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Atomic Shakespeare


If You're a Man (or Woman), You Gotta Love "Atomic Shakespeare"

When it came to the TV series "Moonlighting" (1985-89), I was definitely late to the party. As a fan of old movies, I'm sure I should have appreciated creator Glenn Gordon Caron's His Girl Friday-type banter (flawlessly delivered by Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd) far sooner than I did. As it was, I watched the occasional episode but didn't quite "get it."

Then in 1986, at the behest of a good friend and "Moonlighting" fanatic, I sat down one night with him to view the episode he'd already seen and recorded the night before: "Atomic Shakespeare." Knowing the show's detective-agency motif, I quizzed my friend: "Why did they do Shakespeare? Did it help them solve a case?" Of course, after I finished watching the episode, I realized how trivial my query was since, like my friend, I took a feverish liking to the show.

Now that the season which featured "Atomic Shakespeare" has been released on DVD, I can only continue to extoll the episode's triumphs. Heaven knows it wasn't the only great episode of "Moonlighting," but there's something about it that continues to capture my interest. I recall an ABC executive, at the time of the ep's first broadcast, calling it one of the five greatest hours of TV he'd ever seen. Two decades later, I'm still inclined to agree with him.

For one thing, what TV series, before or since, would present a straightforward Shakespearean parody, without apology or explanation? Maybe Sid Caesar's "Your Show of Shows," and probably not so lavishly. Writers for any other show would have been told that "the masses" wouldn't get it. But as comedian Albert Brooks once put it, nobody "gets it" until you have the nerve to give "it" to them -- by which point, the general audience is far more hip than executives give them credit for.

And in retrospect, it's amazing that an episode of this caliber even got on the air. Of course, if you examine "Moonlighting's" history, you'll find that it was episodes such as this one that caused the show to go into cost overruns and frequent reruns. But in the end, you watch the episode and realize that this miracle was worth all the trouble it took to make it. (If only "Moonlighting" had flourished just a decade or so later, when limited-run but high-quality series such as "The Sopranos" started to demonstrate cable-TV's strengths.)

In any case, many other websites have convincingly pleaded their cases for "Moonlighting" as an overall TV series. So I decided to plead my case for just a single episode. (Links to fansites for the entire series can be found at this site as well.) "Atomic Shakespeare" is as crammed full of goodies as any theatrical movie; therefore, why not devote a movie-like fansite to it?


-- Steve Bailey, Webmaster

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