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Quick Hits

Moonlighting Premiered 36 Years Ago Today

  • Bruce Willis first burst into the national consciousness on March 3, 1985 with the premiere of the groundbreaking "dramedy" Moonlighting on ABC. 

    In this clip from the pilot episode, we see the first meeting between Madelyn Hayes (Cybill Shepherd), a former spokesmodel for Blue Moon shampoo whose accountant has embezzled her fortune and left her in dire straits, and David Addison (Willis), the freewheeling head of the City of Angels detective agency, by way of the quirky receptionist Agnes DiPesto (Allyce Beasley), who always answered the phones with some kind of cheerful sing-song rhyme. Addison makes the worst first impression before finding out he's talking to the owner of his company, who promptly fires him and makes an equally bad first impression.

    Ultimately case-working shenanigans are exciting enough to convince her to keep the business open and run it alongside him, even renaming it the Blue Moon detective agency. The quick, smart, overlapping dialogue, the back and forth good-natured bickering, and the regular saving of each other's lives eventually gave way to the "will they" in the show's prototypical "will they or won't they" storyline. 

    The show bent all the rules for a television series at the time, deftly balancing comedy and drama, embracing elaborate dream sequences and gimmick episodes, and often breaking the fourth wall. It became a hit, and won Emmys. 

    Before Moonlighting, Willis had been a villain of the week on Miami Vice and had starred in one episode of The Twilight Zone, not exactly leading man credentials. In fact, series creator Glenn Gordon Caron had to fight the network in order to cast him as Addison. Once the show established itself, it became the stepping stone that eventually led him to Die Hard and movie stardom. His rising star, coupled with Caron's perfectionism, long shooting days, and Shepherd's new motherhood eventually led the show to sputtering close, but its influence can still be felt in most modern television shows today. 

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    Andy Hunsaker has a head full of sitcom gags and nerd-genre lore, and can be followed @AndyHunsaker if you're into that sort of thing.

    TOPICS: Moonlighting, ABC, Allyce Beasley, Bruce Willis, Cybill Shepherd, Glenn Gordon Caron