As a long time fan of The Munsters, I was skeptical about a reboot. I mean, who wouldn’t be?
All I could do was conjur up memories of those truly awful made-for-TV movies that came along in the ’80s and cobbled together remaining cast members trying to recapture the magic of the old series.
On the flipside of that, however, as a fan, I always thought about how one could effectively pull off a contemporary representation of the Munster family. There would have to be a balance of old and new sensibilities, after all, and that could get tricky.
Mockingbird Lane, NBC’s reboot of The Munsters, I believe, effectively finds that balance, tapping into the goofy charm of the original series while bringing to the slab a healthy dose of modern genre elements and black humor. For what it is, it works really well and it’s a shame to see NBC merely pass the pilot episode off as a “Halloween special” with no future episodes waiting in the wings because what showrunner Bryan (Pushing Daisies) Fuller created in his labratory is promising, appropriately weird, funny and beautifully produced.
The central focus is Eddie Munster, a young boy who has lycanthropy issues but doesn’t quite know that yet. After an attack on a boy scout camp (in which Fuller and director Bryan Singer take a moment to lovingly tip a hat to Prophecy), the Munster family is forced to move to a new town and home – a gothic mansion notoriously known as the “hobo murder house.” While they get acclimated to the neighborhood, Herman, Lily, Grandpa and the “normal one” Marilyn grapple with how and when they should break the news to Eddie that he is a werewolf.
Mockingbird Lane features a Munster family where everyone looks quite, well, regular. And I completely understand the decision to go in this direction. The original Munsters series was born out of the “monster kid” era, playing to a generation – raised on the Universal classic monsters – which has not been forgotten but is certainly not considered the norm in the genre today. We’re living in the era of The Dark Knight, where everything is “grounded” and “real” and “dark” (pardon my Hollywood exec lingo) and Mockingbird Lane certainly caters to that, however, it never forget its roots so we still get a Munster family that has its fun eccentricities. We also get a good deal of monstrous transformations, bloodshed and make-up FX.
Mason Cook and Eddie Izzard (as Eddie and Grandpa Munster, respectively) steal the show. I’m not really sold on Charity Wakefield as Marilyn just yet and Portia de Rossi as Lily, I feel, needed a bit more to do. And Herman, here, is a radical departure from what we are used to but, to be honest, his representation fits perfectly with the tone of the show. That said, Jerry O’Connell is a bit dry, however, when it comes to any criticism with the cast, I feel anything I say is a bit unfair because a show, moreover the actors/characters, needs time to develop and breathe.
Sadly, it doesn’t seem like anyone involved in Mockingbird Lane is going to get that chance so what we’re left with is an entertaining celebration of the macabre. This isn’t The Munsters by way of True Blood or American Horror Story, think of this as more in line with The Addams Family films – something for all audiences that has its strange lil’ heart in the right place.
Mockingbird Lane airs tonight (Friday, October 26th) on NBC, definitely give it a look.