Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

This 1985-1989 series on ABC was arguably the coiner of the term Dramedy. It starred Cybill Shepherd as Maddie Hayes and a then-relatively unknown Bruce Willis as the wisecracking David Addison.

The premise was simple. Model Madelyn Hayes found out that her accountant had embezzled her fortune and run off with it. Her only remaining assets were a series of losing businesses maintained as tax write-offs. The worst of the lot was the City Of Angels Detective Agency. Maddie, with no prospects and not the first idea of how to run a detective agency, decided to close it down to pay off quickly rising debts. Visiting the agency to deliver the pink slips introduced her to the quirky Agnes DiPesto, who answered the phone in rhyme, and the zany, wisecracking David Addison, who wasn't ready to let the agency go without a fight, even renaming it the Blue Moon Detective Agency in order to connect it to the most prominent role of her modeling career - the "Blue Moon Shampoo Girl". Despite his oil-and-water chemistry with her, he was able to persuade Maddie to continue operating the agency, insisting that it could be profitable if it was permitted to be; however, Maddie insisted on working in the agency directly.

But what really made the show stand out was its penchant for Breaking the Fourth Wall, where on occasion the characters would talk to the audience or otherwise show knowledge that they were characters in a television show ("Don't go much lower. They'll take us off the air."). This progressed in later seasons to become a pure No Fourth Wall series.

It's perhaps best known for being the classic example of how a show can fall apart when Unresolved Sexual Tension is resolved, or how a hit show collapses due to a perfect storm of behind the scenes chaos. When the fifth season was shortened due to a TV Strikes, ABC put the show down.

(Not to be confused with Moonlight, a 2007 Vampire Detective Series.)

Tropes used in Moonlighting include:
  • Alternate Reality Episode/Deliberately Monochrome/Rashomon Style: "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice". Dave and Maddie hear of an old murder case (inspired by the notorious Ruth Snyder case) in which a wife and her lover kill the husband, and then blame each other after they're caught. The latter two-thirds of the episode, shot in black-and-white, consists of Dave and Maddie dreaming of the case from the perspective of (respectively) the man and woman involved. The episode featured a short introduction by Orson Welles, in his very last job, as he died of a heart attack only a couple of days later.
  • Amateur Sleuth: Maddie. Dave actually is a licensed private investigator.
  • Animated Actors: Whenever they break the fourth wall, David and Maddie always refer to themselves as "David" and "Maddie", never Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd. At the end of one episode, they walk off the set and into the studio parking lot, but are still in character, meaning that they are fictional characters playing themselves in a show called Moonlighting.
  • Aw, Look -- They Really Do Love Each Other: Several instances between not only Dave and Maddie, but also Agnes and Herbert in later seasons.
  • Beauty Is Bad: In "The Bride of Tupperman", a man looking for a bride asks David and Maddie for help; they each pick one (David's is much hotter than Maddie's) and he winds up picking both... only for one to die in an accident. It's the hot one, and it turns out to be a BIG aversion, because the plain one is just as bad as... Tupperman himself.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Dave and Maddie took this Up to Eleven.[1]
  • Beta Couple: Agnes and Herbert.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: David, especially towards Maddie. See Aw, Look -- They Really Do Love Each Other above.
  • Clip Show: "The Straight Poop", a No Fourth Wall episode (although David and Maddie never broke character) dealing with the production delays that were widely reported in the media at the time. In the end, David and Maddie promised the viewers a new episode next week and bloopers kept interrupting the credits, implying that all available footage had been used for this episode.
  • Convenient Miscarriage: The Dave-Maddie baby is lost through miscarriage.
  • Costumer: The Film Noir pastiche "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice"; the send-up of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew: "Atomic Shakespeare".
  • Destructo-Nookie: The last five minutes of the episode in which Dave and Maddie finally resolve their sexual tension.
  • Dramedy
  • Dream Sequence
  • End of Series Awareness: The last episode is interrupted by news that the series has been cancelled. Suddenly the characters have to deal with their reality falling apart, as sets are being dismantled all around them.
  • Expy: Remington Steele[2], albeit a lot more edgy and willing to break status quo, which is why ironically Pierce Brosnan liked it better than the show he was doing.
  • Filler: In Season Four and Five, with ABC demanding new episodes on schedule and Sheppard and Willis off-set due to pregnancy and injury/filming movies, the show's producers were forced to film filler episodes that focused solely on supporting cast members Allyce Beasley and Curtis Armstrong's characters Agnes and Herbert.
  • Framing Device/Separate Scene Storytelling: "Atomic Shakespeare", an Affectionate Parody of The Taming of the Shrew.
  • Gaussian Girl: When they showed Maddie in a solo close-up, it was often very fuzzy in a 40's movie style. It can be very jarring when they switch between close-ups of Maddie (fuzzy) and close-ups of David (clear).
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice", David/Zach tells Maddie/Rita that they go together like "Astaire and Rogers, bagels and lox, hot dogs and donuts..."
    • When Maddie starts insulting Dave's various body parts: "Don't go much lower. They'll take us off the air."
  • Gratuitous Iambic Pentameter: Dave would randomly launch into a sort of Dave-only jivetalk, but in one episode, he had an entire conversation with a maître d'hôtel in rhyme invoking Dr. Seuss.
  • Hot and Cold: Subverted with Maddie, who's just hot without the cold.
  • Love Hurts: Dave, who admitted his feelings and denied them in turns (usually more than Maddie did; she could distract herself with her numerous suitors).
  • Love Makes You Crazy: The entire Blue Moon crew at one point or another.
  • Love Triangle: Towards the end of the show's run, the writers decided to introduce a love triangle plotline to try and recapture the romantic tension between David and Maddie via having Maddie marry a stranger on a train.
  • Mystery of the Week
  • No Fourth Wall: Dave for the most part.

Guard: You can't burst in here like that!
Dave: Yeah? Tell it to the writers.

  • Noir Episode: "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice".
  • Noodle Incident/Running Gag: The mysterious Anselmo case, often mentioned (many times by David as an excuse for not being where he was supposed to be), but never explained. The final episode ended with the following message: "Blue Moon Investigations ceased operations on May 14, 1989. The Anselmo Case was never solved... and remains a mystery to this day."
  • No OSHA Compliance: In one episode, Agnes ends up in an industrial laundry with large bags of laundry swinging around suspended from the ceiling. At some point, she ends up inside on of the bags and is taken on a Conveyor Belt O' Doom ride where she gets lowered into first a tank of cold soapy water then almost lowered into a tank of boiling water when she is saved by her Temporary Love Interest who Cut the Juice after the villain throws the Big Red Button out of reach.
  • Pie in the Face
  • Pretty in Mink: Maddie owned a handful of fur coats, like a lynx coat, a crystal fox coat, and a white fox coat.
  • "Previously On...": Spoofed in Season Three, when (due to production delays) the third season suffered major gaps between new episodes, resulting in the show having to run a disclaimer at the start of one episode to remind viewers of what happened in previous episodes.
  • School Play: "Atomic Shakespeare".
  • Sibling Rivalry: While they aren't siblings, the same principle applies...
  • Slap Slap Kiss: It immediately follows the most intense of the Dave-Maddy snarkfest and precedes definitively answering yes to Will They or Won't They?.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: An episode focused on an unborn child being prepared for birth by his guardian angel. When asked why he should ever leave the womb for the big scary outside, the angel shows him a completely straight "Wonderful World" montage of all the good things to expect in life.
  • Theme Tune:

Some walk by night
Some fly by day
Nothing can change them
Set and sure of the way...

  1. In fact, it was more like "Belligerent Everything Tension".
  2. Which Moonlighting creator Glenn Gordon Caron had been a writer for.
  3. ...and constantly argue every step of the way.