A Reason for the Season
Scene: We enter the former set of Blue Moon Detective Agency, the fictional office of the ‘80s award-winning romantic-drama-comedy-mystery series Moonlighting. Inside, we are greeted by three of the shows most recognizable characters: Madelyn “Maddie” Hayes, David Addison, and secretary Agnes Dipesto. Miss Dipesto—or, more accurately, “Mrs. Dipesto-Viola”—greets us with a rhyme, as is her custom.
Agnes Dipesto [played by actress Allyce Beasley]:
There’s no need to worry, there’s nothing to fear
‘Cause the fifth DVD of Moonlighting is here
We brought you car chases, we slammed all the doors
When clients felt wronged, we settled the scores
It’s 2007, we’re glad to be back
But it seems that our series is under attack
You all want to know why the show fell apart
Well, perhaps this discussion’s a good place to start
Maddie [played by actress Cybill Shepherd]: Hello, I’m Madelyn Hayes.
Moonlighting - Season Five - The Final Season
US DVD: 6 Mar 2007
David [played by actor Bruce Willis]: David Addison here.
Maddie: As the final season of our series, Moonlighting, arrives for posterity, we thought we’d share our thoughts with you about what the show means to us. After all—”
David: Yadda yadda yadda. Come on, Maddie. Why don’t we cut to the chase already, huh? This was only supposed to be an 800-word review. You’re going to make this poor reviewer’s fingers fall off from typing all of this dialogue. Tell ‘em why we’re here.
Maddie: Why we’re really here?
David: Yes! You don’t think people clicked this link to be held in suspense, do ya?
Maddie: No. But this is a delicate matter. I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. We had a good run. Moonlighting was a good show—a great show—about two detectives who, on some level, became students of human nature. Goodness, you don’t even see many detective shows anymore. What happened to the free spirits, the mavericks, the rogues? Where’s Magnum P.I., Spenser for Hire, Hart to Hart? Where’s the little old lady who wrote murder mysteries and solved them in real life too? Where’s the tall man with the tight pants and the talking car?
Agnes: Or Remington Steele!
David: They all morphed into variations of Law & Order.
Agnes: With a side order of Monk.
Maddie: All I’m saying is that detectives look for things, David—big things—something “out there” that other people aren’t able to see, an epiphany about the world in which we live, an ideal that’s bigger than whether or not a man who apparently returns to his wife after spending ten years in a Mexican prison is really the man she thinks he is, like in “The Color of Maddie” episode. And more than whether a ruthless divorce attorney broke up a marriage that could’ve been saved, like in “Take My Wife, For Example”. I know people loved the show, and I’m grateful for that, but should we be airing our dirty laundry? Shouldn’t we concentrate on the fact that, over our five seasons, we learned a lot about life, and the world, and about the people in it, and about ourselves?
Agnes: Sort of like the first episode of the final season, “A Womb with a View”, remember? Mr. Addison dressed up as the baby you were carrying, and a messenger from the Creator showed baby Hayes images of humankind—the good and the bad. That was such a thought provoking, artistic episode.
Maddie: Oh, brother. David in a diaper. Talk about dirty laundry.
David: Me, sportin’ diaper rash and runnin’ around with an old messenger dude named Jerome who always seemed to know when the commercials were comin’—that’s a strange way to begin a season. But we didn’t give ‘em any choice, Maddie.
David: The writers. Look at us, a warm-blooded and charming man, such as myself, matched up with a fun-deprived sister from the icy side of the tracks. I know you want to preserve your position as a positively drawn female character. Hell, you’re one of the most respected TV characters ever, male or female. But you’re not going to tarnish your legacy if you admit your weaknesses.
Maddie: There’s a difference between admitting something and dragging it through the mud.
David: Sounds lawyerly.
Maddie: It does, doesn’t it? Madelyn Hayes, Attorney-at-law.
Agnes: It could have been Madelyn instead of Matlock.
David: Get serious, Maddie—and, yes, I realize how odd that sounds coming from me. But I know what’s happening here. I can read a road map, I’ve seen the street signs, this conversation’s got GPS tracking. See, we were one of the best couples ever to hit the small screen, and you don’t want that to go away. I get that. Sam and Diane, Tony and Angela, Pam and Jim, Lorelai and Luke, the Huxtables—they’ve got nothin’ on us. We had chemistry, Maddie, and noodles of sexual tension.
David: That’s right. Noodles. And oodles of noodles. But it was only a matter of time. Sooner or later, we’d fall victim to the most common error in nighttime television: The Premature Hookup.
Agnes: Should I cover my ears now?
Maddie: And your eyes.
David: Why not? That’s what the viewers did.
Maddie: I’m not hearing this.
David: See, it’s workin’ already. Look, Maddie, there’s no shame in what happened. If we were on a soap opera, we could get together, break up, marry other people, get back together, break up, and do it all over again for 30 or 40 years. People will forgive almost anything when you’re sellin’ detergent. But, on our show, we only had one shot to make it work and we hooked up too soon, shot the moon too quickly. We didn’t put enough gas in that little red corvette and, consequently, the writers didn’t know what to do with us. That, as well as a well-timed writer’s strike and some filming delays. Plus, these fine people don’t know this, but you’re something of a prima donna.
Maddie: Says the man who refused to be filmed outdoors without his trusty sunglasses.
David: Look, hookup mishaps happen to the best of us. Who’s the Boss, Gilmore Girls, Cheers, you name it.
Maddie: It’s not the “hookup” that destroyed our show. It’s what followed that did it. You were there, in the very last episode of the series, “Lunar Eclipse”, when they dismantled our set and told us we were cancelled, you heard that network man Cy tell us, “A case of poison ivy’s more fun than watching you two lately.” The viewers wanted romance, David, and we stopped giving it to them.
Agnes: Or each other.
David: Waiter, I’ll have what Agnes just said.
Maddie: Honestly, David, if anybody’s to blame, it’s you.
David: Actually, Waiter, I think the lady pointin’ the finger will have a table for one.
Maddie: It’s your fault, David. You ruined the show. How can we have romance if you’re carrying on with other women?
David: I knew it. This is about Annie (played by Virginia Madsen). She was your competition for dear old Dave over here.
Maddie: She was my cousin. My very married cousin. I guess you did the right thing in the end, in the final episode, getting her to leave you alone, but it was the wrong thing when you started it in “When Girls Collide”.
David: And I suppose your thoughts were strictly platonic when you had your fling with Mark Harmon.
Maddie: Mark wasn’t in Season Five, David.
David: Or when you married the guy you met on the train—the same guy who went on to become a director on the show.
Maddie: He wasn’t in Season Five, either, except for the last episode. Are you sure you were getting the right scripts? That would certainly explain a lot.
David: So when the cops assigned an officer to guard you after you witnessed a murder in “Eine Kleine Nacht Murder”, you were only thinking about friendship?
Maddie: As a close second to safety.
David: Let me get this straight. You’ve got a hunky bodyguard to guard your body, and you’re not even curious about how much jump he’s got in his bones?
Maddie: Not a bit. Like I said in “Plastic Fantastic Lovers”, you men always want to put us up on a pedestal or down in the gutter.
David: Actually, we’d prefer a foot in both spots.
Maddie: [making a fist] I’ll give you a spot, all right. David, you don’t even see what happened to us, do you? We had such a hard time talking to each other, they made Agnes and Herbert Viola (Curtis Armstrong) carry the show in the episode “In ‘N Inlaws”! We appeared in a dream sequence!
David: Yeah, well, that dream sequence went over better than the one on Dallas.
Agnes: Hey! Herbert was my boyfriend and, eventually, my husband. And he deserves some credit for filling in where he could. Like when the show moved to Sundays at eight o’clock and nobody told Al Jarreau he had to sing the theme song on Sundays. Herbert sang the theme when you two bombed out.
Maddie: I wouldn’t say I bombed.
David: Agnes, Herbert was lip-synching.
Agnes: Jealousy has never been a good look for you, Mr. Addison. I prefer your bowling outfit. As for Herbert and me, what we lacked in plot, we made up for in rhyme and imagination.
David: There she goes. One of the most sought after rappers of the ‘80s. Vanilla Agnes.
Agnes: [giggling] We did the best we could. Although I wish we could have avoided the rivalry between Herbert and MacGilicuddy (Jack Blessing). They punked each other and fought one another for the entire season, throwing buckets of paper on each other’s heads, and starting rumors about each other. It was so unnecessary.
David: But that’s why these folks should go out and buy this DVD. Who’s to say what’s “unnecessary”, Miss Dipesto? That’s for the audience to decide.
Maddie: And that’s another thing you do, David. You love to primp for the camera, talking to the audience, doing your “Pause Right Before the Commercial Break” look. And humiliating me in the process. Like when you had all the men in the office calling naughty adult phone lines. Or remember our disagreement about taking the Brock Ash case? The guy who wanted us to prove he had committed the perfect crime? The “Perfetc” episode?”
David: Or, as I call it, the “The C before T except after P-E-R-F and E” episode.
Maddie: There I was, admitting that maybe I’ve been deceived by clients in the past, and then you turned to the camera and said, “Has she ever seen the show?”
David: [chuckling] That was clever.
Maddie: Not clever. Juvenile.
David: It’s a technique. It’s called “Breaking the Fourth Wall”. I’ve seen you do it.
Maddie: Are you sure it’s not called “Making the Ratings Plummet”?
David: I’ll have you know that only a truly fine actor can make the technique work. It takes a keen appreciation for the audience. Because, let’s face it, without the audience, Maddie, we’re nothin’. So I say, why lie to ‘em? They’re too smart for that. We’re not gonna convince them they’re not really watchin’ us on their TV screens. Me and you, walkin’ around, pretending we don’t have cameras on us—it’s phony. Why, I was readin’ this book the other day—
Maddie & Agnes: [both gasping] A book?
David: It’s called The Tao of Physics. The author asserts that there is a “unity in all things”, and I quote:
In atomic physics…the scientist cannot play the role of a detached objective observer, but becomes involved in the world he observes to the extent that he influences the properties of the observed objects.
Agnes: Whoa. Miss Hayes, did Mr. Addison just do a blockquote?
Maddie: I think he did!
David: It’s simple physics, my dears. Not to be confused with ‘physiques’, although I never say no to that type of confusion. But that puts me on a tangent about to slide into a hypotenuse. See, the audience is never detached from what we do. They care about us. They’re invested in us. If I climb up on a hot air balloon to catch the bad guy, like in that chase scene in “Between a Yuk & a Hard Place”, they don’t want me to get hurt. And it matters. It influences what we do, Maddie, and how we do it. Our stories had drama, romance, comedy, and mystery. You don’t think I’d behave like this if nobody watched, do you?
Maddie: I’ve seen stranger things. Like when you had a chance to vilify that woman in the sexual harassment case in “Shirts & Skins”. Her boss sexually harassed her and even though you took her boss on as a client when I told you I had already taken her side, you ended up helping her. You surprised me. You didn’t even want to help your own brother in “Those Lips, Those Lies”.
David: The cameras were on me. I had to think fast.
Maddie: Then there’s no telling what you do when no one else is around.
David: I’m the light in your fridge, Maddie.
Maddie: Admit it, you enjoy embarrassing me.
David: It’s either that or watch the extras on this Season Five DVD, and lemme tell ya, it ain’t no company picnic. Just a few mildly interesting commentaries from the directors and our original screen test together. Talk about embarrassing.
Maddie: Yikes. Now you see why I’m against this.
David: The blooper reel at the end of “Shirts & Skins” is pretty funny, though.
Agnes: There should’ve been more extras. After all, this season’s only got 13 episodes. They could’ve put together a montage of all of my rhymes.
David: Or all the times the camera followed Maddie’s legs as she stepped off the elevator and walked down the hall to the office. Mesmerizing.
Maddie: Oh, David. It wasn’t so bad of a season, was it?
David: Nope. Not so bad.
Maddie: They should be allowed to see it, shouldn’t they?
David: Maddie, Maddie, Maddie. Didn’t you learn anything from the Anselmo case and The Tao of Physics? You can’t hide things from your audience. DVDs have slow motion and pause buttons.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times.
// Short Ends and Leader
"Alex Garland’s Ex Machina is a darkly funny and philosophical cyberpunk locked-room thriller that tangles with the greatest sci-fi puzzle: What does it mean to be human?READ the article