According to Urban Dictionary, “moonlighting curse” refers to when the will-they-won’t-they couple on a TV show finally gets together… and it ruins the show. Despite all the fond memories of Moonlighting, there are still many negative feelings lingering behind. Some fans blame the romance between the lead characters, and some blame the writers, but Scott Ryan gets to the bottom of it in Moonlighting: An Oral History. He expertly crafts together interviews from multiple cast members, writers, directors, and producers in a way that only reinforces why Moonlighting will live forever as a Hollywood legend.
Moonlighting was a drama comedy disguised as a detective series. Featuring Cybill Shepherd as Maddie, an ex-model recently bankrupt, and Bruce Willis as David, the show follows their adventures as co-partners in detective agency Blue Moon Investigations. Their bickering and flirtatious interactions created a 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. Uncoincidentally, this episode brought the highest ratings yet and then the show dwindled down with only producing two more seasons. Ryan interviews over twenty people involved in Moonlighting to try and piece together exactly what went wrong.
For the most part, the first few chapters capture which elements of the show brought its success. The majority agree that Shepherd was the obvious and natural choice for Maddie, while Willis was inches away from not making the cut. The creator, Glenn Gordon Caron, had his reasons for both castings; he practically wrote the show with Shepherd in mind as Maddie. As for casting David, everyone remembered how hard Caron fought for Willis because of the way he seamlessly personified the lines at the auditions.
Along with a dynamic cast, the directors oversaw the rapid-fire overlapping dialogue which is now a norm on most TV shows. To create those witty scripts, the writers were constantly on a time crunch, so much so that the actors would often receive pages to read mid-scene. Ryan speculates that this relationship between the writers and actors must have become toxic throughout the seasons. If you account for all the drama going on in the script, there was just as much drama unfolding off-camera.
The direction of the show started to shift when Shepherd and Willis both asked for time off. Instead of pushing back deadlines, the writers crafted episodes for supporting characters such as Agnes DiPesto, the agency’s receptionist played by Allyce Beasley. Caron tried to uphold the show’s foundation of using the detective agency as only a base, with the character’s dynamics on the forefront. In this effort, audiences began losing interest and demanded to see more of David and Maddie. When the writers finally allowed them to consummate their relationship in the third season, Willis and Shepherd were overwhelming preoccupied with their lives off-set.
Through the ups and downs of David and Maddie’s relationship on-screen and Willis and Shepherd’s relationship off-screen, Ryan pieces together these gritty details for you in Moonlighting: An Oral History.