Scott Ryan's authoritative and gossipy oral history of Moonlighting (1985-1989), the screwball comedy/detective show hybrid starring Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd, should delight fans and create new enthusiasts. Few TV shows were as wildly inventive, or as fraught with backstage drama that hindered production and created headlines. The cost and length of shooting each episode was double that of most shows. While most TV series filmed 24 episodes per season, Moonlighting struggled to produce 67 episodes over five seasons.
Audiences tuned in to Moonlighting for the witty banter, sexual tension and its irreverence and innovation. Characters broke the fourth wall, talking directly to the audience. One episode featured a seven-minute dance number directed by Stanley Donen, and another episode, spoofing Taming of the Shrew, was performed in iambic pentameter. There was always friction between Willis and Shepherd, but real trouble began in the fourth season. Pregnant with twins, Shepherd filmed all her scenes at once to be spliced into eight future episodes. A writers' strike shut down production for 22 weeks. Then, Willis left to film Die Hard. Suddenly, Moonlighting was a rom-com with a couple never in the same room together. Rivalries, apathy and exhaustion increased. Ryan insists the bad behavior "can't be laid at the feet of one person." But, there's plenty of finger-pointing by the insiders interviewed--including creator Glenn Gordon Caron, Shepherd, co-stars, directors, writers and producers. The only one MIA is Willis (who comes off fairly unscathed by coworkers).
Moonlighting: An Oral History is an illuminating, juicy and gossipy treat for TV lovers. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant