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OUTTAKES

Tragic Timing

February 09, 1986|Bill Steigerwald

It wasn't planned that way, but less than a month after Ricky Nelson's death ABC reran a "Moonlighting" episode that contained a joke about the rocker.

The episode, first shown in October, originally was set to be rerun Jan. 7 but ABC pulled it when Nelson died Dec. 31. There were no plans to reschedule it, but on Jan. 28, the day the shuttle blew up, President Reagan canceled his State of the Union address at the last minute. Since Reagan's speech had been slated to fill "Moonlighting's" usual 9 p.m. Tuesday time slot, ABC had to scramble to fill the hour--and the "My Fair David" episode was handy.

The show's exec producer, Glenn Caron, said that ABC called to warn him that the episode might run. The propriety of the joke was discussed, Caron said, but it was decided that enough time had passed since Nelson's death.

The Nelson joke went like this:

Maddie (Cybill Shepherd) bets David (Bruce Willis) that he can't act like a mature adult for a week--which means none of his usual singing (David has an affinity for the Motown Sound). But after scoring $50,000 on a case, David breaks into a jivey sidewalk strut and does 20 soulful seconds of "Money."

"I was celebrating ," he insists, when Maddie catches him for singing.

"It was more than a doo-wop," Maddie argued. "It was a definite lyric--you snapped your fingers, wiggled your hips. You even closed your eyes like Ricky Nelson."

"Ricky Nelson!?" David howls, insulted. "He's white !!"

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