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Remembering His ‘Moonlighting’ Days

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dave and Maddie are back, and all is right with the world. The classic 1985-89 comedic detective series, “Moonlighting,” starring Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd as wisecracking detectives David Addison and Maddie Hayes, has resurfaced in a big way this millennium.

Reruns of the Emmy Award-winning series are airing on Bravo, and this week Anchor Bay is releasing the terrific two-hour pilot on video ($15) and DVD ($25).

Both the VHS and DVD feature Willis’ screen test. The DVD also features witty commentary from creator and executive producer Glenn Gordon Caron and Willis.

Caron, who also is the creator and executive producer of the first-year CBS series “Now and Again,” recently took a break from his schedule to chat about his memories of “Moonlighting.”

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Question: Had you received a lot of requests from companies over the years to bring “Moonlighting” out on video?

Answer: It was sort of the other way around. I had been trying to get it out on video. You couldn’t see the show for the last 10 years. I had been trying to get [ABC] to do something with the negatives. At one point, I even tried to buy them myself because I am very proud of the show. So I was very excited when Disney bought ABC. I called and said, “Hey, you guys own the negatives. Let’s do something with them.” I was excited when I got a call that they were doing something with them.

Q: Are they planning to bring out more episodes on video and DVD?

A: Yes. In fact, we were talking the other day that they want to release them in groups of three episodes on a disc. We are talking about what the next three will be. I don’t know if we have enough extra stuff for every episode, but the hope is to have something there that makes it enticing.

Q: It’s amazing to see how Willis had the character of Dave nailed in the screen test.

A: That’s why I so desperately wanted him. I had brought him to the network a number of times, and no one else could see it. It was one of those things where you think, “Am I crazy?”

Q: Did you have any idea back then that Willis would become such a superstar?

A: It sounds immodest, but yeah. When we did the show, I lived in a place called Hidden Hills. We did the show at the 20th Century Fox lot. So it was about a 60-minute commute. We would work a 14- or 15-hour day, and I was always concerned I was going to die making the trip home because I was so tired. But I remember the day I found Bruce, I thought, “It’s OK, because if I die they have got to give my wife a million bucks because I have found a whole new guy. He isn’t just right for the part, he is like a whole new industry.”

Q: Had you auditioned a lot of guys?

A: We looked at 3,000 men, and at one point, ABC was going to pay us all off. They were going to pay me off, Cybill Shepherd and Bob Butler, who was going to direct the pilot, because they were convinced the part wasn’t cast-able.

Bruce came in early on. I loved him and brought him to the network, and they said no. They rejected him and I kept bringing him back.

You have to put it in historical perspective. This was 1984, and ABC was very much about Aaron Spelling shows, like “Hotel.” The leading men were all kind of chiseled and obviously attractive. I think they looked at Bruce and said, “What?” He didn’t fit the mold at all. Of course, I wasn’t trying to do a show that fit that mold. Finally a [female ABC executive] stood up and said, “I don’t know if he is a TV star or a leading man, but he sure looks like. . . .” She used a bad word but she made it clear she found him attractive. On that basis, they said, “You can go ahead but don’t let them get romantically involved in the pilot.” So, because I am a bad person, I said, “No problem,” but we got them romantically involved in the pilot and the rest is history.

Q: The problems on the “Moonlighting” set were legendary--the delays in delivering episodes, your disagreements with Shepherd. Still, do you have fond memories of the show?

A: Of course. How many people get an opportunity like that? I look back on that very fondly. Very, very fondly.

Q: It’s amazing the freedom ABC gave you back then on “Moonlighting,” allowing you to do musical numbers, black-and-white shows and even Shakespeare. Have you found that TV has changed since coming back to the medium to do “Now and Again”?

A: It’s different. The irony is that you say they let me do everything, and the truth is no one let me do everything. I just did it. Ignorance is bliss. There were rules and I chose not to listen to anybody. At a certain point, the network said, “This is working. We’ll let you alone.”

Now it is different. I am a little older. I know a couple of the rules. Also, you don’t want to do the same things again. When I did “Moonlighting,” I was 30. So it is very much a 30-year-old man’s perspective on things.

When I did “Moonlighting,” I was a guy who really desperately didn’t want to do television. I wanted to be making movies. I thought TV was profoundly stupid and I was being asked to do something I didn’t want to do. I was literally told, “You are going to do a boy-girl detective show like ‘Hart to Hart.’ ” So “Moonlighting” was very much a reaction against what I was being asked to do. I don’t feel that way anymore. There’s been a lot of great TV since then, and I am frankly very happy to be doing television.


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