"Moonlighting," whose ratings plummeted this season as dramatically as they once rose, will shine its final rays of quirky comedy on Sunday, ABC said Monday.
"We feel the show has reached a creative conclusion and that this is the appropriate time to end the series," the network said in a formal statement. "We are quite proud of the innovation which 'Moonlighting' brought to television during the past four years, and appreciative of the program's tremendous contribution to ABC's program schedule during that time."
Ratings for the critically acclaimed and once-supremely popular show had been dropping since a series of contrived plot twists last season. Viewers clearly lost interest in the repartee and sexual tension between Cybill Shepherd's Maddie Hayes and Bruce Willis' David Addison.
"I think people went, 'Well, that was fun,' and they had enough of it," said the show's creator, Glenn Gordon Caron, who left the show last year amid turmoil over plot derailments and a long-brewing conflict with Shepherd.
"Part of it may be (a question of) how long can one burn that bright," Caron said. "The intensity with which it was viewed at the time when it was immensely popular was just extraordinary."
Indeed, at the end of the 1986-87 season, the show was being watched in an average of 19.5 million households a week, but the number had steadily declined. The show was doing so poorly in its usual Tuesday night slot early this season that ABC pulled it off the schedule, then brought it back on Sundays at 8 p.m., where in recent weeks it had been attracting fewer than 6 million households a week.
Although no one connected with the series would divulge details of the final installment, Caron confirmed that the episode "definitely confronts the fact that it's the last show."
Shepherd, whose next project is a starring role in the movie "Texasville," the sequel to "The Last Picture Show," on Monday called "Moonlighting" "a wonderful opportunity. It brought me great success. I enjoyed playing the character of Maddie Hayes and I'm sorry that it's over."
Caron attributed the show's loss of popularity to a variety of causes.
"I think there were a number of things: Being moved to Sunday at 8 sure didn't help . . . the number of reruns, the plot twists."
Last season's story problems began when Shepherd got pregnant and the producers decided to incorporate her condition in the show, having Maddie move home with her parents to think things over. When Shepherd returned to work full time, they had Maddie marry a stranger she met on a train, leaving many viewers feeling betrayed. Loyal fans deluged ABC with angry letters and phone calls.
Even before that, however, the series, which debuted in the spring of 1985, had been plagued by schedule over-runs and creative struggles that often brought production delays. "Moonlighting" became infamous for the number of repeats served up every season.
Willis, who catapulted from an unknown to Emmy Award-winning TV star and then on to movie fame in such films as "Die Hard" and "Blind Date," said he was proud of his work on the show.
"When the show was at its height, it was very much like playing a brand new song that never had been played before," he said. "Some people may not have liked the song, we may not have always played it exactly to fit people's tastes, but when we were 'on,' we hit some notes that will never be played again."