Not a total surprise but yesterday NBC officially decided not to order any episodes of Mockingbird Lane, the modern day reboot of The Munsters, whose pilot was written by Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies) and directed Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men).
I’m gonna give you a little history lesson and perhaps you’ll see why it was not meant to be…
A classic black and white sitcom, The Munsters was about a family of legendary monsters (Dracula, Dracula’s daughter, Frankenstein’s Monster, and Wolfman) living in the modern 60’s. With the bumbling yet loving Herman Munster (Fred Gwynne) and his wife Lily (Yvonne De Carlo) by his side, together they raise their young wolfman son, Eddie (Butch Patrick) and share their home with Lily’s father, Grandpa (Al Lewis) and Lily’s niece – the seemingly normal Marilyn (Beverly Owen then Pat Priest) – on 1313 Mockingbird Lane. And can’t forget the pets – Spot, Kitty, and The Raven (voiced first by Mel Blanc then Bob Hastings.)
While they shared a lot of similarities with The Addams Family, The Munsters were more relatable to some audiences for one simple reason; while The Addams were rich, eccentric gothics who liked to hang out at home, The Munsters were a blue-collar family (Herman being the main breadwinner) who were friendly and outgoing – even if they DID sometimes scare the crap out of some who dared to stop by.
Running for 70 episodes from 1964-1966, The Munsters inspired comic books (that managed to skirt the Comics Code due to the publisher not being a member of the Comics Magazine Assoc. of America), squeaky toys, Colorforms, model kits of the famous house and family cars, Munster Koach and Drag-u-La, and even a video game created in 1989 for Commodore 64 (but did poorly).
Now, let’s turn to Mockingbird Lane…
In this reboot, Herman (Charlie O’Connell) no longer resembles a Frankenstein Monster but rather a regular looking dude whose only remaining body part is his heart but his wife Lily (Portia de Rossi) still looks somewhat the same…with some tweaks and Marilyn isn’t as fun and naive as portrayed in the original series.
The biggest change is Grandpa Munster (Eddie Izzard). The slapstick vaudeville vampire most of us know and love is gone, replaced with a more sinister and devious man who wouldn’t think twice about putting drops of his own blood into a plate of cookies to be able to turn his neighbor into a “blood slave”.
The premise of the reboot is that The Munsters find themselves fleeing their former home to 1313 Mockingbird Lane (whose previous owner was a serial killer with a prediliction for hobos) after Eddie comes of age, turns into a werewolf and attacks his Boy Scout troop during a camp out. The real estate agent tries desperately to talk Marilyn out of buying the house but she says it’s perfect as the family preferred the grounds to be “pre-cleansed”.
Check out the first 3 minutes and we’ll talk.
Mockingbird Lane had a price tag of $10 million and aired on October 26th with 5.4 million viewers and a 1.5 rating, which gave NBC their best numbers in the 8pm Friday night slot in two years and earned mostly A to B+ ratings from critics and viewers, but it sadly wasn’t enough to save this show.
Some critics have praised this reboot for “more heart and less camp than the original Munsters” and for that, I take issue. The whole fun of The Munsters WAS the camp…from the theme song to Herman’s goofy laugh to Marilyn’s being viewed as the “odd duck” of the family for looking so “normal”.
But then again, I come from a different generation that still appreciates black and white technology coupled with prehistoric animatronics and turning a Frankenstein Monster who terrified me so much I ran screaming and crying from at Universal Studios (true story, my mother took a pic of it as she laughed her ass off) into a guy who made me laugh every time he smiled that crooked smile while emitting that wheezing laugh of his.
That SAID, I can appreciate anyone who gives it a go and that’s what Bryan Fuller and Bryan Singer did and it while a valiant effort, it seems that it was maybe too much for some. The Munsters could be enjoyed by the entire family while Mockingbird Lane is more geared toward the True Blood set and on a night that known for being predominantly owned by family-friendly sitcoms, that could’ve been the kiss of death.
I have a feeling that if the creators are smart (and can buy the show back), it’ll be shopped around until it finds a more suitable home like on TNT, a channel famous for taking NBC castoffs like Southland and turning them into absolute must-see television.
Now you can watch the full episode.
Don’t give up hope just yet, darlings; this show may return someday!
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