to be a fatal blow (it was cancelled the following season).
Still, there were still some wonderful moments during the final two seasons and here is one of the more surreal ones, involving a telephone that metamorphoses into a Claymation Maddie and David being turned into a frog: