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Moonlighting - Season Five



DVD Release Date: March 6, 2007 (Lionsgate)
MSRP: $29.98
Number of Discs: 3
Number of Episodes: 13
Running Time: 559 Minutes
Running Time of Special Features: 103 Minutes, 5 Seconds
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Closed Captioned
Special Features:
* Commentary on episodes by various cast & crew
* Bruce Willis & Cybill Shepherd Screen Tests – plus commentary on THOSE by Glenn Caron and Jay Daniel


And that's all folks! The fifth season of Moonlighting is now on DVD, and by this point, the writing is on the wall. The ratings suffered a marked decline, forcing ABC to put the show on hiatus, before burning it off on Sundays in the Spring of 1989 (before ABC Sunday was destination television) and canceling it forever. Near the end the writing was on the wall, and the tone of the show began to shift towards closure. The last scene of the series is one of the more unique endings in television – it doesn't reveal the show to be a Tommy Westphall dream or anything, but it's still quite different, and yet consistent with the show itself--more on that in a bit. This season is, in my opinion, markedly better than season 4, even if the ratings didn't reflect that. They try as best they can to move on with the show, and you get 13 largely entertaining episodes – it was just too late by this point.

Hopefully, by now, everyone knows the general plot of Moonlighting, but this is the last chance I'll probably get to do this, so one more time, from the top. Here is Moonlighting:

One of the first dramedies (drama-comedy hybrids) on Television, Moonlighting was a wonderful take on the glut of detective series of that era, while still having a legitimate plot. (Perhaps, if you were so inclined, you could say that Moonlighting was to the detective show what NCIS is to crime scene investigation-type shows). The series focused on the fine folks of Blue Moon Investigations, namely Maddie Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) and David Addison (Bruce Willis). Hayes is a former model – the Blue Moon Shampoo Girl – who finds herself bankrupt after her accountant embezzles all her liquid assets (cash, stocks, bonds, etc). She's left with only a few failing businesses she initially owned due to the ability to use them as tax write-offs. One of these businesses is the detective agency. He convinces her not to close the place down and liquidate it, as though the agency had been bleeding red ink, that's what the agency was supposed to do. He convinces her to help run the agency, and what followed was five seasons of wonderful entertainment….well, ok, I'm just not sold on a lot of the 4th season, but that's really a personal opinion thing. Also on Moonlighting is the agency receptionist Agnes DiPesto (Allyce Beasley) as well as, from the 4th season onward, David's protégé, Bert (Curtis Armstrong). The addition of Herbert allowed for plots that didn't involve Maddie, and even sometimes without David, allowing a few more episodes to get produced on-time, one of Moonlighting's chronic problems.

Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

While many feel the fourth season CAUSED the decline in ratings, the fifth season is when the decline really went full speed ahead downhill. Most viewers were turned off either by the 4th season's overall unusualness, or simply by the utter lack of new episodes (sometimes going a month between shows). The decline is actually kind of sad, as at least I feel this season is significantly stronger than the previous one, even if the glory days of the show are behind us by this point.

In the first episode, "Womb with a View", aside from clips from "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice" and "Atomic Shakespeare," we get treated to a welcoming back by the entire cast after the 9 month gap between new shows. Herbert, of course, is less than enthusiastic, as he wasn't received very well the previous season. The cast and crew then have a dance number and promise to do their best to complete all 22 ordered episodes. (They made it through 13 before ratings-prompted cancellation). Oh, and this episode also features an angel visiting "Baby Hayes" as he waits to be born and gives him the low down on his crazy parents and their relationship. Then there's a miscarriage. Oh well. In an interesting episode, "Shirts and Skins," the office splits along gender lines when Maddie takes on a case for a woman who shot her boss for sabotaging her career when she refused his advances. In "Take My Wife, For Example," a ruthless divorce lawyer comes to Blue Moon, trying to reconcile a couple she helped split, and Maddie tries to buy David a gift. Among the episode's guest stars are Lawrence Pressman (Doogie Howser, M.D.) and Colleen Dewhurst, best known to ME as Murphy Brown's mother.

In "I See England, I See France, I See Maddie's Netherworld," David and Maddie keep company with a very popular corpse, while a man seeking a bodyguard drops dead in their office. Guess he won't need that bodyguard after all. SNL's Charles Rocket returns as David's brother Richard in "Those Lips, Those Lies" – in which David's skeptical and Maddie's sympathetic when Richard shows up looking for his fiancée's former partner, who has skipped off with all their company's assets. Even better though is the opening bit, in which no one apparently told Al Jarreau about the move to Sundays, causing the theme to start without lyrics. David/Bruce stops the credits, asking what's going on. Maddie/Cybill then shows up, demanding to know the same. Realizing they can't start the show without the theme music (oh, those were the days), first Cybill, then Bruce, try to sing the theme, to equally bad results. Finally, Bert/Curtis is dragged out, who tells the band to hit it, shocking everyone nearby, and he lip syncs to the actual theme, and then the credits finally roll--funny bit. "Perfetc," an unremarkable episode to me, does feature a guest spot by soon-to-be-host of Supermarket Sweep, David Ruprecht. Demi Moore is in "When Girls Collide." Eddie Mekka -- Carmine from Happy Days -- is a guest in "In 'n Outlaws", as is Patti Deutsch, who is probably best known for her appearances on pretty much every 70s game show under the sun, as well as being a regular on the final season of the original Laugh In (She now does a lot of cartoon voice work). Also, Virginia Madsen, from the movie Sideways, appears in one of her earliest roles, Annie, in "When Girls Collide," "Eine Kleine Nacht Murder," and…

Lunar Eclipse, the last episode. Guest stars include Timothy Leary (often credited as "the father of 60s counterculture" - the best thing I can just do is link you to Wiki) as well as Dennis Dugan as the "ABC Executive" in the final scene. Why is this dripping in intentional irony? Dugan, aside from directing the show, played Walter Bishop in the 4th season – the very character most often credited with causing the decline in ratings – he was even credited as Walter Bishop in the credits. David ends his relationship with Annie, Bert and Agnes get married, and the detective agency closes its door. After the wedding, David and Maddie return to the agency to find the Blue Moon sets being taken away, and a network executive (Dugan) waiting to tell them they've been cancelled. The characters race through the studio lot as the world of Moonlighting is dismantled, and another executive lectures them on the perils of losing your audience, and how fragile romance really is. The final image is a graphic static that "Blue Moon Investigations ceased operations on May 14, 1989 – and the Anselmo case was never solved". And after 5 seasons over 4 years, Moonlighting was finished.


Where did the shiny packaging of the first three sets go? The fifth season's packaging is significantly different from the first three sets. For one thing, rather than the clear plastic disc holders in a book-style setup, this packaging reverts back to the older thick black case. Inside the black case, discs 1 and 2 are held by a white plastic piece with disc 1 on one side and disc 2 on the other. Disc 3 is on the right interior side of the case, while the information is held on the left. The front and back cover art, which is nothing more than a traditional glossy piece of paper with the back on the left and the front on the right, held inside a plastic screen, is definitely not of the same quality as the previous releases, and feels as though Lionsgate rushed this out the door. Shoddy work on their part, and I'm not a fan of packaging changes at ALL. Luckily, the "new" packaging doesn't look that different from the old from side-view, so it won't be too jarring sitting on the shelf. This whole contraption is found inside a hollow (no top and bottom) piece of packaging that you have to slide off to get to the set – like a lot of movie sets. I've never been a fan of this packaging style. The outer art is the same as the inner art, and the outer art IS shiny, however, this does no good since it has to be removed to get to the discs. Episodes are split onto 3 discs. Episodes 1-4 and the screen test are on disc 1. 5-8 are on disc 2, and 9-13 are on disc 3. Each disc is a red-orange "sunset" color (tip of the hat to the artwork team for that touch) in front of the skyline, with the disc number being displayed in outline by a group of stars on the right of each disc.

Menu Design and Navigation:

I may have found plenty to complain about with the packaging, but the menus are still nice. The menu features the same red-orange look as the rest of the set, the stars behind the Moonlighting logo, once again at the top, twinkle. Various shooting stars…uh…shoot in the background. The lights of the city cause a glow around the skyscrapers, while to the left is a moon that starts with a still image of David and Maddie, which then plays various clips of the show. The slower theme from the pilot plays in the background. The screen test can be selected directly from the main menu. The other two options are Play All and Episode Selection. Play All's function is obvious, while episode selection takes you to a static red/orange sunset and star field menu with a moon on the left. Each menu page has two episodes selectable – though for disc 2 all 4 episodes are selectable on 1 menu page for some reason, with the option to either play, or in some cases, play with commentary – it lists the commentators on this option.

Video and Audio Quality:

No music replacement! Yippee! Something like the packaging, to me, is ultimately unimportant compared to the episodes themselves. With the show's extensive use of music, it's good to hear it. The video quality is pretty good for the most part. The picture seems a bit soft, the picture is a bit grainy, but generally it's good. One problem that definitely exists is in the first episode, which uses a lot of stock footage, which wasn't mastered to the same quality as the show. Audio sounds fine – the vocals are nice and clear, the music is loud, crisp, and clear. The audio has no glitches or anything of that sort. Episodes run between 45-49 minutes; no idea if there are any edits.

Episode Runtimes:

Disc 1:
Womb with a View: 47:56
Between a Yuk and a Hard Place: 49:06
The Color of Maddie: 45:36
Plastic Fantastic Lovers: 47:06

Disc 2:
Shirts and Skins: 45:57
Take My Wife, For Example: 45:17
I see England, I see France, I see Maddie's Netherworld: 49:23
Those Lips, Those Lies: 48:06

Disc 3:
Perfetc: 48:17
When Girls Collide: 47:33
In 'N Outlaws: 49:37
Eine Kleine Nacht Murder: 47:21
Lunar Eclipse: 48:21

Special Features:

We have extras on discs one and three. The breakdown follows:

Disc 1:
Commentary on "Womb with a View" (47:56) by creator Glenn Caron and Jay Daniel. If you look up "collateral damage" in the dictionary, you see this episode's description. Glenn has some trouble remembering details of this episode.

Screen Test (3:24): Essentially, this is a scene from the pilot done to convince ABC that Bruce Willis would work well as David, shot with Cybill as Maddie – though one was filmed before this. See below. The video quality is fairly bad – significant amounts of grain, fuzzy video, etc.

Screen Test with Commentary by Glenn & Jay (3:24): Done after an enormous amount of cajoling by ABC. Glenn was adamant that Bruce Willis was good enough for David Addison, but ABC wasn't convinced. So, they did a scene from the pilot as a screen test with Bruce and an actress who was paid to be Maddie JUST for the pilot – Cybill was paranoid if they saw her on film they'd fire her. So, they hire the actress, and there's no chemistry. ABC was ready to pay everyone off, but Glenn convinced ABC to wait for a 2nd one, this time with Cybill and Bruce. And it worked.

Disc 3:
"Lunar Eclipse" Commentary by...Dennis Dugan (48:21): And of course, the last commentary track for Moonlighting features the guy whose character may well have killed it. He's also the director for this episode, and he portrayed the network exec who "cancelled" the show. Despite there always being a listed director, with the long production times, often a director from another episode would have to shoot scenes for a previous episode. Dennis gets in trouble for getting the cast to sing "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow", which cost the show money. He also answers a few questions along the way. I'm never a fan of solo commentary tracks – he tries, but commentary works best when they work off of others.

Total Features Runtime: 103 Minutes, 5 Seconds

Final Comments:

And it's over. Through four sets, covering five seasons, spanning 4 years, released over 2 – this has been Moonlighting. When I was first asked about doing the review, I'd never seen the show, now it rates among my favorite series ever. I'm still not even remotely sold on the 4th season, but I do think the final season was a valiant if futile effort to turn the ship around. But, by this point, the audience was gone.

This final set seemed like Lionsgate was only releasing it to be done with it, and not nearly as much effort seemed to be put into it. The case was changed from the unique and visually appealing cases of the first three sets to the big black box of doom, while the cover art was cheaper, and the whole set felt as though it were just a secondary matter. The menus were still nice to the end, and are still better than a lot of the menus that come out of other studios. I can't complain about the VQ or AQ, just that the non-show clips featured in "Womb with a View" weren't as polished as the main show itself. If you own the previous sets, by all means, pick this one up – there's a handy link just a bit below this text. If you're still on the fence, I solidly recommend the first two sets to buy, and after that you can make a more informed decision about the final two, this one included. One benefit this season has going for it is a lowered price point, only $29.98 MSRP launch, and in addition, the SRP on the previous three sets has dropped to $29.98 as well – if you've held out, now is a good time to purchase. You can own them all with no worries of an incomplete set. Recommended.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)

Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4.5/5
Special Features: 1.5/5
Final Score: 4/5

-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 03/04/07

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