TV Review: “Mockingbird Lane” – Charming But Short-lived

Written by Jessica Koroll November 01, 2012

When news first broke that NBC was looking to reboot “The Munsters,” an old 60s sitcom that I’m fairly sure very few of us can actually remember watching, there was obvious skepticism over the logic of such a venture. Aside from it simply being an odd choice, NBC made it clear that this was going to be a dramatic update and not the familiar, monstrous family that once graced TV screens. Thankfully, with Bryan Fuller at its head, “Mockingbird Lane’s” short-lived debut manages to resurrect an old favourite with a high level of wit and charm.

“That is so cookie.”

It all begins when Eddie Munster (Mason Cook) experiences his first werewolf transformation while on a camping trip with his Boy Scout troop. In order to shield him from the truth and avoid further suspicion, the family relocates to their new home at 1313 Mockingbird Lane. Once there, the family must decide when and how to tell Eddie of his “condition.” Whereas his parents, Herman and Lily Munster (Jerry O’Connell and Portia de Rossi), want to wait for the right time, Eddie’s Grandpa…Grandpa (Eddie Izzard) insists that the boy be told quickly that he’s not 100% human like his cousin, Marilyn Munster (Charity Wakefield).

If you’re familiar at all with Fuller’s work, you’ll have a pretty clear idea of what to expect in terms of tone. “Mockingbird Lane” is neither NBC’s promised serious update, nor is it a campy reproduction. Instead, the pilot merges dark comedy with bits of fantasy to better explore the dynamics of the Munster family. As far as I can tell (as someone who has only vague memories of catching a Munsters TV movie once or twice), the characters each retain at least some of their original selves and the actors are spot on in their portrayals. Most notable are Jerry O’Connell, Eddie Izzard, and Charity Wakefield as Herman, Grandpa, and Marilyn Munster. Although he lacks the full on makeup job that previously came with the role, O’Connell is convincing as an average, loving dad prone to literal heartbreak. His regular disagreements with Izzard’s Grandpa create a lot of interesting power plays that keep the episode moving. Izzard, himself, provides some of the most macabre dialogue as he falls naturally into the role of a care-free creature of the night. And, of course, Wakefield as the slightly dim, but well meaning, Marilyn gives us a highly memorable deadpan conversation about the circle of life and its inclusion of a suicidal deer, which sets the tone for the rest of the episode.

“I was the one that talked your mother out of eating you.”

The show’s greatness is made particularly apparent through its string of little details, such as the kid whose only form of escape from the werewolf attack is to slowly hop away inside of a sleeping bag, or Marilyn’s insistence that Grandpa cannot eat Steve (Cheyenne Jackson), Eddie’s new boy scout leader, as he’s forbidden from eating anyone inside the house. While some of the jokes do fall short, the collection of everyday events that define Munster life tie together well and provide a lot of humour and insight into the series’ potential future themes.

Unfortunately, with a budget of roughly $10 million and displeased NBC execs to contend with, “Mockingbird Lane” is not slated to return for a full season run. Given the pilot’s unexpected critical success, it’s likely that Fuller had much more in store for the Munsters than originally anticipated. However, it could have just as easily died out before going anywhere. We’ll never know now. As it stands, “Mockingbird Lane” is an interesting experiment in adaptation and a Halloween special that I’ll definitely be revisiting in the future.

My Rating: 7/10

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About Jessica Koroll

An English student with a taste for the surreal and love for all things science fiction, her thoughts generally linger on Star Trek, lit theory, and recent tv episodes. I'm also @korolline_

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