Horror and science fiction have always been a part of the television canvas, and constant attempts have been made over the years to produce classic entertainment. Some have fallen by the wayside, while others became mainstream phenomena. With “TV Terrors,” we take a look back at the many genre efforts from the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s, exploring some shows that became cult classics, and others that sank in to obscurity.
- Aired: October 26th, 2012
- Aired on: NBC Network
In today’s reboot obsessed culture, I’m surprised Hollywood hasn’t tapped into a reboot of “The Munsters,” the friendly monster filled family from 1313 Mockingbird Lane. In 2012, NBC had their chance by taking a more sinister and adult approach to the classic sitcom about Herman and his brood. Titled “Mockingird Lane,” the series never made it past the pilot stage.
I admit that I was avidly against “Mockingbird Lane” when it was being developed, but after sitting through it I very much enjoyed it. Developed by Bryan Fuller of “Hannibal” and “Dead Like Me” fame, “Mockingbird Lane” is a dark comedy horror tale about the Munsters clan. This time they’re not so much monsters that stand out like sore thumbs in rural America, but more monsters that can blend in just fine in suburban America.
The pilot (directed by Bryan Singer) starred a variety of television character actors including Jerry O’Connell as Herman, Portia de Rossi as Lily, Mason Cook as Eddie, Eddie Izzard as Grandpa, and Charity Wakefield as the anti-hero Marilyn. When we first open up on “Mockingbird Lane” we witness a werewolf pretty much destroy and terrorize a group of boy scouts camping out in the woods. Cook as Eddie is a young boy coming into puberty who is having a harder time controlling his monstrous habits. The prologue that borders on incredibly graphic is the catalyst for the Munsters having to move yet again.
When the Munsters move in to an old mansion known for heinous murders in a middle class neighborhood, they decide to give fitting in another shot. While settling in, the stitched up Herman realizes that he needs a new heart. With Grandpa also getting hungry, they begin looking for available victims. Eddie joins up with the local chapter of the boy scouts, and when Grandpa realizes the scoutmaster has affection for Lily, he plans to lure him to the house to prey on him and use him for Herman’s brand new heart. And you know, for some fresh blood, too.
A lot of the dynamic is changed up for this reboot. Marilyn is no longer the normal niece stuck with her monstrous family, but is more the Richard Straker (a la “Salem’s Lot”) of the family. She can blend in and go unnoticed, so she’s first seen looking for a house for the brood, anxiously trying to sneak them in under the cloak of darkness. Eddie Munster is mainly the focus now, as a young boy learning about his werewolf abilities. Lily Munster is very much a predatory vampire who isn’t shy about sticking true to her vampirism. In fact, a passive conversation with Herman involves her reminiscing about wanting to eat Eddie when he was born.
O’Connell is Herman, a stitched up and cobbled together man who requires a new heart and blood to refresh his body consistently. But the biggest change is Grandpa, who is played by Eddie Izzard. He’s no longer the doddery old man, but a near immortal vampire and mad scientist who delights in experiments and seems to pull the strings in the entire family. I assume one of the bigger gimmicks of the series would have been Herman and Grandpa looking for fresh human hearts and blood, putting them into some very unique scenarios. Izzard’s portrayal is easily the highlight of “Mockingbird Lane” and he probably would have taken the character to new shades of the sinister and morbid.
There’s a ton of back story and exposition in the pilot, which I assume was setting up what was to come from the series; there’s talk about how Marilyn was also almost eaten by her mother but was saved by Grandpa. There’s also talk about how Marilyn may or may not be an anomaly of the Munster clan. Maybe she’s just a human, or perhaps she has more monster in her than she knows or understands quite yet. In either case, “Mockingbird Lane” is pretty entertaining and garners some wonderful set direction and costume design. The pilot has a wry sense of humor, a dark atmosphere and never shies too much away from the grue and gore, reveling in moments involving Grandpa preying on a lion, and Herman’s heart exploding from the seams.
Alas, when “Mockingbird Lane” premiered on NBC in 2012, it was greeted with almost no fanfare, and the network gave thumbs down to a potential series. They merely called it a day by branding the pilot a one-off “TV Special.” It’s sad as I think “Mockingbird Lane” had at least two good seasons to unfold a unique take on the classic sitcom.
In the years since, “Mockingbird Lane” has remained an artifact of a small sub-genre of reboots that never took off or were generally forgotten. All the while the franchise itself has been in limbo ever since, save for The Wayans Bros, who have been threatening a live action reboot for years. I would love to see a return in the vein of “Hotel Transylvania” someday soon.
Is It On DVD/Blu-Ray? Absolutely not. It’s not even on streaming services like Amazon or the NBC Network website anymore. Although, you can probably find it if you look hard enough.
Hopefully if a new reboot comes down the pipeline, this one will surface on home video.