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Attacking the Jump the Shark Legacy of Maddie and David Having Sex

This site has as one of its major goals to rewrite the legacy of this event and remove the stigma that has followed this misaligned consummation. Wrongly accused as the seminal Jump The Shark (JTS) Moment on the series, Maddie and David making love has become almost legendarily infamous. The TV industry repeatedly cites this scene as the prime example to prove their point about destroying sexual chemistry between characters by allowing consummation to take place. In regard to David and Maddie on Moonlighting, that is absolutely total bunk and our attack on this point takes two approaches:

  1. A close examination of what the facts are with a discussion of the characters' sexual chemistry inherent with both its sexual hostility and its sexual attraction and show why this relationship had to lead to a consummation. And how significant that consummation was to the characters, theme and evolution of the show. (BTW, that is what the entire rest of this section has been about!)
  2. And believing that the best defense is a good offense, we will also try to identify the REAL JTS culprit on the show.

Fans Opinions on the JTS for Moonlighting

First, Ms. Vicki B., California

"Womb with a View -- The final straw"

For me, the death of the baby was the final blow in the long list of frustrating delays, plot twists, and suspensions of beliefs that the fans were asked to endure during this period. The direction of the story is exasperating enough watching it on Bravo when we have the advantage of seeing one episode right after another and only have weekends to delay the progression of the story. But during the series' first run on ABC, the fans had been pushed to the limit already, and this move pushed many, including myself, right over the edge. It was the final straw that broke the proverbial camel's back.

As far as fans go, I think Moonlighting had a particularly loyal fan base who adored the show and were willing to endure many things, within reason...even beyond reason. A testament to the quality and appeal of the stories. How many times did we find ourselves sighing, "Ah, finally....." ? We knew the series had merit and were willing to wait through many weeks of repeats because we knew a great episode would be right around the corner. "Ah, finally, a new episode!!" only to have to watch 3 or 4 more repeats before another new one came along. Or how about, "Ah, finally, Maddie & David kiss ("Witness..."), only to have them deny it and string us along for another season (not complaining about this part too was fun, but long...oh, don't forget to throw in lots of repeats in between here too). Or, "Ah, finally, David is going to tell Maddie how he feels about her!", only to have Sam answer the door. Or, "Ah, finally, Maddie and David get together!", only to have Maddie immediately freak out and take off for Chicago before the fans even had a chance to enjoy their "togetherness". Or, "Ah, finally David finds out Maddie is he'll go to Chicago and end this miserable separation.", only to have us endure, not one, but two "Cool Hand Dave" episodes (with an Agnes and Bert one thrown in there for good measure). Be sure to include a filming hiatus, complete with multiple repeats here to get the full effect. Then, of course, there was, "Ah, finally, Maddie is coming home!", only to be slapped in the face with Walter Bishop. Then, who could forget, "Ah, finally, she comes to her senses and gets rid of Walter." Things appear to be slowly working their way back to where they should be (again, throw in yet another Agnes and Bert ep, completely sans Maddie & David). "Ah, finally, Maddie and David cautiously begin working things out and preparing for the future." Season 4 ends on a positive note and all seems to be falling back into place, then WHAM!....a writers' strike. Nine months go by....NINE MONTHS!! Meanwhile, the real life fans have had time to have two children in the time it took between the conception of baby Hayes and the resumption of this most exasperating saga. I believe that ABC even stopped showing Moonlighting all together, not even repeats (hell, we'd seen them all dozens of times, already) during this period. Many viewers had forgotten about Moonlighting or, at best, had just plain old lost interest.

But there was that one bit of unfinished business, that one last thread of hope, that one breath of air that those most loyal fans had not exhaled yet...the baby. Whose baby was it, really, and how will Maddie and David handle this? We already knew that David was a complex character, casual and confident on the surface but capable of real and deep emotion underneath -- as evidenced in season 4. We knew that Maddie's character had this potential as well, and this baby would probably be what brought those qualities to the surface. "Ah, finally, finally, after months and months and months of waiting, we will get to see what happens!" Well, you all know how this story ends.....disappointed does not even begin to describe how I felt after this episode. Sad, angry, tricked, duped, robbed, bamboozled, aghast, devastated, dejected....take your pick. A miscarriage had never even occurred to me to be a possibility. Not after all we'd gone through, not after what we'd endured!! How could they?!?!

Well, needless to say, I couldn't watch it anymore. It was obvious that this was contrived in order to return to a more shallow, sophomoric, no-strings-attached mode that had defined the early episodes. Were these past episodes great? Sure they were! But they had their appropriate time and place in this story. Was the previous season heavy on drama and soap opera-ish? Yep, you betcha, but it was necessary for the circumstances. Was it time to move forward? Absolutely! The pendulum had swung to both extremes and it was now time to find that middle ground and move these characters forward through life. Trying to go backwards and return to the atmosphere of seasons 1 and 2 was ridiculous and an obvious, money-grabbing, network driven sellout. Too much had transpired between these two characters for us to ever believe that things could go back to the way they were. To ignore the depth of their relationship was the biggest mistake in television history.

If you want to talk about jumping sharks, just look down after "Womb.." and you will see the tank.

Next, Ms. Hazel H., California

Okay-- I finally (and hastily) put words to my feelings about when ML JTS. Get ready to break out the fire extinguishers because this will likely be pretty inflammatory. Like I said, I'd prefer it if this were part of a group of other opinions, because I think it needs to be counterbalanced by some more moderate or traditional opinions, and also I didn't have the time to create a commentary that can stand on its own. Anyway here it is:

The proverbial shark jumped when they made the fateful decision to write Cybill's pregnancy into the show. Now, I know hindsight is 20/20 and it could have gone bad either way, but to me, it was obvious that whether or not the baby was born and became a part of the series, the character of the show would fundamentally change as a result. The fact of the pregnancy necessarily transformed the nature of Maddie and David's relationship by putting much more at stake than just passion and egos. "What might have been" would become the recurring question whether or not Maddie made it to term with the baby. If it were not the loss of the baby, it would be the loss of freedom of choice for two independent agents.

I don't think Maddie and David could have continued to be Maddie and David with a mutual sense of obligation and duty binding them together. The kick of this show for so long was that despite their resistance and better judgment, these two were crazy about each other and couldn't stay away from each other because plain and simple, their passion was too great. Still in all, there was an element of risk. At the heart of it, there was always the question of whether or not this last battle would be the last straw. As free agents, both could have walked away at any time. Throw a baby into the mix, and the likelihood of either going anywhere is nil. No risk. Odds are you're gonna see them together next week, whether they like it or not. Whether or not there is any passion.

The miscarriage created a different type of bind. Maddie and David shared a tragedy. A shared tragedy that was tough to turn away from and forget, for the characters as well as the audience. The relationship suddenly had a seriously dark chapter in its history. It took on the indelible mark of sadness, as did the characters as individuals. For a show with its roots in irreverent comedy, the miscarriage created an paradigm that was necessarily reverent, and anything but funny. After such a tumultuous and traumatic journey, neither the characters nor the show could go home again.

Because of the pregnancy, Maddie and David could never be the hell-raising, unhinged firebrands that each were at the height of their madness for each other. It might be argued that that isn't such a bad thing. That the relationship might have evolved and grown more passionate because of the pregnancy, whatever the outcome. True as that might be, I would also submit that the audience that had assembled around the show were drawn by the crazy chemistry of Maddie and David, and to no small extent, the risk involved in two such powerful individual entities making themselves vulnerable to each other, in spite of themselves. Would they have held on for a family oriented story? I doubt it. Could the characters have ever recaptured the giddy thrill of this relationship after the tragedy of the miscarriage? I doubt it. The characters and hence the show the audience had grown to know and love would be fundamentally changed, for better or worse, and in the end it's just not what they signed up for.

Well there you have it. I'll head out to the woodshed for some kindlin'.

Next Me, Cindy K, Florida

Hazel, this is great....and no whuppins from me. I agree with you in essence.....I just think that baby might have been a possibility, although I think waiting a bit for them to have a baby would have been better and more likely. I mean these are two reasonable adults....not inexperienced in these type of on earth can they explain sensibly how she got pregnant so immediately as if she didn't know how to prevent it.....That has always bugged me because I knew good and well back in 1987 how to prevent getting pregnant...there were plenty of options even then!!! But, hey baby on the way, I think might have worked provided they had figured out how to keep the characters in the same scene/location. They had to play off each other...that was what made 90% of the show. JTS is sending Maddie to Chicago and keeping them apart....and that was because of the pregnancy in a way we are two sides of the same coin.....

My premise is that clearly the show peaked and then let's locate the exact moment or event and point to it saying JTS..... If someone is of the opinion that the show peaked when they went to bed together, then I guess having had them sleep together would in essence be the JTS by definition. Isn't that concept going to shake up a few people!!! That if you see the love making scene in Curious as the peak moment in the show, then technically what occurs immediately after is all downhill and the lovemaking scene was indeed the JTS moment. I however found the episode following Curious to be my favorite and even into the next one...and I was even ok when she got on the plane, and he missed her for an episode or two...but then it went on too long and the novelty wore off....had to be about Tale in 2 Cities where I started to say enough is enough...not even a lousy phone call. Then I started getting frustrated with the story---but when she and then he found out she was pregnant, and it looked like he might actually go to Chicago, I thought...finally, lets get these two in the same room!!! But we know what happened then...... I did adore Father Knows Last though (it is in my top 5 as far as episodes go), because actually I felt at the end of it we now had real hope that they were going to be back together.....So what do they do to us? We got slapped with an Agnes Episode, and locating David a LaMaze partner in Maddie's absence and then horrors of horrors--a nebbish husband for Maddie. Now that was really the final straw for me....I do love Maddie Hayes Got Married because it is so funny and so screwball.....but...the husband business just intensifies the separation trend. So, yeah, JTS for me is when I started to recognize that the direction of the show was to try to keep Maddie and David apart instead of together... Somehow someone decided that sexual tension was better served by keeping them apart...Phooey!! what a stupid idea that was..... you can't play sexual tension if there ain't even enough contact to be sexual or tense about!!!

So the fifth season that had as its goal to build the tension back through distance and separation and that just pissed me of to no end. I actually have to confess, I fell asleep when originally watching some of those later episodes because I guess I was not being entertained anymore. You know I just realized think the JTS was when they decided to work in the real pregnancy, and I think it is when they separated the REEL characters BECAUSE of the REAL pregnancy (since that is what caused the fact that Cybill could not be present on set during much of the fourth season filming.) That pregnancy issue really became a major liability. We really are closer together on this than one might think.

And now it's Diane H. of Pennsylvania

I have been asked to define my "Jump the Shark" moment as it relates to Moonlighting. I find it difficult, because I have never been sure that you can pinpoint one defining moment that signals the demise of a popular series.

That said, what I am going to discuss is what I think was Moonlighting's "point of no return" - the point when even the most loyal of fans had serious doubts about their passion for and commitment to the show…..and a point where many casual fans changed the channel in droves.

For me, the event that I point to is Maddie's loss of the baby. I do not mean only the actual event itself, as depicted in "Womb With a View", although that will be part of my discussion here. The core of my discontent is the cycle that this event started - the disassociation of our two as a couple until they, individually and collectively, turned into virtual strangers, both to each other, and to us, the viewers.

I think "Womb With a View" is about 35 minutes of fantastic television. Bruce Willis' performance is fun and insightful, the montages are well done and poignant, and best of all, viewers are swept up in the realization that David Addison is indeed the baby's father. In this episode, you get a real sense that Maddie and David are truly together again, and are committed to supporting each other and raising this child.

The remaining 15 minutes of the episode are excruciatingly painful to me. We watch Maddie and David's joy turn to pain as she collapses at her baby shower. We subsequently learn that she has lost the baby. This event is commonly referred to as a miscarriage, though given the advanced stage of her pregnancy, it is more than likely that it would have been either a live birth, followed by the death of the baby, or a still birth. The child would have been well formed, and the baby's sex evident. This may seem a bit too graphic, but this idea figures prominently in one of my thoughts that I will illustrate a bit later.

There is a truly sweet scene with Maddie and David in the hospital, which comes to a jarring and unfunny end when the doctor advises them that they can "start trying again real soon." I am certain that there are many doctors out there who might be that insensitive, but my impression is that the show was going for a laugh there……let's just stun these two one more time………and it's just not funny.

But the scene that still upsets me, almost a full fourteen years later is the song and dance number when Jerome, the emissary, and Baby Hayes ascend the stairway to heaven, while singing "The Sunny Side of the Street". The song is punctuated by jokes about which TV family Baby Hayes will now end up with. I have heard every explanation going about how it was supposed to be an upbeat, positive moment, as witnessed by the song itself, a depression era number that tried to breathe some hope into a desperate people. Other members of "The Moonlighting Debate Team" (LOL) have tried without success to explain all the nuances of the episode to me. I can't and won't get the fact that this is funny stuff. The fact that this tragedy is treated as a plot device for a little soft shoe is abhorrent to me.

You might say, lighten up, this is a dramedy. Life has to go on. That is exactly my point. From this moment, life as we know it ceases to go on for Maddie and David. They never again deal with the issues of the pregnancy, or what becomes "their lost couplehood". They could have --- the opportunity was there in "Between a Yuk and a Hard Place". "Yuk" starts out with glimpses of Maddie and David handling a difficult situation in typical M&D fashion - Maddie by throwing herself into her work, and David by throwing himself out of his……..classic avoidance on a grand scale. We do see some evidence that Maddie is grieving in private…..who can forget the portrait of a sleepless night, when Maddie finds the "baby" t-shirt mingled with her laundry (an aside - what a gaffe……this would have been a totally foreign item in the Hayes classic wardrobe.) David, to his credit, tries to call her on her avoidance, but clearly is infected with the same problem. So they head to the maneuvered scene in the elevator…which happens to be an all time favorite of mine. We get to witness the first crack in David's armor as he loses control, and beats the music out of a speaker that is cheerfully piping "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby". This leads to Maddie's breaking down… event that originally had me sighing, "Thank God" I finally thought that this was a breakthrough…….they were going to deal with their issues, and move on with their lives, together. How wrong I was. Their redemption and reconciliation consisted of two out of place hymns, and salvation in the form of a maintenance worker. They emerged from the elevator singing, and smiling, and David announces his decision not to go to Virginia. This gave hope to all viewers that perhaps their relationship would move on - instead it started a confusing game of "Where did the relationship go?" which continued on through the fifth season, and to me took Moonlighting from the category of superior television, and relegated it to just "another detective show". There was no saving it, because without their chemistry and their relationship, in the viewers' eyes, there was nothing left to save.

What would I have done? As an amateur writer, I have pondered this long and hard. I would not have changed the basic premise…….I would have had the loss of the baby occur. Working a baby into a cutting edge show such as Moonlighting would have been too difficult, and altered the concept considerably. Hard to do double entendre with a symbol of innocence smack dab in the middle of the screen. But after the period of time they had been together, and the things they had been through, we needed to see Maddie and David make their way back to each other, by each one beginning to let the other in. They needed to progress like normal people. This could have been handled by small things - the mention of a funeral, donating crib etc. to a shelter for expectant mothers in trouble, spending time together healing, and perhaps the big one - the affirmation that David was indeed the baby's father……..a fact known only to the viewers (and if you share my opinion, something that is known, at least subconsciously by Maddie too.) The pregnancy and subsequent separation happened too quickly for them. The fifth season could have given them the opportunity to work through all those lingering issues.

In my opinion, there was no need for the tragedy that became the Annie storyline, had this progressed as I have outlined above. I have to say that the change in approach coincided with the departure of Glenn Caron, and in my mind's eye, Maddie and David would have been handled differently had he still been on board. But the season was handed over to a group of writers, most unfamiliar with the characters, and an executive producer who is quoted as saying "We can drop the serious thing. Maddie and David can get back to the business of being private detectives." Sorry, Jay. You surely missed something if you thought viewers were tuning in to watch Maddie and David solve cases.

Most will say the underlying cause of all of this were behind the scenes issues……I won't fall into that trap. My analysis here is how I believe the show itself began to fail its viewers.

In closing, I can say that I do not say that the fifth season is a total loss. There are some glimmers of what the show had been before, and a couple of episodes that would have stood up quite well in season one or two. The problem was that it wasn't season one or two, and by that point, we weren't satisfied with the uncertainty of those seasons - we wanted commitment. I will forever go on believing that Moonlighting had the recipe to remain on the air for at least several more seasons. The problem with a recipe is that if you change your ingredients, and leave things out, you usually end up with an unpalatable mess.

Jump the shark? You decide.

Fans have written in their JTS ideas. You can read their comments by clicking here. Home Page


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