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IN THE DARK REVIEWS

Season 1 of 'Moonlighting' shows promise

It's the most influential television show that multiple generations of TV viewers have never seen, and it ended an entire season of simmering sexual tension with a free-for-all food fight.

Because I'm faced with slim pickings for recent theatrical releases, I'll try an experiment by reviewing the first season of a show that made its streaming debut on Hulu in October, after originally airing from 1985-89. You can tell me if you want me to continue.

"Moonlighting" wasn't the first romantic sitcom to throw together a strait-laced, classy, glamorous gal with a crude and clever class clown, but even during its six-episode first season as a midseason replacement, it stood out for its snappy patter, written by series creator Glenn Gordon Caron, and for the intense chemistry between co-leads Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis.

The first season of "Moonlighting" was seeing what it could get away with during a decade when even popcorn entertainment often took itself overly seriously.

Its early episodes shared some of the same padding as too many of its contemporary peers, from "Knight Rider" to "The A-Team," but by the standards of the era, its main characters' overlapping dialogue was delivered at a blistering pace, and its background score leaned on diegetically inserted rock and R&B songs from the 1950s and '60s.

Despite its frenetic banter and abrupt plot twists, "Moonlighting" felt as smooth and cool as its classic theme song by Al Jarreau, and as much as its lead characters (and the actors playing them) rubbed each other the wrong way, they shared a guarded vulnerability, and developed respect for each other's merits.

Would-be boss-lady Maddie Hayes was (like Shepherd) a famous former CoverGirl, and her smirkingly loyal employee and partner, licensed private eye David Addison, was (like Willis) a working-class wise-aleck, and just as Maddie was a responsible adult who remained focused on their business' bottom line, David was a rogue who encouraged her to live a little more.

As cold as Maddie could be, she cared about others, and as much as David presented himself as a male chauvinist, he never objected to working for a woman, and he had deeper feelings that could get hurt, too, as much as he pretended otherwise.

Honestly, the first-season plots of "Moonlighting" would probably rate a B-average at best, but the mysteries they investigated were mostly just excuses to hang out with Maddie and David, and bask in their dawning affection for one another, even as we delighted in their peevish sniping.

What made Maddie and David such a winning prospective couple was how they sparked off each other, which made it clear how much joy they had to offer one another, if only they could let their guards down and get out of their own way.

Audiences never wanted either of them to stop teasing the other entirely, in no small part because Maddie and David had voluntarily adopted artificially constructed roles in the 1980s' self-proclaimed "Battle of the Sexes." Maddie saw it as her feminist duty to put a damper on David's rough humor, just as David felt obligated by his code of machismo to tweak Maddie's more mannered sensibilities.

What Shepherd and Willis were deft enough to convey, through the nuance and emotional authenticity of their acting, were the pantomimes of Maddie and David's dynamic relationship, the superficiality of the courtship dance they felt obligated to go through - even as they denied to themselves that they were courting each other.

Like Maddie and David's relationship, the first season of "Moonlighting" was evolving into what it would become, but it was smart and sexy from the start and made audiences feel smart and sexy themselves for having watched it.

If you'd like to see me tackle Seasons two through five of "Moonlighting" in future columns, let me know.

Meanwhile, the finale of the second season of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's "Loki" is coming up today on Disney+, and as long as you're all caught up on the MCU to date, it promises to be a fascinating ride.

Talk of "superhero fatigue" has become so endemic that Variety has even devoted a cover story to the MCU's supposed woes, and yet, "Loki" Season 2 scored the second-most-watched season premiere for Disney+ in 2023, which was well-deserved.

From its first-season premiere, "Loki" has contemplated the nature of destiny, free will, moral responsibility and autonomous governance within a reality where gods exist, and altering either the past or the future is merely a matter of sufficiently sound structural engineering.

"Loki" Season 2, Episode 5, "Science/Fiction," finally goes fully metafictional with the concept, as Marvel's Norse God of Mischief is advised to employ the rules of genre storytelling to achieve his aims, and our cast of supporting players just acts the living hell out of their characters.

"Loki" is not just one of the best things the Marvel Cinematic Universe has ever

produced; it's possibly the most challenging, innovative thing to hit TV since David Lynch unleashed the third season of "Twin Peaks" - complete with "Episode 8" - upon an unsuspecting world in 2017.

This is the kind of genre-bending TV that mass-media storytelling historians are going to be talking about for years to come, and I can't wait to see how the "Loki" Season 2 finale manages to tie all of its disparate threads together.

Author Bio

Kirk Boxleitner, Reporter

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Shelton-Mason County Journal & Belfair Herald
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