There is no denying that the '60s sitcom "The Munsters" was goofy and downright silly at times. It was also funny and strangely endearing. Much of that was due to its lovable lunk of a star, Fred Gwynne, who played a modern Frankenstein monster, Herman Munster, like an awkward, childish, clueless sitcom dad.The creators of "Mockingbird Lane" clearly went for a more mature approach than its original inspiration. But was that the right approach?
"Mockingbird Lane" aired its pilot recently but the question remains: Is there enough here for a series? The jury is still out. In trying to be a different and more current show, creator Bryan Fuller ("Pushing Daisies," "Wonderfalls") and director Bryan Singer ( "X-Men") have jettisoned so much of what gave the original show its goofy charm that it's hard to know who they think will make up the audience for the reboot.
Kids love monsters, and an 8 PM airing time would seem to be kid-friendly, but there were quite a few scenes, specifically featuring Eddie Izzard as Grandpa (a very thirsty vampire) endlessly unzipping his chest to showcase a faulty ticker, that were just too gross for the kiddies. There was also a bedroom scene between Herman ( Jerry O'Connell) and Lily (Portia de Rossi) that left Lily on the ceiling, which might give some parents an awkward moment when asked to explain, "Why is Herman naked?" etc. Nothing wrong with this approach, but why choose to air the show at 8?
As for fans of the original comic series, there just weren't enough laughs to go around. Some quirky wry humor was evidenced, but it was so subtle that it was mostly muffled by the creepy atmosphere and special effects. Casting didn't help too much in this regard, either. O'Connell played it straight, even earnest, with only physical, not comic, vulnerability. British comedian Izzard stole every scene he could, but mostly with a grimace instead of a smile. De Rossi was the most like her predecessor Yvonne DeCarlo as Lily, a glamorous Dracula's daughter. Mason Cook as Eddie played another too-old-and-too-smart-for-his-age kid -- a character that seems to be all over TV these days. He made me yearn for Butch Patrick's widow's peak. Charity Wakefield provided a bright note as Marilyn, who in this version may be even creepier than most of her monster relatives. Ironically, Cheyenne Jackson provided the only link to the farcical nature of the original series, in a short-lived comic turn as Eddie's scout master, who Grandpa envisioned as a potential meal.
"Mockingbird Lane" laid on the special effects, and the set design and costumes looked worth every penny of its rumored $10 million budget. But is there enough here to make viewers want to follow these characters? It might have been cheaper and easier to check out the original series on DVD.