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15 Fast-Talking Facts About Moonlighting

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In the pilot for the ABC series Moonlighting, recently bankrupt former model Madelyn “Maddie” Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) opts to join one of her tax write-offs, the quickly retitled Blue Moon Detective Agency, partnering up professionally with David Addison Jr. (Bruce Willis). The next 65 episodes were crafted as one-hour movies that mixed comedy with drama, airing parodies of and homages to everything from William Shakespeare to classic cinema.

Today the experimental, regularly fourth wall-breaking Moonlighting is most often evoked to talk about “The Moonlighting Curse,” the term for whenever a hit show seems to lose creative steam—and viewership—after its two leads consummate their relationship. Officially, the show only ran for five abbreviated seasons because of the ascendant career of Bruce Willis, Cybill Shepherd’s pregnancy, the friction between one of its stars and the show’s creator, and the network tiring of Moonlighting’s expense and production delays. Still, some believe that Maddie and David finally getting together after years of sexual tension was the final nail in the coffin for the series.

1. THE CREATOR WAS TOLD TO MAKE A DETECTIVE SHOW, EVEN THOUGH HE DIDN’T WANT TO.

After the first two pilots in a three-pilot commitment to ABC didn’t make it to series, the network president told Glenn Gordon Caron to make a detective show. Caron remembers that his "eyes rolled to the top of my head. I think I said something to the effect of, 'That's what America needs, another detective show.'" When he met with the network again, Caron insisted on adding some romance to his version of a detective series.

2. THE SHOW’S BIG INFLUENCE WAS THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.

Caron said the William Shakespeare play was “the emotional inspiration” of Moonlighting; he had seen his wife perform in a production of it in college eight times. “Moonlighting was sort of a rip-off of Taming of the Shrew, and always was," Caron said. "I've been trying to keep that a secret, you know." The play was specifically parodied in the third season episode, “Atomic Shakespeare.”

3. CARON REALIZED HE WAS WRITING MADDIE WITH CYBILL SHEPHERD IN MIND 50 PAGES INTO THE PILOT.

''I had to have somebody the public was fundamentally rooting against, because the show was about the thawing out of this beautiful ice queen,” Caron told The New York Times in 1986. "And I knew the public saw her as spoiled and bratty.'' Shepherd met Caron and producer/director Jay Daniel at a Los Angeles restaurant to talk about the part dressed all in white. According to Daniel, Caron was “very tongue tied.”

4. THOUSANDS OF ACTORS WERE CONSIDERED BEFORE BRUCE WILLIS.

Bruce Willis (whose lone TV credit before 1985 was as "Tony Amato" in an episode of Miami Vice) arrived to his audition with a “punk hairdo and earrings.” Shepherd remembered that Willis was wearing army fatigues, and unlike the other men who auditioned with her that day, he didn’t go out of his way to flatter her. He avoided eye contact with her and mostly talked with Caron. After he left the room, Shepherd says she told Caron that Willis was the one they needed to play David. Caron later said ABC executives “vigorously” didn’t want Willis, and were willing to pay him and Shepherd off to “go away” because they felt the David role was un-castable.

5. BILLY JOEL WROTE "BIG MAN ON MULBERRY STREET" WITH THE SHOW IN MIND.

After Caron heard it, he thought up a way to work it into an episode (which would be titled after the Joel tune). Always wanting to work storytelling into dance, Caron called film director Stanley Donen (Singin' in the Rain, On the Town) to get him behind the camera for the dream sequence, where Maddie imagines David’s relationship with his ex-wife. The song officially appeared on Joel’s album The Bridge (1986).

6. ORSON WELLES' LAST APPEARANCE WAS ON MOONLIGHTING.

Because ABC was concerned about confusing viewers if they aired an episode in black and white, Caron called Welles to ask him to introduce “The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice." Finding Caron’s written intro funny, Welles agreed. The introduction was shot on October 3, 1985; Welles passed away one week later. Take one was “perfect” according to Jay Daniel, but the legendary actor/writer/director insisted on a few more takes anyway.

7. IT WAS THE MOST EXPENSIVE PRIMETIME SERIES ON TELEVISION.

The estimated cost per Moonlighting installment was about $1.6 million. “The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice” episode cost a reported $2 million.

8. WILLIS AND SHEPHERD ARGUED ON SET.

“There was discord on the set,” Caron recalled in 2008. “The show was really difficult to do, and they were in every frame. Bruce was at the beginning of his career, as was I—we were excited and enticed by the prospect [of doing the show]. Cybill was a movie star and didn't anticipate how difficult the show would be to do. When she became pregnant, it made it even harder. A lot of discord centered around that—working 14 to 15 hours a day, and the way I worked, pages came very late," which created more tension with the show's stars. According to Daniel, sometimes Willis and Shepherd would receive 10 pages of dialogue they had never seen before one hour before they had to perform it.

9. CARON DIDN’T WANT BRUCE WILLIS TO DO DIE HARD.

”I pleaded with Bruce Willis not to do Die Hard," admitted Caron in 1999. "Sometimes [actors] don’t listen to you, and it’s a good thing.” Die Hard (1988) turned Willis into a movie star.

10. WILLIS BROKE HIS COLLARBONE WHILE SHEPHERD WAS PREGNANT, WHICH MADE FILMING DIFFICULT.

In “I Am Curious ... Maddie”—the episode where Maddie and David finally get together—a lengthy underground garage scene featuring Willis, Shepherd, and Mark Harmon was shot despite the fact that, according to Daniel, "Never once were all three of those actors there together, never once. It was all doubles, trick shots, and somehow we had to go there three times to shoot one scene."

11. THE EPISODES STARRING AGNES DIPESTO GOT LOWER RATINGS.

Agnes DiPesto (Allyce Beasley) started out as the detective agency’s receptionist, but eventually began taking on cases of her own in an effort to lessen Willis and Shepherd’s workloads. The cast and crew noticed that in the episodes that featured DiPesto and Herbert Viola (Curtis Armstrong), the ratings dropped in the second half hour, when people realized the episodes weren’t going to feature their beloved David and Maddie.

12. SHEPHERD WAS AGAINST MADDIE’S SUDDEN MARRIAGE.

Maddie was written to impulsively marry Walter Bishop (Dennis Dugan), a man she had met on a train. “When I strongly voiced my objection that the character we had created in Maddie would never do such a thing, Glenn [Gordon Caron] said words to the effect of ‘Just shut up and do your job, you’re not producing this show,’” Shepherd wrote in her book, Cybill Disobedience.

13. THERE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A 3D EPISODE, SPONSORED BY COCA-COLA.

The soda company produced 40 million pairs of glasses, but a writers strike canceled the promotion. The company ended up handing out 20 million pairs of those glasses for the 1989 Super Bowl halftime show.

14. CARON AND WILLIS WANTED TO DO A WESTERN-THEMED EPISODE.

“I think we always promised each other we'd do a Western, which we never really got around to doing,” Caron said.

15. SHEPHERD IS OPEN TO A MOONLIGHTING MOVIE.

She said as much in 2013; Willis was open to a movie back in 2009, as long as Caron was involved. Caron had been fired before the show's fifth and final season—allegedly at Shepherd’s insistence.

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16 Geeky Coasters to Keep Your Coffee Table Safe
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Avoid unsightly ring stains on your coffee table with this delightful selection of coasters:

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

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Floppy disks are not obsolete—at least in your living room area.

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Use these on a black table to recreate the retro video game.

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Rock on: These fancy agate coasters will look solid resting under your glass.

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These glowing coasters are perfect for chemists, Breaking Bad fans, and anyone who forgot to pay their electric bill.

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Build your own coaster with this LEGO-esque design.

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This ceramic set celebrates all the best ships from Star Trek.

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Just make sure you don’t accidentally send your glass into a different time period when you set it down.

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Cover your counter space with the cute face of Rilakkuma.

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All the houses are present in this set of wood coasters.

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Just because it’s the end of the world doesn’t mean all manners go out the door: Never forget to use a coaster!

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13. BRAIN; $19.99

This set comes with 10 coasters, each with a slice of brain specimen. When you’re not using them, you can stack them together to create a full brain.

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Getting totally wigged by the idea of a stained table? All your favorite characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer can give you an assist.

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Studio Ghibli Stone Tile Coasters
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These coasters feature scenes from the classics My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Howl's Moving Castle.

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15 Educational Facts About Old School
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Old School starred Luke Wilson as Mitch Martin, an attorney who—after catching his girlfriend cheating, and through some real estate and bitter dean-related circumstances—becomes the leader of a not-quite-official college fraternity. Along with his fellow thirtysomething friends Bernard (Vince Vaughn) and newlywed Frank (Will Ferrell), they end up having to fight for their right to maintain their status as a party-loving frat on campus.

The film, which was released 15 years ago today, marked Vaughn’s return to major comedies and Ferrell’s first major starring role after seven years on Saturday Night Live. Here are some facts about the movie for everyone, but particularly for my boy, Blue.

1. THE IDEA ORIGINATED WITH AN AD GUY.

Writer-director Todd Phillips was talking to a friend of his from the advertising industry named Court Crandall one day. Crandall had seen and enjoyed Phillips's movie Frat House (1998) and told his director buddy, “You know what would be funny is a movie about older guys who start a fraternity of their own.” After being told by Phillips to write it, he presented Phillips with a “loose version” of the finished product.

2. SOME OF THE FRAT SHENANIGANS WERE REAL.

While Crandall received the story credit for Old School, Phillips and Scot Armstrong received the credit for writing the script. Armstrong put his own college fraternity experiences into the script. “We were in Peoria, Illinois, so it was up to us to entertain ourselves," Armstrong shared in the movie's official production notes. "A lot of ideas for Old School came from things that really happened. When it was cold, everyone would go stir crazy and it inspired some moments of brilliance. Of course, my definition of ‘brilliance' might be different from other people's.”

3. IVAN REITMAN HELPED OUT.

Ivan Reitman, director of Stripes and Ghostbusters, was an executive producer on the film. Phillips and Armstrong wrote and rewrote every day for two months at Reitman’s house, an experience Phillips described as comedy writing “boot camp.”

4. THE STUDIO DIDN’T WANT VINCE VAUGHN.

Vince Vaughn in 'Old School' (2003)
DreamWorks

It didn’t seem to make a difference to DreamWorks that Phillips and Armstrong had written the role of Bernard with Vince Vaughn in mind—the studio didn't want him. After his breakout success in Swingers, Vaughn had taken roles in dramas like the 1998 remake of Psycho. “So when Todd Phillips wanted me for Old School, the studio didn’t want me,” Vaughn told Variety in 2015. “They didn’t think I could do comedy! They said, ‘He’s a dramatic actor from smaller films.’ Todd really had to push for me.”

5. RECYCLED SHOTS OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY WERE USED.

The film was mainly shot on the Westwood campus of UCLA. The aerial shots of the fictitious Harrison University, however, were of Harvard; they had been shot for Road Trip (2000).

6. VINCE VAUGHN FANS MIGHT RECOGNIZE THE CHURCH.

In the film, Frank gets married at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Pasadena, California. Vaughn and Owen Wilson were in that same church two years later for Wedding Crashers (2005).

7. WILL FERRELL SCARED MEMBERS OF A 24-HOUR GYM.

Frank’s streaking scene was shot on a city street. As Ferrell remembered it, one of the storefronts was a 24-hour gym with Stairmasters and treadmills in the window. “I was rehearsing in a robe, and all these people are in the gym, watching me. I asked one of the production assistants, ‘Shouldn’t we tell them I’m going to be naked?’ Sure enough, I dropped my robe and there were shrieks of pure horror. After the first take, nobody was at the window anymore. I took that as a sign of approval.”

8. FERRELL REALLY WAS NAKED.

Ferrell justified it by saying it showed his character falling off the wagon. “The fact that it made sense was the reason I was really into doing it, and why I was able to commit on that level," Ferrell told the BBC. "If it was just for the sake of doing a crazy shot, then I don't think it makes sense.” Still, Ferrell needed some liquid courage, and was intimidated by the presence of Snoop Dogg.

9. ROB CORDDRY WAS NOT NAKED, BUT HE STILL HAD TO SIGN AWAY HIS NUDITY RIGHTS.

Old School marked the first major film role for Rob Corddry, who at the time was best known as a correspondent for The Daily Show. He had a jewel bag around his private parts for his nude scene, but his butt made it into the final cut. He had to sign a nudity clause, which gave the film the right to use his naked image “in any part of the universe, in any form, even that which is not devised.”

10. SNOOP DOGG AGREED TO CAMEO SO HE COULD PLAY HUGGY BEAR IN STARSKY & HUTCH.

Phillips admitted to essentially bribing the hip-hop artist/actor, using Snoop Dogg’s desire to play the street informant in the modern movie adaptation of the classic TV show (which Phillips was also directing) to his advantage. “So when I went to him I said, 'I want you to do Huggy Bear,' he was really excited. And I said, 'Oh yeah, also will you do this little thing for me in Old School a little cameo?' So he kind of had to do it I think."

11. SNOOP WANTED TO HANG OUT WITH VINCE VAUGHN ON SET, BUT NOT LUKE WILSON.

Snoop Dogg in 'Old School' (2003)
Richard Foreman, Dreamworks

Vaughn and his friends accepted an invitation to hang out in Snoop Dogg’s trailer to play video games on the last day of shooting. Vaughn recalled seeing Luke Wilson later watching the news alone in his trailer; he had not been informed of the get-together.

12. WILSON WAS TEASED BY HIS CO-STARS.

Vaughn, Wilson, and Ferrell dubbed themselves “The Wolfpack”—years before Phillips directed The Hangover—because they would always make fun of each other. A particularly stinging exchange had Ferrell refer to Legally Blonde (which Wilson had starred in) as Legally Bland. Wilson said it didn’t make him feel great. Wilson retorted by telling Ferrell that "the transition from TV to the movies isn't a very easy one, so you might just want to keep one foot back in TV just in case this whole movie thing falls through!"

13. TERRY O’QUINN SCARED HIS SONS INTO THINKING THEY WERE TRIPPING.

Terry O’Quinn (who went on to play John Locke on Lost the following year) agreed to play Goldberg, uncredited, in what was a two-day job for him. He neglected to inform his sons he was in the movie, and when they saw it, one of them called their father. “I got a call from my sons one night, and they said, ‘What were you doing in Old School? We didn’t even know you were in it!’ They said, ‘We’re sitting there, and the first time we see you, it’s, like, in a reflection in a window. And when we saw it, and we both thought we were, like, tripping or something!’”

14. THE EARMUFFS WERE IMPROVISED.

Before filming, Vaughn worked with Ferrell to figure out their characters' backstories and how they knew each other; he credited that with helping him figure out who Bernard was, which led to several ad-libbed moments. “The earmuff scene where he swears in front of the kids, and then I tell the kid to earmuff, that all is off the cuff. But that stuff is a lot easier to do when you know who you are and your circumstances, and who your characters are,” Vaughn explained.

15. FERRELL AND VAUGHN DIDN’T LOVE A SCRIPT FOR A SEQUEL.

Armstrong had written Old School Dos in 2006, which saw the frat going to Spring Break. Ferrell said that he and Vaughn read the script but felt like they would just be “kind of doing the same thing again.” Wilson, on the other hand, was excited over the new script.

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