“Moonlighting” was considered a drama, but tonally it’s like a single-camera comedy, albeit with a multi-camera setup. The dialogue flies fast and furious, with a level of banter and word play--take your pick of any of these--that could not exist if there was a laugh track and does not exist in most dramas (the work of Amy Sherman-Palladino and Aaron Sorkin excluded). “Moonlighting” is also formally inventive and goofy, in a way we now associate with comedies, but has a sort of unplanned, devil-may-care shagginess it’s near impossible to find anywhere on TV. The ambitious “Community” has basically nothing on “Moonlighting” when it comes to genre busting: “Moonlighting” did a claymation segment, it had a “Honeymooner’s” send-up way before “30 Rock,” it did a whole film noir dream sequence, and a long dance number to a Billy Joel song (check out Willis’ moves), and it was regularly tossing in crazy buttons whenever it felt like it. (See, for example, this bit with the Temptations. And yes, Shepherd’s dance at the end really does show up when you flip to “game” in the dictionary.)You’ll find Paskin’s whole, thoughtful piece here.
But the most modern thing about “Moonlighting” is how much it was trying to communicate and be in conversation with its audience: how much it was trying to be an Internet show before there was an Internet. “Moonlighting” was very meta from the start. It broke the fourth wall often, without ever breaking the spell of the show. David Addison would crack jokes about what the writers were up to--“What do we do now?” Maddie asked once. “Wrap this up in about 12 minutes so another show can come on the air,” he replied--but he would never do so as Bruce Willis. In the Christmas episode, which ends with probably the sweetest thank-you to a cast and crew ever, David looks around at the office and the decorations and says to Maddie, “Do you think this is the Christmas episode?” They wander out the door, and onto the soundstage, where the whole crew and their families are singing “Noel” in fake falling snow. And then they kiss and wave goodbye, as Maddie and David.
By the way, although I wasn’t a big Moonlighting fan, I do have a few fond memories of that show, including this musical number.