Wednesday, March 07, 2012


Mad Doctor
Disclaimer: Though the information revealed here is from a legitimate website, it is a description of a projected television pilot and must be considered extremely subject to change.

So a while back, there was talk of a new remake of The Munsters for NBC, which was to be developed by Bryan Fuller, who has created several acclaimed TV series such as Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls, with Bryan Singer (of House and X-Men movie directorial fame) to be executive producer.  Further reports also revealed that the new series would be a "dramedy" and would explore the origins of the Munster clan.

We're a happy family
So, horror fans (and Munsters fans, who are legion), let's talk about what this means.  Horror and fantasy are enjoying quite a resurgence on TV (witness such shows as Supernatural, American Horror Story, Once Upon A Time, The Vampire Diaries, The Secret Circle, the Being Human remake, and Grimm, to name a few), and so the time seems ripe for new adventures of the Munsters.  The Munsters, as every ghoulchild knows, is the venerable 1964-66 sitcom which revolves around the adventures of a family of monsters: Herman, the Frankenstein-monster father (Fred Gwynne), his vampire wife Lily (Yvonne DeCarlo), their werewolf son Eddie (Butch Patrick), cantankerous vampire father-in-law/mad scientist Count Sam "Grandpa" Dracula (Al Lewis) and the "white sheep" of the family, the beautiful and unfortunately very normal Marilyn (alternately played by Beverly Owen and Pat Priest).  Despite lasting only two seasons, The Munsters has a fanbase of longstanding and has sparked several reunion movies (the most well-known being the theatrically released Munster, Go Home! and the made-for-TV The Munsters' Revenge) and at least one series remake, the much-criticized and generally unpopular The Munsters Today.  The major concerns, of course, are the fact that the new series' vision has been described as "True Blood meets Modern Family" and is being touted as a drama rather than a comedy, and that most reboots of old favorites (such as Charlie's Angels and the often-talked-about-but-never-seen Wonder Woman) have gone belly up before they got started.

"Munster who?"
Fans' concerns, of course, are understandable.  The Munsters resonates with many people, even those who don't like horror, because (monster trappings notwithstanding) there is a touch of reality hidden deep in the show.  Despite its occasional slag as being a middle-class version of The Addams Family, which came out at the same time, the Munsters occasionally reflected what our families were actually like; in temperament and attitude, Herman and Lily are actually pretty close to real parents, while the Addamses were more like the parents kids wished they had.  And though the Addamses were a bit more intellectual in their comedy than the Munsters were, at heart The Munsters is a comic-horror parody of The Donna Reed Show, which at the time was the quintessential American family sitcom: one comparative look at TDRS's opening sequence with that of the Munsters' first season is proof.  To see the Munster clan transformed into a gloomy and modernized band of necrotic neurotics is hardly something committed Munsters fans would care for.

Recently, the Moviehole website (click our title link to access the full article) revealed a list of major spoilers for the new version of The Munsters, which at the time of this writing is now retitled Mockingbird Lane (a reference to the Munsters' original home address and also a definite bid for aligning with the Troubled Family Show crowd) and has been pushed back somewhat to allow NBC to bring more attention to the project and make time to assemble the perfect cast and direction.  So here's the basic skinny on this, which can be considered extremely subject to change (as per our disclaimer):

"So I'm a werewolf.  Wait... what?"
The new pilot, as well as a fair chunk of the new series, will largely focus on Eddie, whose werewolf genes have kicked in following the onset of puberty.  After a disastrous event with Eddie's camp scout troop, the Munster clan must move to Mockingbird Heights following a "baby bear attack" (ahem) and manage, with the help of Marilyn (who serves as the smokescreen for the family, which is not a bad idea considering her mostly one-joke appearances in the original show) to score a dilapidated mansion in the area, literally saving it from the wrecking ball.  (Of course, the house has a bad history; it was once the home of a serial killer who preyed on hobos, and a few bodies may even be still in the walls.  Still, location's everything, right?)

Shortly after, the Munsters arrive in crates at their new home (with Grandpa and Lily, true to their vampiric natures, reassembling themselves from huge masses of rats and spiders) and begin to settle in.  Major conflicts stem from Eddie's problems with his lycanthropy and Herman's need for a new heart, which runs on a steampunk engine and is breaking down.  Lily also figures in the new-heart issue: she doesn't want Herman to get a new heart because the current one belonged to Eddie's biological father.  And Grandpa, who has been feeding from animals to keep Eddie from flaking out over his monster lineage, is looking forward to feeding from humans again now that Eddie's truly "one of the family..."

"Sparkly vampires?  Hmmph!!"
Now, despite the rather dark and melodramatic twists in the story, this is not totally bad on paper.  Much of it will depend on how it's depicted and handled, and any TV venture requires time to work its spell; genre shows more so than most.  My personal problem with it is that the story itself does not quite come across to me as The Munsters; though Herman and Lily are still loving, caring parents (plans are that they will assist Eddie in his new struggle, which here reads as a large nod to the MTV version of Teen Wolf), the writers plan for them to look a bit more human than what we're used to (Herman, being a Frankenstein monster, will still have quite a few scars due to being assembled from parts of other men).  And I seriously doubt if Al Lewis would approve of this new, improved and much more frightening version of Grandpa, who reads as nothing like Lewis's crafty yet friendly old vampire.  If anything, this new version of the Munsters comes across as closer to the late and somewhat lamented The Gates, which detailed the adventures of a human family who become caretakers of a gated community of monsters, vampires, werewolves, and so forth.  Personally, I think if we are to have a new Munsters series, the wisest and perhaps simplest thing to do would be to recover the cast of The Munsters' Scary Little Christmas, a 1996 made-for-TV Munsters movie that paid excellent tribute to the original show while maintaining a somewhat sharper edge, and go from there.  (For the curious, our own Monster Shop review of this movie can be found here.)

However, the wisest and simplest thing often has nothing to do with making television.  So there you go.  It remains to be seen how the new Munsters will play out, but I for one will keep an eye out to see what happens.  Maybe even two.  There's still some extra ones in the jar...