Long before Marc Cherry and David E. Kelley started blending comedy and drama in their hourlong shows, Glenn Gordon Caron established the gold standard for sophisticated adult TV with “Moonlighting.” Through some well-produced extras and the episodes themselves, a just-released six-disc collection of the show’s first two seasons lays out a strong case for the mid-1980s romantic dramedy as one of the decade’s most important series.
“You’re not supposed to be funny in an hour,” Caron says right at the start of “The Story of ‘Moonlighting,'” a 30-minute documentary feature that’s divided into two parts on the first and last discs. But of course, as Caron admits in the same docu, the then-twentysomething scribe had very little TV experience prior to “Moonlighting,” so, “I didn’t know what the rules were.”
Caron and others spend a lot of time explaining just how and why the show departed from TV convention: Scripts were three times longer than standard hours; characters broke the fourth wall to talk directly to viewers; pop songs and standards were used in key scenes instead of a traditional musical score.
Even the casting of then-unknown Bruce Willis as David Addison opposite the far more famous Cybill Shepherd’s Maddie Hayes was a departure from the norm.
The behind-the-scenes battles on “Moonlighting” are nearly as famous as the show itself, and extras exec producer David Naylor doesn’t shy from tackling these thorny topics. Twenty years later, Caron is unrepentant about going over budget or filming new scenes on the very morning some episodes aired.
“Why should all TV shows cost the same?” he asks.
In another featurette, Willis and Shepherd address their fights — somewhat — with Shepherd recalling the two would almost inevitably end up arguing right before filming a big fight scene.
TV geeks will appreciate another extra: Vintage 1985 ABC promos hyping the premiere of “Moonlighting”.
If there’s a drawback to the set, it’s that we never get to see (or hear) Shepherd and Willis in the same room together. The Dave-and-Maddie reunion apparently will have to wait for the primetime special.
Commentary observations on the pilot by Caron and three other producers also go over too much of the same ground covered in “The Story of ‘Moonlighting.'”
Sound and picture are OK, and the packaging is fine, albeit with one annoying flaw: Nowhere in the set — not the booklet, not on the outsides of the discs themselves — is there a clue as to which discs contain which extras.