The original Munsters, most of whom...can't cameo. (The Everett Collection)One might think that the high-profile flame-out of what was to have been this fall's "Wonder Woman" reboot (not to mention the relatively recent failures of 21st-century versions of "Knight Rider" and "The Bionic Woman") might have scared NBC off from revamping another TV hit of yesteryear. Evidently not: The network has made a commitment to redo "The Munsters."
Nellie Andreeva of Deadline.com reports that NBC has not only accepted a script from "Pushing Daisies" creator Bryan Fuller, but has ordered the production of a pilot. But fans of the 1960s sitcom hit shouldn't expect a retread of the original: According to Andreeva, Fuller's vision is for "a visually spectacular one-hour drama," a big departure from the laugh-tracked, sitcom original. (Perhaps Fuller was somewhat inspired by ABC's hour-long drama "Once Upon a Time," which places classic fairy-tale characters in a fairly dark contemporary setting — just like NBC's own "Grimm," minus the procedural trappings, plus viewers.) As my esteemed colleague Lindsay Robertson recently noted, NBC is very bullish on Fuller this year: It's also ordered a Hannibal Lecter pilot script from him.
As Andreeva tells it, the story elements of the new "Munsters" hew fairly closely to the sitcom. Grandpa Munster (played in the original by Al Lewis) is a vampire, as is his daughter Lily (originally played by Yvonne DeCarlo). Lily's husband Herman (a role originated by Fred Gwynne) is a Frankenstein's monster, constructed by Grandpa Munster to be his daughter's perfect mate. The couple also has a werewolf son, Eddie (played in the '60s by Butch Patrick); also living with the couple is niece Marilyn (played sequentially in the original by Beverley Owen and Pat Priest), who outwardly displays no monster attributes.
The original "Munsters" can't be discussed without a mention of "The Addams Family," another sitcom that portrayed a dark clan of...well, weirdos, for lack of a better word, and also aired from 1964-66. But "The Addams Family" TV series did beat "The Munsters" to market in one respect: It was based on a series of New Yorker cartoons by Charles Addams. And once again, "The Munsters" is coming late to the pop culture party: Not only has "The Addams Family" already spawned two successful feature-film adaptations; it's also inspired a hit musical on Broadway.
From "True Blood" to "Twilight" (and even stretching back to "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"), audiences have proved that it is basically not possible to fail with a project that revolves around fictional monsters. And MTV's "Teen Wolf" series also demonstrates that turning a comedy into a drama can work, too. Maybe pairing a time-tested property like "The Munsters" with the ambitious visual sensibility Fuller brought to the screen in "Pushing Daisies" will give NBC a "Once Upon a Time"-sized hit...which it could really use right now.
Here's a taste of the original Munsters in action: