Sunday, December 4, 2016

Mockingbird Lane (2012) & The Mini-Munsters (1973)

Mockingbird Lane
Stars: Jerry O'Connell, Portia de Rossi
1 episode

In Short: Two failed attempts to bring The Munsters back from the dead.

Like many successful TV shows, The Munsters (1964-66) spawned a number of spin-offs, including five movies and a TV series. The first of the movies, Munster, Go Home! (1966) was a theatrical release. Next up was an animated TV movie, The Mini-Munsters (1973), followed by three live-action TV movies, The Munsters' Revenge (1981), Here Come the Munsters (1995), and The Munsters' Scary Little Christmas (1996). On the TV front, The Munsters Today starred John Schuck as Herman and Lee Meriwether as Lily and had a respectable run from 1988 to 1991, for a total of 72 episodes. Mockingbird Lane (2012) took another stab a TV remake but didn't make it past the pilot stage.

In Short: A darkly humorous Munsters reboot that coulda been a contender.

Is it too soon? Can a TV show qualify as forgotten a mere four years after it aired? Let's proceed under the assumption that it can and away we go.

I've written about more than a dozen series at this site thus far. I try to watch a minimum of one episode per series but if the sordid truth be told sometimes I can't make it through an entire episode. There's are reasons why many of those shows are languishing in obscurity and often the reason is that they're not very good.

But a strange thing happened as I was watching Mockingbird Lane. I should point out that I'm not much of a fan of reboots, remakes and whatnot, not even when the source material is something I really like. Such as Twin Peaks, Pee Wee Herman, and the Gilmore Girls, all of which are being dug out of mothballs and taken for another spin. Ho hum.

I try to be somewhat open minded about each series I write about here and yet I tend to have low expectations, which were even lower for a reboot of The Munsters. Which was a perfectly decent show the first time around so how can you possibly improve on the original?

Well, I don't know if "improve" is the right word but for the first time since I started this site I found myself kind of liking a show I was reviewing. I might even have watched another episode...or three or four. But, alas, there are no more episodes, as Mockingbird Lane never made it past the pilot stage. Dark humor dominates here and its very dark for network TV. Which makes sense, I suppose, as show developer Bryan Fuller is the same guy who brought us such dark TV fare as Pushing Daisies and Hannibal.

Of Note:
Aired during the 2012 Halloween season.

Observed: (1/1)
The usual Munsters suspects are present in this adaptation, but in a significantly altered form. Unlike their original incarnations they can almost pass for normal and so we miss those exaggerated reaction shots common to the original show whenever a normal person encountered a Munster.

Herman (Jerry O'Connell) is a Frankenstein's monster type, but not of the Karloff/Fred Gwynne variety. He can pass for normal - as long as he has a shirt on, that is, which serves to hide the scars where he was stitched together. Lily (Portia De Rossi) and Grandpa (Eddie Izzard) can also get by in polite society, after a fashion, even though they're bloodthirsty vampires and Grandpa undergoes some very ghastly transformations now and then.

Of course, there's Marilyn (Charity Wakefield), the "abnormal" (normal) family member, who's not quite as squeaky clean as she was in the original show. Last, but not least, is Eddie (Mason Cook) - who gets more to do here than he typically did in the original series.

As things get underway, Eddie's scout troop is subjected to a "baby bear attack," or so Eddie is told later - he doesn't remember much about it. His parents are torn when it comes to telling him about the changes he's undergoing. Eddie assumes its puberty and he also decides to become a vegetarian, which will be a tough row to hoe, given the nature of his condition.

In the other main plot thread Herman's heart gives out - apparently because he loves too much or something like that - and Grandpa installs a temporary replacement until they can locate a permanent one. Like the original series, it's quite a lot of fun but in a very different way.

The Mini-Munsters
Stars: Richard Long, Cynthia Adler, Al Lewis
1 episode

The Mini-Munsters first aired during the Halloween season of 1973 on The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie, which featured one-hour animated TV-movies, including the The Brady Kids on Mysterious Island, Popeye Meets the Man Who Hated Laughter, Willie Mays and the Say-Hey Kid, and Daffy Duck and Porky Pig Meet the Groovie Goolies. A half-hour version appeared in the following decade and seems to be the only version that's readily accessible nowadays.

Of Note:
Writers Arthur Alsberg and Don Nelson teamed up again on The Munsters' Revenge (1981).

Observed: (1/1)
Nothing much to see here, really. Only Al Lewis is on hand from the original series. The animation is so-so and the story isn't much to look at either. It's about mobsters who take over an oil company and clash with the Munsters when Grandpa invents a device that will power vehicles with music. Turns out Eddie is an aspiring rocker in this version and two of his rocking teen relatives come from the old country to join him. They take a few brief stabs at playing music but it never amounts to much. Perhaps the longer version of the show had them actually play a song but that remains to be seen.

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