The NBC series-pilot-turned-Halloween-special, Mockingbird Lane, aired on Friday night, and I was pleasantly surprised by this modern spin on The Munsters. There are spoilers ahead so head over to Hulu.com to watch it and then come back to compare notes with me.
The show opens with a group of Wilderness Scouts camping out in the great outdoors. An argument breaks out over who has been stealing food when a ‘baby bear’ shows up and terrorizes the group. The scouts make it to the car, minus one member – Eddie Munster.
Of course, a few minutes later, we learn that the ‘baby bear’ was actually Eddie experiencing his first transformation into a werewolf. His transformation makes the family decide it’s a good time to move so they pack up to relocate to 1313 Mockingbird Lane. We get our first glimpse at the dark humor in the show as the real estate agent takes Marilyn (the ghastly normal one) house-shopping. He has a nice little home that’s always in the sun picked out for her, but she’s more interested in the Gothic mansion that used to be home to a serial killer that killed hobos.
Our first look at Hermann Munster is a great nod to the original Munsters, and Jerry O’Connell does a good job of capturing the nice guy aspect of the man made of various corpses. Some fans of the original series aren’t thrilled with Herman’s more human look but I think it fits with the more realistic feel that Bryan Fuller was aiming for. I also like how Herman is instantly made to be viewed as human and vulnerable when he discusses why his heart is important to him, although his ailing pump won’t last much longer.
Portia de Rossi, as Lily, really didn’t make much of an impression on me but that’s certainly not her fault because this show’s main focus is on Herman and his relationship with Eddie, along with Eddie’s resentment and eventual acceptance of not being normal. I have no doubt that, if given a chance to become a series, Lily would become a more well-rounded character, although I got a kick out of the part where Herman mentions having to talk her out of eating Eddie when he was a baby. That one remark instantly makes her more interesting than her 1960′s counterpart.
The scene-stealer of Mockingbird Lane is Eddie Izzard as Grandpa. This wily vampire isn’t as concerned as the others with appearing normal, although he did quit drinking for a while… and we’re not talking about wine. There’s no mention on how that deal came about but Grandpa decides that Eddie’s transformation is a sign that he should start drinking again. He also doesn’t mind using a little bit of his blood in home-made cookies to turn the neighbors into blood-slaves, or transforming into a man-like bat creature to teach Eddie about the circle of life, Munster-style.
If you make it past the halfway point still thinking Mockingbird Lane might somehow still be kid-friendly, the last few minutes of the show will change your mind.
Suffice it to say that Herman does get his new heart, thanks to Grandpa, and we all learn that being invited to dinner with the Munsters might be hazardous to our health.
The final scene is another nod to the original show, with the Munsters getting their iconic pet, Spot.
I’ve heard rumors that NBC might rethink things and go back to their plan of a series if the Halloween special does well enough, but I don’t know if it has what it takes. Don’t get me wrong. I loved Mockingbird Lane and would be thrilled for it to become a series but it might be hard to find an audience for it. It walks a very thin line between fantasy and horror, and it might be too different to capture the attention of fans that like one or the other but not a combination of the two.
Did you watch the show? What are your thoughts on it?