Moonlighting [1985]

Some television ages well, some doesn't. For every Mary Tyler Moore Show that still rocks, there's a Family Ties that's painfully mired in its era. One would think this would be the case for Moonlighting, the detective series of the mid-1980s starring Cybill Shepherd (on a career rebound) and Bruce Willis (then unknown). The ingredients are all there: '80s fashion, hourlong TV mystery plots, Wayfarer sunglasses... Fortunately--and gloriously--this is not the case. As fresh as it was when it first aired, Moonlighting is a prime example of groundbreaking television at its peak and a timeless lesson in the science of star chemistry. Shepherd, as the ice-queen model Maddie Hayes, and Willis, as the "do bears bear, do bees be?" hipster-doofus David Addison, were the quintessential match made in hell, thrown together under dubious circumstances. In this pilot episode, Shepherd, having discovered that her accountant has left her broke, proceeds to liquidate her assets, including the City of Angels Detective Agency, headed up by Willis. However, thanks to a dead body that pops out of an elevator, the two pair up to solve a case involving a broken watch and some pilfered Nazi loot, hoping to get some publicity (and cash) for their newly rechristened Blue Moon Investigations. The plot is negligible, involving a dead jogger, a mohawked hit man, and a sadistic henchman, but the mystery was never Moonlighting's selling point--it was the sparring, the swearing, the sparks that Willis and Shepherd created together. Watching these two at their best (before the series slid downhill when they finally slept together), you'll realize that neither has ever been paired with a better costar; they bring out something in each other that's undiluted antagonism mixed with irresistible attraction. Discounting some of Shepherd's fashion choices and hairstyles, and Willis's, well, hair (he had some), this is timeless farce and screwball comedy in the tradition of His Girl Friday, snappily penned by Glenn Gordon Carron. Also featuring Allyce Beasley as rhyming secretary Agnes DiPesto, the only supporting character in the series who could intrude upon the Shepherd-Willis repartee without upsetting their rhythm. --Mark Englehart

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