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Atomic Shakespeare

Atomic Trivia

Facts and Figures

"Atomic Shakespeare":

* was first broadcast on ABC on Tues., Nov. 25, 1986 (two days before Thanksgiving -- the network insisted on having a holiday episode) and was rerun on Tues., Apr. 28, 1987. Co-executive producer Jay Daniel claims this episode garnered some of the series' lowest ratings on both air dates.

* was the seventh episode of the series' third season.

* was series episode # 31. (To put that in perspective, any other series that had been on the air for the length of time "Moonlighting" had been at that point [nearly two full seasons -- it had begun in the middle of the 1984-85 TV season] would have had about 40 episodes under its belt. The fact that the series often fell behind schedule because creator Glenn Gordon Caron wanted to maintain high quality is now the stuff of TV legend. When the series was cancelled in 1989, it had completed a total of 65 episodes [not counting the pilot film] in four-and-a-half seasons.)

* according to Caron, was inspired by his attendance at a 1978 Central Park performance of The Taming of the Shrew starring Raul Julia and Meryl Streep. (According to Cybill Shepherd, when Caron told her of his idea, her response was, "Who's going to play the shrew?")

* was, at the time, the most expensive TV episode ever made (according to Brandon Stoddard, then-President of ABC Entertainment), though nobody seems to have a tally of its final cost.

* took eleven days to shoot. The credited director, Will Mackenzie, directed six days of primary shooting, and Jay Daniel directed five days of second-unit shooting. At the time, an hour-long TV episode typically completed its shooting in seven or eight days. ("Second units" typically shoot scenes or shots [scenery, setting, etc.] that don't require main actors, but Daniel has said that this production was working so hard to keep ahead, he actually shot first-unit scenes with his second unit.) The episode's final edit was completed only four days before its broadcast date.

On the strength of Bruce Willis' rendition of the Rascals' song "Good Lovin'" in this episode, the disbanded Rascals reunited (minus original composer-vocalist Eddie Brigati) for a "Good Lovin' '88" U.S. tour.

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Pedigrees with the Bard

Actor-turned-director Will Mackenzie performed in Much Ado About Nothing at New York's Winter Garden Theatre, 1972-73.

Guest star Kenneth McMillan (who died only 15 months after this episode first aired) was a veteran actor of the New York Shakespeare Festival.

Supporting actor Ralph Drischell performed in a 1983 TV production of Antony and Cleopatra.

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The Return of Bruno's Co-Stars

Colm Meaney, who played a suitor in Katharina's first scene ("We only just arrived to woo and bewitch..."), co-starred in Willis' movie Die Hard 2 (1990).

Frank Collison, who played the Padua resident who waves Lucentio away "as I am off to floss," acted with Willis in The Last Boy Scout (1991) and The Whole Ten Yards (2004). ("Everyone was on 'Moonlighting,'" says Willis in the episode's DVD commentary.)

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Awards Received for This Episode

* 1986-87 Emmy Awards


Outstanding Hairstyling for a Series, Kathryn Blondell and Josee Normand

Outstanding Single Camera Editing for a Series (Single Camera Production), Roger Bondelli and Neil Mandelberg

Outstanding Costume Design for a Series, Robert Turturice


Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Drama Series, Martin Raymond Bolger, Dave Hudson, Mel Metcalf, and Terry Porter

Outstanding Art Direction for a Drama Series, James J. Agazzi and Bill Harp

Outstanding Achievement for Musical Direction in a Drama Series (dramatic underscore), Alf Clausen

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, Ron Osborn and Jeff Reno

Outstanding Direction for a Drama Series, Will Mackenzie

* Directors Guild of America Awards, 1987

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Dramatic Show, Will Mackenzie

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Homages to Movies and Other TV Series

* The Taming of the Shrew - The "it goes without saying" reference -- the episode obviously reflects on at least a few of the countless movie and TV productions of William Shakespeare's play. Check out the Internet Movie Database's entry for this episode to see the many previous versions. (An early talkie version, starring Mary Pickford and directed by a man named Sam Taylor, was notorious for its "Moonlighting"-like screenplay credit: "By William Shakespeare, with additional dialogue by Sam Taylor.")

* Blazing Saddles - Camera pans up the legs of Petruchio's horse to reveal a BMW logo on the horse's side. Similar to the BS gag where the camera pans up the legs of Cleavon Little's horse to reveal Little's Gucci saddlebag.

* Ninja action films - After Petruchio has laid waste to two swordsmen, he then must fight off some decidedly non-sixteenth-century kung-fu warriors.

* The Shining - Petruchio axes through Katharina's door and yells, "Here's Petruchio!" in the manner of Jack Nicholson's "Here's Johnny!"

* The Hunchback of Notre Dame - The priest's assistant who rings the bell in the church tower is pretty obviously patterned after Quasimodo.

* The Three Stooges - As the congregation sleepily awaits Petruchio's entrance, various snore-like sounds are heard, among them a Curly-like "Woo-woo-woo-woo-woo!"

* The Three Ages - As Buster Keaton did in the Roman Empire segment of his silent comedy, the priest who is awaiting Petruchio's arrival at the church checks out his sundial-cum-watch.

* "The Honeymooners" - In the manner of Ralph Kramden's constant threat to his wife Alice, in the middle of the sun-moon argument Petruchio announces, "I hope they like those jokes on the moon, Kate, 'cause that's where you're going!"

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Musical references:

* The Rascals' "Good Lovin'" - See "Facts and Figures" above.

* Max Steiner's score for Gone with the Wind - When Petruchio makes his first entrance is it just me, or does Alf Clausen's music sound like an oh-so-slight variation on "Tara's Theme"??

* Petruchio's "Kate, Kate, bo-bate" riff is a take-off on Shirley Ellis' 1964 hit "The Name Game." (Katharina's response -- "Who are you? Certainly no singer" -- later proved ironic when Willis sang for Seagram's Wine Cooler TV ads as well as his own record album, The Return of Bruno. And of course, his "AS" rendition of "Good Lovin'" ended up on the "Moonlighting" soundtrack album.)

* Petruchio's command to "Kiss Me, Kate" is an obvious reference to the same-named musical adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew.

* Petruchio's assertion of male dominance -- "Am I not man? Hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore!" -- is his gender-changed version of Helen Reddy's 1972 feminist song "I Am Woman."

* Raymond Scott's "Powerhouse" - A familiar theme from its frequent use in Warner Bros.' Looney Tunes cartoons (and its subsequent use on cable-TV's Cartoon Network), here it is appropriate background music for the cartoony montage in which Petruchio tries to win over a barricaded Kate.

* Petruchio's newspaper reference to conservative rock-music critics: "Forty teenagers arrested at the Bach concert last night. 'Tis said, if thou playest the Second Concerto backwards, thou hearest the voice of Satan."

* The Carpenters' 1970 hit "Close to You" is played at Lucentio and Bianca's wedding, inspiring Petruchio's response: "I liketh a band that playeth the oldies."

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Lines Paraphrased from Other Shakespeare Plays (to keep you on your toes, I guess):

* Lucentio, upon first seeing Bianca: "But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks!" (Romeo and Juliet)

* Before Petruchio properly begins his first speech, he "accidentally" cribs famous lines from Hamlet, Julius Caesar, and Richard III.

* Baptista advising Lucentio: "Neither a borrower nor a lender be" (Hamlet) "...unless interest is compounded annually, at eight percent."

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Atomic Glitch

When Petruchio declares that Katharina's sting can be found "in her tail" and then pratfalls over the love seat, does this seem like a strange non sequitor? That's because there was a joke at that point which was edited out to appease the censors. A detailed explanation of the deletion can be found at the on-line fanzine Moonlighting Strangers (listed in our "Links" section).

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In the ep's "bookend" scenes with the TV-watching son and his mother, does the mother's voice (and/or legs) belong to Cybill Shepherd? One wonders.

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What does the title "Atomic Shakespeare" really mean??

In an interview with "AS" scribes Ron Osborn and Jeff Reno posted at the website Moonlighting in the 21st Century, Reno says, "I think it was simply Shakespeare for the 'atomic age' (i.e., modernized), with a small wordplay concerning the combustibility of [the leads'] relationship."

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