Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My Thoughts On Mockingbird Lane (That Munsters Reboot That Everyone Hated Before It Even Aired!)


Why the hell am I just now posting my thoughts on Mockingbird Lane, you ask?  Well, because I wasn't home on October 26th, when it aired, and in fact I still didn't get around to watching it until tonight.  Is that considered fashionably late, or am I so late to the party that nobody even cares what I think of it at this point?  Who could say, but I'm gonna share my opinions anyways, cause that's what I do!

When it was announced that the Munsters would be getting the reboot treatment, in the form of a slick new television series, the collective groans of horror fans the world over could literally be heard through the computer screen.  Horror fans don't typically take kindly to anything that touts itself as a 'remake' or a 'reboot', but when it came to this particular project, the anticipatory hatred seemed to be at an all time high, and I don't think a single friend on my Facebook feed expressed anything but heartbreak over the fact that Herman and the gang were about to be re-imagined, with the fact that they were very human looking serving as the final nail in the coffin for most Munsters fans.  As a big time Munsters guy, the thought of Jerry O'Connell playing Herman, without any monster makeup slapped on him, isn't exactly something that filled me with many good feelings.

Though I personally saw nothing about the planned series that got me excited about it, and though I admittedly feared the worst, I still hoped for the best, as I always do.  The fact of the matter is that The Munsters have been portrayed by a few different casts over the years, and though they were always basically the same characters, I'm always open to new things, and to fans of iconic franchises putting their own unique spins on them.  As hard as it may be, and in the case of this one it was pretty damn hard, I try to never judge a book by its cover, or write off any movie or TV show before I myself have seen the finished product.  That just isn't fair.

 Of course, expectations and hopes sank even lower when it was recently revealed that things weren't going so well over in Mockingbird Lane, and that the series was perhaps dead in the water, with only the pilot episode filmed.  On October 11th, it was announced that the one hour (40 minutes, without commercials) pilot would air as a stand alone Halloween special, on October 26th, with the fate of the rest of the series hanging in the balance.  Not a good sign, to say the least.  Whether or not the series will go on as planned is something we still don't know, though the special fared pretty well in the ratings.

So then, what'd I think of the Mockingbird Lane pilot/special, now that I've watched it over on NBC's website?  Well, to my complete and utter surprise, I kinda loved it!

This being a pilot and all, the special serves as an introduction to the 2012 version of the Munster family, who are very much like the Munsters we all know and love, even though they may not appear that way on the surface.

The episode kicks off with a bang, with a massive werewolf tearing apart a bunch of young boy scouts in the woods, tossing one of them into a tree in what is the coolest sleeping bag into a tree kill since Friday The 13th Part 7 (not that it has many contenders to that throne...).  The werewolf is of course Eddie Munster, who has no idea that he is in fact a werewolf.  As a result of his little rampage, the Munster family has to relocate to a new home at the start of the episode, on the titular Mockingbird Lane.

There, we meet the rest of the family.  While Lily and Marilyn are very much like their counterparts from the original series, liberties are heavily taken with Herman and Grandpa, who no longer look like Frankenstein and Dracula, respectively.  Herman is a normal looking dude, except for the fact that he has crudely stitched up scars all over his body, most noticeably around his neck and wrists.  Herman was created by Grandpa, who in this re-imagining is darker and more evil than the loveable Al Lewis.  He still plays around with his weird and whacky magic in the basement, but he's very much a vampire, in every sense of the word.  He wants to feed on human blood, and whenever he does so, he transforms into a massive winged bat beast, with two sharp front fangs.  Think those little creatures from The Gate.  Only really big, with one hell of wingspan.

In addition to the general introductions of the characters, the pilot episode mainly deals with two issues plaguing the Munsters; Herman doesn't know how to break the news to his son that he's a werewolf, and Herman loves his family so much that his heart literally can't handle it, and thus, Grandpa needs to fit him with a replacement heart.  While Herman deals with the issue of letting his son know what he is, and the real reason why they had to move, Grandpa seeks out a victim to feed on, and to provide Herman with a new ticker.  That's just about the pilot episode in a nutshell.

The thing I really dig about this show, at least so far, is that it still feels like The Munsters, while at the same time being totally different, and oozing a style all its own.  It's very much a modern day take on what was done back in the '60s, a clever and fresh new spin that hits the nail on the head of what a re-imagining is supposed to do; remind you of an old favorite, and make you smile at references to it, but be its own brand spankin' new entity, by and large.  On that front, Mockingbird Lane admirably accomplishes the seemingly impossible, and somehow manages to not make me wish death upon all involved.  Dare I say, it looks like we've got on our hands a pretty damn competent modern day Munsters here.

Though at first it's a bit off putting that the family looks too much like the normal average family, that whole angle actually works really well, and it was kind of necessary to make that change, being that this new series goes for a more dark and realistic approach to the subject matter.  It's interesting because though they look less like monsters than the original Munsters, they behave much more like the cinematic monsters they're based on than their original incarnations ever did, which was really nice to see, considering one of my biggest worries about the show was the look of the characters.  No, these are not the charming Munsters we know and love, but again, that's not what this is supposed to be.  The DNA from the original Munsters is all there, but it was time for something new, and that's precisely what this show brings to the table.  Though a lot of that '60s goofiness has been replaced with darkness, that darkness is presented in a very fun way, so the show is a lot of fun to watch, just a bit of a different kind of fun than we're used to from the Munster clan.  The laughs are all still there, but the backdrop for them is a lot more horrifying.


I for one sincerely hope that we get a full series out of Mockingbird Lane, as planned, or at least a complete first season.  I'm really liking what I'm seeing thus far, and though it's hard to really judge a series by only its pilot, I think it's saying something that I'm on board after only seeing the first episode, which is generally not the case with me when it comes to TV shows.

For me, Mockingbird Lane is the absolute perfect reason why you shouldn't judge a book by its cover; though everything I had seen and heard leading up to me seeing the actual product had me completely uninterested and turned off, I found myself actually quite enjoying that finished product, moreso than I ever in my wildest dreams expected to.  And I certainly never thought I'd EVER find myself typing this, in relation to this show...


If you originally avoided it, give the pilot a chance below.  It'll only take 40 minutes out of your day, and you might be surprised by how much you dig it!


Caffeinated Joe said...

I liked it, too. Viewing it as a pilot, I was okay with some things that would need working on, but otherwise, it wasn't bad. There have been much worse shows!

Eric King said...

You'll love this, Boots.


Costume Bot said...

Sorry, but this was the longest hour I've endured outside of a dentist's chair. Production design was awesome, as was the cast, but the script was just terrible. It wallowed in its own indecision about what the show actually wanted to be. The Munsters was a comedy, but there was very little to laugh about in ML.

Mike said...

The nice thing about this approach to Herman is that he could be redesigned or recast at any point. If they keep his accident pron nature from the original and Grandpa keeps tinkering, Herman could be a new man by the end of the season.

nate555 said...

I liked it! It was also very Addams Family-ish. Eddie Izzard is GREAT!