‘Moonlighting’ Fans Rejoice — New Restoration Includes ‘Lost’ Scenes and 1 Important Piece of Music Missing from DVDs

“Moonlighting” lovers are a dedicated crew — it was the kind of wildly imaginative, smart, sophisticated series that inspired passionate loyalty over the course of its 66 episodes (the two-part pilot is shown as a single episode) and five seasons on the air. What’s even more remarkable about fans’ dedication is the relative rarity of the series; the Glenn Gordon Caron-created genre hybrid has rarely been in regular syndication (as opposed to, say, “The Golden Girls”) and its DVD releases have been out of print since 2013.

Not that the DVD releases really satisfied the die-hard fans. Sure, they got to relive (or for many, discover) just what all the fuss was about when the show took the country by storm back in 1985, as former model Maddie Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) and wise guy detective David Addison (a pre-“Die Hard” Bruce Willis) investigated crimes, bickered, broke the fourth wall, and generally served as television trailblazers up to and including the “Moonlighting” curse that alleged all shows will lose their mojo after consummating a will-they-won’t-they romance. But key elements of the series were missing from the DVDs, including three cold opens and the William Tell overture that scored the series’ first iconic chase sequence in Season 2’s “The Lady in the Iron Mask.”

“Moonlighting” fans, your time has come: The restored series that begins streaming on Hulu October 10 includes all of that. And when it comes to the William Tell overture, there is one man to thank: Mike DeKalb, distribution operations manager, catalog TV mastering, The Walt Disney Company.

In Scott Ryan’s indispensable oral history of “Moonlighting,” he describes the climactic sequence (in which most of the cast ends up in a black dress and veil running through hotel hallways until they all side through soapsuds) as “edited perfectly to the music.” But that music almost didn’t make it to Hulu.

DeKalb was familiar with some of the issues fans brought up regarding the DVD releases (he points out that those were handled by Lions Gate) and knew that the missing “William Tell” overture was a particular sore spot. “So when that episode got done, I pulled it up, and it still [didn’t] have it and so I’m like, ‘Well, I guess this must just be what we have,’” he told IndieWire. An article DeKalb found offered a likely explanation for the switch: A rejected score somehow got used for the DVD release instead of the second pass from series composer Alf Clausen, which used the overture. Luckily, DeKalb kept poking.

“I dug a little deeper in the vault, and I saw two 35-millimeter mags that were absolutely identical,” he said. “So I just had a curiosity and kicked [the other mag] to the audio vendor, and they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, this is the “William Tell” overture.’ So now we have the correct score for that.”

MOONLIGHTING, Bruce Willis, Cybill Shepherd, (Season 5), 1985-89, ©ABC/courtesy Everett Collection
“Moonlighting”©ABC/Courtesy Everett Collection

Similarly, the three episodes that lost their cold opens for the DVD releases had the vendors restoring them messaging DeKalb essentially saying, “We have this extra footage that isn’t in the reference video. Any ideas?” In those instances, Moonlightingstrangers.com guided DeKalb to the realization that the unidentified footage was the missing cold opens; a more thorough search of the vaults unearthed the actual broadcast masters for restoration.

As DeKalb puts it, “This is like a Rosetta Stone. This is something that people have been waiting for years.”

About that wait: “Moonlighting” was long held up by rights issues regarding its eclectic (and deep) soundtrack. This is a show, after all, that includes a dance sequence set to Billy Joel’s “Big Man on Mulberry Street” and a performance by Ray Charles. While some of the background and ambient songs have been replaced, the tunes sung by the cast are all intact — including the two songs Shepherd sings in the iconic black-and-white Season 2 episode “The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice.”

Filmed as two very different noir takes on a murder, the episode is introduced by Orson Welles explaining that when the episode cuts to black and white, it is by design, not by technological error. The restored episode remains in black and white, of course, but that “monophonic” sound Welles mentions? That’s gone, replaced by 5.1 audio to “sumptuous” results, according to DeKalb. There was some discussion about leaving it in mono, but ultimately the chance to render the episode in crisp audio was too good to pass up.

The music rights may have been what held up the show from streaming, but there were additional complications in bringing “Moonlighting” to glorious 4k. While those restoring a film have multiple negatives from which to work, anyone restoring a series likely only has one. Which means that if something’s wrong with that print, there’s trouble ahead. That wasn’t often the case with “Moonlighting” — except for the Season 4 premiere, “Trip to the Moon.”

“Everything in our vault for that episode says, ‘Reel 2 scratched beyond repair,’” DeKalb said. Knowing that this was a high-profile release, the team got a budget approved and set to work repairing the sequence, which was marred by a series of red scratches for almost 10 minutes. “They had four different colorists working on it, and they were dividing up the shots from within the reel,” DeKalb said. The final result is an almost perfect restoration.

“Moonlighting” restoration before and after

And now, at long last, viewers will have the chance to judge for themselves if the “Moonlighting” curse is real or not: Did the show jump the shark when the will-they-won’t-they romance was finally consummated? So, to paraphrase Orson Welles’ introduction to “The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice,” “Gather the kids, the dog, grandma — and lock them in another room. And sit back and enjoy this very special series: ‘Moonlighting.’”

“Moonlighting” streams on Hulu beginning October 10.

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