Sunday, July 6, 2008

Moonlighting Seasons One & Two: Classic Episodes, Part 2 of 5

Here's my capsule reviews of the next two episodes I consider classics of the series. One is a delightful romp— and one of my very favorites, the other a dark moody piece (until the usual wacky end).

Season Two (continued):

• “Somewhere Under the Rainbow” (airdate: 11/19/85) ****
The first perfect episode of Moonlighting comes from the pen of the same writers who did “The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice,” Debra Frank and Carl Sautter, and, it too, plays like a miniature movie. The episode begins with a bang-up opening sequence in which a woman puts a spell on a man and he dies on the spot. At Blue Moon, Maddie and David are at it again, this time over a discussion of art, high and low, and each other’s definition of “poetry.” When Maddie brands David a philistine, he’s able to use her words against her as an unexpected client arrives— the young woman of the opening sequence, whose name is Kathleen Kilpatrick. She claims she’s a leprechaun who’s being hunted for her gold. Maddie doesn’t want to take the case, but David calls Maddie on her lack of imagination, i. e. “poetry.” Agnes has a hilarious line that never fails to get me, right before the first “station break.” The bulk of the episode has us starting to believe that Kathleen is a leprechaun, playing out like Miracle on 34th Street— each beat has the audience cheering her on. This episode softens Maddie (and even David: particularly in his parting advice to Kathleen) and makes Agnes DiPesto look normal (!). There are plenty of laughs, with little-to-none missing their target. There are some nice character touches too, as when David describes the way Kathleen casts spells by holding up her hand “like early Diana Ross”— the exact reference that David Addison would use. The silly chase at the airport is highly pre-9/11 and has several moments in which, despite the villain being right on their heels, the trio have what seems like several minutes in between his catching up to them for which to concoct a new scheme to get away! But no matter, it’s all in good fun, and this was exactly the kind of material that no one was doing on television at the time.

• “Portrait of Maddie” (airdate: 11/26/85) ***
A disturbing opening has a gun going off and blood spattering on a collage of magazine covers featuring Maddie Hayes at various stages of her modeling career (employing the real life Cybill Shepard’s image). The back-and-forth between Maddie and David in the opening (and most of the first act) is not quite up to par— the bread-and-butter of the series— but includes some of the winking to the audience that became a big part of the series. Also prevalent is the hopelessly obvious soft focus on close-ups of Cybill Shepard. When the mystery gets going in act two, we’re brought into the Hitchcockian plot, that at least for this episode, takes precedence over Maddie and David’s shenanigans, ever so slightly lowering the humor level. The line “Where’s the duchess?!” and David’s retort however becomes funnier with each viewing.

No comments: