Ahh, Moonlighting. For people of my generation, this may be the golden age of television. That’s not to take anything away from I Love Lucy or The Andy Griffith Show, but when you grew up in the 80’s, there was this, L. A. Law and Miami Vice. For my money, Moonlighting was the best of the three. Even by today’s standards, it is extremely rare to find a show such as this. A genuine drama/mystery program that succeeds in being very, very funny. The fact is, the entire show was …uilt around the skill of a new actor on the scene named Bruce Willis, and had he been anything less than stellar in every single scene that he was in, the program would have crashed and burned. Suffice to say, the show soared. Cybill Shepard was both beautiful and clumsy, and quirky character work by Allyce Beasley and Curtis Armstrong filled in the supporting plotlines, but it was Willis who stole the show every week. By the time the series ended, he had made himself a superstar.
Season Three may very well be the best season of this shows five year run. On the one hand, the early introductions and quirks of the first season had been worked out. On the other hand, we are still in the midst of the brilliant episodes that came before David and Maddie took the plunge, so to speak. These episodes are the cream of the crop. If you are thinking about trying out this series to see if it is for you, Season Three actually might not be that bad of a place to start. It’s cheaper that the combined Seasons One and Two release, and you don’t necessarily need the back story to dive right in and have fun.
The audio in this set may not have been mastered in a flashy new format, but the results are perfectly acceptable. In fact, it sounds like the audio may have actually undergone some minor re-mastering work. For the purists, though, it is important to remember that there are some nagging problems here and there, including some instances of uneven volume levels between scenes. The track also severely lacks punch in the low end, which is a real shame. Of course, audiences know good and well how important strong bass tones are to the power of a soundtrack, but such knowledge was not as widely known in the 80’s. What was widely appreciated, however, was the popular music that was used in the show. Moonlighting was one of the first television programs to feature modern music in its episodes on a regular basis, and the results were as powerful then as they are now.
The video quality is actually somewhat similar to that of the audio. The quality is definitely there, but it is quality as defined by 1985 standards. The picture is unquestionably clean and sharp, yet undeniably old. There are lots of blemishes on these episodes, and grain is somewhat heavy from time to time, yet the scenes are still quite sharp and clean. Black levels are deep and even, while not being overbearing. The color is also consistent, and the soft focus close-ups are just plain fun. Honestly, this transfer is way above my expectations, and looks even better than many modern television programs look when they are transferred to DVD.
Unfortunately, as much fun as these episodes are, they are not well supported by added content. There are only two extras here; three episode commentaries and an hour-long featurette called Memories of Moonlighting. The commentaries include contributions by Bruce Willis, Cybill Shepherd and others. It is a rare thing for major stars to go back and record commentaries for their early work, but the stars turn out here nonetheless.
The featurette is really excellent. Not only do you get plenty of interviews with the crew, but Willis and Shepherd themselves contribute fully to the interviews. This is a great little mini-documentary that really sets a standard for this type of thing as far as I am concerned.
The great news is that this show is just as entertaining now as it was so many years ago. Maybe the mysteries are a little more transparent in the light of countless versions of C.S.I., NCIS and Numb3rs on the air, but the brilliant comedy is still spot-on. The good news is that the audio and video quality, while not up to modern standards, is much better than I expected it to be. The bad news is that the extras, while of great quality, are pretty sparse.
So there you have it. Obviously I would have liked to have seen more extras, but as a longtime fan of the show, I was most certainly not disappointed with this set. The ultimate test of great writing is that it stands the test of time, and 20+ years later, this show easily still holds its own.
Special Features List
- Memories of Moonlighting
- Select Episode Commentaries