I grew up watching The Munsters. It used to play in syndication on a local channel on the weekends, when most other stations played golf or travel shows. It was paired with The Three Stooges, so for a six-year-old, it was as good as cartoons. Many people argue that you are either a Munsters person or an Addams Family person. I love both, but it wasn’t until much later in life that I was introduced to The Addams Family, so my heart lives on Mockingbird Lane.
When I first heard that The Munsters was being rebooted for television, I groaned. While TV reboots tend to do better than film remakes, when NBC announced it would be a “darker, scarier” Munsters, I just lost all hope in the project.
Then I watched it.
And I loved it.
Bryan Fuller’s take on the 1960s family of monsters is both modern and dark, but with plenty of nods to its predecessor. After Eddie Munster attacks his cub scout troop, the Munsters have to move, and they pick the “Hobo Murder” house at 1313 Mockingbird Lane. Grandpa, the patriarch of the family (played with wry wit that made me laugh out loud by Eddie Izzard) wants to go back to eating humans. His son-in-law, Herman (Jerry O’Connell) “loves too hard,” which makes his heart - his last remaining original part - have a tendency to pop its staples, requiring Grandpa to repair him frequently (luckily he added an actual zipper into Herman’s chest to make the process easier.) Lily (Portia de Rossi) is a loving mother who worries over her son, Eddie, who does not yet know that he is a werewolf. Rounding out the cast are the abysmally normal - but always cheery - Cousin Marilyn (Charity Wakefield) and Spot, Eddie’s pet dragon.
Fuller’s influence is immediately recognizable. Having much the same feeling as his cult favorite Pushing Daisies, Mockingbird Lane exists in a world that is at once realistic and wholly surreal, with a sumptuous visual style that can only be described as Fuller-esque. Characters are both caricatures and people. The Munster clan can all pass for perfectly human - I didn’t miss Herman’s neck bolts at all (though they do show up - you can’t miss them.) But even still, there are plenty of nods to the original The Munsters. For example, Eddie still carries his books in that leather strap (in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reference.) When Marilyn is house hunting, the realtor takes her to 1312 Mockingbird Lane, which is the same facade on the Universal Studios backlot which was used in the original The Munsters. Marilyn just happens to choose the crumbling estate across the street. It is enough like The Munsters in spirit to be recognizable, but some of the sillier aspects (such as the Munster family wearing the same clothing day in and day out) have been updated.
Above all, Mockingbird Lane is about the family dynamic - it just so happens that they are a family of “monsters.” They are unashamed of who they are, and this pilot episode focuses on Lily and Herman trying to figure out the right way to tell Eddie that it wasn’t a baby bear that attacked his friends in the woods - it was him. They do not lock Eddie up every month; nor does Lily try to prevent her father from eating the neighbors - she just doesn’t want him to do it during family dinner.
It is really a pity that NBC is only planning to air Mockingbird Lane as a one-off event. I loved it, a lot more than I thought I would. Sadly, this isn’t the first time NBC mismanaged a promising property (I’m still shocked that they have done so well with Grimm) but who knows - maybe if enough people watch, and enough people add to the internet chatter, NBC will give Mockingbird Lane another go.
Mockingbird Lane airs Friday October 26th at 8pm on NBC.