I have never seen The Munsters, and when I heard NBC was rebooting it for the modern era as Mockingbird Lane, I thought, Really? The kitschy 60s spook show? I was less than impressed. When NBC announced a couple weeks ago that it wasn’t picking the show up for a series and was simply airing the already filmed pilot as a Halloween special, I wasn’t surprised and was still skeptical of the whole project.
Then I watched the pilot.
I am honestly astounded at how show creator Bryan Fuller was able to pull every element that makes successful fantasy productions work and combine them into an hour of television that completely wrapped me up in the Munster world. And just think, this was a pilot—pilots normally are overworked with exposition and hardly an episode of their own. But not Mockingbird Lane. The tone and pacing were right, exposition was there but not forced, and the fantasy of it all felt so completely ingrained in the real world that I felt like I was in on a magical secret.
The show and special effects were gorgeous, but the real genius of the show is in the casting. Eddie Izzard is delightful playing the vampire grandpa, apparently named Grandpa. He’s sly and witty, even when he’s harvesting the neighbors for blood slaves. Portia de Rossi is basically a whimsical goddess as Lily Munster, floating through the show effusing love and support for her family. Jerry O’Connell plays her husband, Herman Munster, as a Frankenstein’s monster type of character acting as the sensitive, human-protecting Good Guy that somehow doesn’t seem cliche. Mason Cook is wonderful as the young Eddie Munster, a boy with an old soul and feels an altruistic guilt when he learns he’s a werewolf. Charity Wakefield plays the bubbly cousin Marilyn Munster who actually serves as a comic foil in the show as her relatives tease her for being normal.
Since I’m a Munsters newb, I will admit it took me a little while to catch on to what kind of monster each Munster was. Herman’s neck scar is a pretty big giveaway, but I didn’t fully realize Grandpa and Lily were vampires until about midway through the episode. In a way, it added to the mystery and intrigue of the show, waiting to find out exactly what they were, so this may not even be a negative point of the show.
Although NBC has no official plans to continue the series, I think airing this pilot for a Halloween special was an extremely smart move. Airing the pilot early and out of the way of competition is a good way for it to gain attention, and picking a particularly spooky season to air it hopefully helped the public pick up interest. I thoroughly enjoyed the episode and I hope NBC picks it up for more episodes. It couldn’t be a more perfect companion to their other Friday night standout, Grimm; in fact, Entertainment Weekly reported that Mockingbird Lane boosted Grimm‘s ratings tremendously. The funny quirkiness element to the show could even make it a good candidate for the closing drama of NBC’s Thursday night comedy line-up. NBC has been having problems promoting dramas that don’t have “Law and Order” in the title, and this may just be the one to bring it out of its slump.
I encourage all of you to watch the episode. It still works even if, like me, you don’t know anything about The Munsters, and I think it will work for old Munsters fans, too. You can watch the full episode here and a behind the scenes look at the show here.
Did you watch the episode? Tell me what you thought!