Tele-Tuesday: A Halloween Special – Growing Up a Munster

This past Friday, NBC aired a Mockingbird Lane Halloween special…

What is Mockingbird Lane?  Does this ring any bells?

That’s right!  NBC put together an all-star cast in a reboot of the 1960s classic The Munsters.  I’ve been waiting on the promotions for this show since Jerry O’Connell first announced his new role as Herman Munster on Live with Kelly.  I’ve been waiting, and waiting, and finally saw the first trailer for the Halloween special earlier this month.

Halloween special?  What happened to Mockingbird Lane being a new series?

Unfortunately, and not really all that surprising, the network swooped in and dropped on ax on the ten million dollar project before it aired one single episode.  However, in a move unlike most networks that have just killed an expensive project before even allowing the public to chime in by watching, NBC decided to air one episode Friday, October 26th before the Halloween episode of Grimm.  Rumors swirled after the announcement, speculating that the special’s ratings would determine whether or not the network gives Mockingbird Lane another chance at a weekly series in 2013.  Like most rumors, we’ll all just have to wait and see…

Regardless, this news crushed me; but, at least the network gave the reboot a chance.  While I’m not sure what kind of numbers NBC was hoping for, it has been reported that Mockingbird Lane pulled in 5.4 million viewers on Friday night.  This number is just barely shy of the channel’s hit Friday night fairy tale drama, Grimm.

So, let’s talk Mockingbird Lane

First, let’s clarify that this rendition of The Munsters is not a situational comedy—it is a drama with comedic elements—a dramedy, if you will.

Now that we’ve cleared that up,  let’s meet the Munsters: Grandpa, or “D” (short for Dracula), played by Eddie Izzard, the over-bearing grandparent who sees nothing wrong with his family heritage; Herman, played by Jerry O’Connell, a former human created into a “munster” by Grandpa; Lily, played by Portia de Rossi DeGeneres, the family matriarch and vampire (but we’ll talk more about this shortly);  Marilyn, played by Charity Wakefield, the “normal” Munster, as in human; and Eddie, played by Mason Cook, the wanna be normal adolescent boy who learns he’s not so normal… he’s a werewolf.

These Munsters are not quite the same as the ‘60s family…

Instead of being sarcastic and goofy, Grandpa comes across as very blunt (although humans think he’s joking) and serious.  While he does have a laboratory underneath the staircase, viewers don’t really see the “fun” side of Grandpa as he cooks up his spells that we loved in the old series.  Like most vampires, Grandpa has a fixation on feeding and making humans his toys in this one-hour special.  To Grandpa, humans serve one purpose—they are a food source for his family and a salvage yard for Herman… and he makes no apologies for this.

Marilyn and Grandpa on a stroll to meet the new neighbors…

Instead of being a childish buffoon with extreme strength, today’s Herman is very parental, loving, and gentle.  This Grandpa-made Frankenstein monster does not have the classic Herman bolts in his neck, but instead has visual reminders of his surgical transformations with scars and zippers all over his neck, chest, and arms (loved the Herman introduction though, with Jerry O’Connell standing in front of a lamp post with the fixture creating a silhouette of the Herman bolts—nice touch).  Unfortunately for this Herman, he “loves too hard,” showcased by his need for a new “ticker,” or heart.

Instead of donning the classic white streak through her hair, Mockingbird Lane’s Lily has beautiful, one-toned brown hair (or maybe it’s black; I watched it without my contacts in).  She shows no signs of being fiery… and her vampirism is not mentioned once.  Actually, if one didn’t know any better, one might assume this Lily was also a werewolf like her son—she even mentions at one point that she’ll be careful not to hurt any humans in twenty-nine days, or at the next full moon.  I know Lily is supposed to be a vampire, but I feel the series could have focused less on her special effects (bugs dressing her and smoke enveloping her as she moved) and more on her character.

But, unlike the differences in Grandpa, Herman, and Lily, the remaining two Munsters were very close to their counterparts—Marilyn and Eddie…

Marilyn is human… a gorgeous, blonde human who has recently enrolled in community college.  While she is not a monster, she loves her family all the same and understands their lifestyle and needs.  Eddie wants nothing more than to be like his cousin Marilyn—a human; but, he’s not…he’s a werewolf.  He insists on being a vegetarian and refuses to eat meat, so his parents bring home a dragon to help Eddie control his urges.  Yes, a dragon instead of the usual family pet dog.

Today’s Herman and Lily explaining to Eddie exactly what he is…

Despite the differences between the original and rebooted characters, I did enjoy the one-hour Halloween special.  The visual effects were amazing, especially for television.  The story was a creative twist on the original; after all, it was a Bryan Fuller development… remember Pushing Daisies?

However, the special one-hour program lacked a bit for me.  Perhaps it’s because what we saw Friday night was supposed to be the pilot episode for a returning program and NOT a one-hour Halloween special.  To me, a special should start cleanly, which Mockingbird Lane did with the character introductions and explanation for the family’s moving.  A one-hour special should also wrap up nicely, which Mockingbird Lane did as well.  But here’s what it was missing… the middle.  A special’s body should follow a complete cycle of particular storyline in-between the opening and closing.  In my opinion, the story of Herman and Lily telling Eddie he was a werewolf was just too choppy and forced to wrap early.

Trust me; I wanted to LOVE Mockingbird Lane… and I’m still not opposed to the series returning on a weekly basis.  But, if the rumors were true and the ratings were high enough, I expect more from the subsequent episodes.

Did you watch Mockingbird Lane’s Halloween Special?  What did you think?  Would you like to see this Munster reboot made into a new television series?  Why or why not?  What did you think about the revamped characters?  I’d love to hear from you!

11 Replies to “Tele-Tuesday: A Halloween Special – Growing Up a Munster”

  1. To be honest, I was very disappointed in this show. It just didn’t hold my interest like I thought it would. I found it a little silly at times, where I was hoping it would be fun. And I hated Grandpa. I would probably give it a chance if the show continued, but it would have to do something more than the pilot did. I just wasn’t entertained enough. My time is too valuable to watch something that doesn’t hold my interest.

    1. I was trying to be nice, Lauralynn, but you’re right–it didn’t really hold my interest either. It went from a great opening with the introductions and explaining why the family moved, but then just ran a bit too much all over the place. I don’t think it would have made a bad pilot episode, with more to follow (Oh, wait… that’s what the creator thought he was doing….), but just for a one-hour special? I think they failed.

  2. Nothing grabbed me about this one. Even after your review, the direction is interesting, but not enough for me to tune in. I heard NBC spent ten million on this special. Since the ratings, as well as the 18-49 share, weren’t so great, I guess the show’s fate will depend on how much more money NBC wants to risk. If they do decide to move forward, it might be on the condition of a reduced production budget.

    1. I also heard NBC spent 10 million on the production… I don’t know if it was specified for this “special” or multiple episodes in the series, but maybe… and either way, it was a LOT of money. And since we’re talking about rumors, I also heard that NBC was disappointed with the direction of the pilot after they spent the $10mil… which is why it was cut into a special. Who knows the real story? It really is a shame that the special didn’t grab me the way I had hoped, but what can you do?

      Regardless, we’ll just have to wait and see if there’s any kind of future for these Munsters.

      Thanks for stopping by, Andrew!

  3. I haven’t seen Mockingbird Lane but really want to,though I won’t be expecting much going by your review and Lauralynn’s. I remember watching The Munsters Today in my grandparents’ house growing up.

  4. Mockingbird Lane should be a series or a series of ninety minute specials. I liked it because the family was humanized, Herman wasn’t a buffoon, Grandpa introduced Middle America to Great Britain’s favorite transvestite comedian Eddie Izzard. Oh yeah, did I mention Lily is a MILF?

  5. Lib and I enjoyed it. I thought Eddie Izzard was hilarious as Grandpa — he easily had the best lines.

    I agree that the middle could have used more meat, but I thought the show was going for something fairly light and airy (albeit extremely violent) in the first place. I’m much more quick to forget lack of story/character depth in a comedy, which was how I viewed the show.

    I was never a fan of the Munsters — I always thought it was a bad show cashing in on The Addams Family’s popularity — but I thought the Mockingbird Lane was loads of fun. I’d definitely give a longer series a look if NBC decided to go ahead with it.

  6. I was hopeful with the Pushing Daisies creator involved, but this doesn’t sound like my cup of tea at all. If you make it all so serious, you remove the fun of The Munsters and what’s left? I might catch it sometime, but this won’t be high on my list. Thanks, Tiffany!

  7. We really enjoyed this show, and I hope that they go ahead and make a series out of it. I loved Izzard’s Grandpa. I guess when I realized that it was going to be very different from the original show, I just rolled with it. I liked the way Lily turned into smoke, too. That was very cool. I don’t know…I get the objections from others, but we really enjoyed it.

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