Sexy, Stylish Monsters – A Review of the Mockingbird Lane Pilot
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn when I say that at least half of all TV and movie remakes/reboots suck. But occasionally, you get one that surprises you. Believe it or not, Mockingbird Lane, NBC’s attempt to revive The Munsters, was one of those exceptions.
Quick history lesson: The Munsters ran for two seasons on CBS between 1964 and 1966, spanning 70 episodes. The satiric series depicted a family of monsters, based on the ones used in classic Universal Studios films, living in a traditional family setting. Patriarch Herman Munster was a spoof on Frankenstein’s monster, while his wife Lily and her father (simply known as Grandpa) were vampires. Lily’s sister Marilyn was the “normal” one of the family. Herman and Lily’s son Eddie was depicted as a werewolf. Despite their bizarre appearances, the Munsters lived like a typical blue collar family.
This reboot, Mockingbird Lane, was originally developed as a series. What we’re seeing here is a pilot that has the option of being picked up as a series, should it do well. It’s easy to roll your eyes at yet another reboot attempt. I know I did. But in an ironic way, The Munsters finds itself strangely relevant in this era of True Blood, Once Upon a Time, The Vampire Diaries, etc. You can certainly tell Mockingbird Lane is a product of its era, because the Munsters are suddenly stylish and sexy. Herman Munster was many things, but I’m not sure sexy was one of them (no offense, Lily). But in this post-Twilight era, creep is chic.
The episode revolves around the family’s decision to let a pre-pubescent Eddie in on who/what he is, i.e. a werewolf. After our young friend unknowingly scares the crap out of his scout troup during a full moon, the Munsters relocate to Mockingbird Lane, buying a mansion once owned by a serial killer (“Miss, there may be dead homeless people in the walls.”). Once there, the vampiric Grandpa is ready to “start drinking again.” But Eddie isn’t sure he approves of his grandfather’s bloody ways. Meanwhile, Herman’s latest heart (remember, he’s like Frankenstein) is starting to give out, and he’ll need a new one as soon as possible.
What immediately stood out to me about Mockingbird Lane was how well acted it was, in contrast to say, Once Upon a Time, which at times is miserably acted. The standout performer was, of course, Eddie Izzard. He brings a delightfully fresh, unapologetically bloodthirsty spin on Grandpa Munster. In contrast, we have the fairly virtuous Eddie Munster, who wants to do the right thing, yet is still unsure of himself. Unlike a lot of other child actors (again I reference Once Upon a Time), Mason Cook delivers a fairly believable performance with very little annoyance involved. I’d watch him in a weekly series with no complaints. Jerry O’Connell is also very likable as Herman Munster. He’s got a little bit of Fred Gwynne in him, though not enough that you’d notice on the surface, obviously.
In terms of style, Mockingbird Lane has a little bit of blood, though nothing that’s necessarily gorey or scary. The most outright scandalous thing we see is a naked Grandpa take a bite out of a deer carcass, which sounds a lot worse than it is. The CGI and special effects look mostly believable, highlighted by a scene where we see Herman on Grandpa’s operating table, his chest open and his inner workings exposed. It’s certainly not the type of thing we’re used to seeing from the Munsters, which in this case is good.
From a fanboy perspective, it’s also worth noting that this pilot was directed and executive produced by Bryan Singer, who directed the first two X-Men movies, as well as The Usual Suspects. When you consider that, it’s less surprising that things turned out as well as they did.
I came into Mockingbird Lane expecting something pretty subpar. But I doubt it’s possible to make a Munsters reboot that’s much better than this. It effectively brings the concept into the modern era, while retaining enough of the charm that made the original memorable to viewers. It’s definitely worthy of a series.
Front page image from sfgate.com. Image 1 from imdb.com. Image 2 from bymerobotics.com. Image 3 from blastr.com. Image 4 from hollywoodreporter.com.