Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Munsters Revisited...

When I was a kid, there were a few television shows that I watched religiously. Most of them were 'after school' fare, and many of them were as old or older than  me at the time.  Some of the popular titles were "Leave It To Beaver", "Flipper", "Father Knows Best", "Gilligan's Island", "Lost In Space", and the list goes on.  There was just about anything to fit a young viewer's taste, and to spark a young mind.  Most were based in the category of fiction, but the ones I liked were more in the realm of fantasy. My list of favorites wasn't massive.  I have already written a post or two about "Dark Shadows", and my memories of watching that.  The two others that featured high on my list were "The Addams Family", and "The Munsters".  (Anyone who knows me will not find that to be a shocker...*grin*.)

When I think of the televisions we owned back then, our black and white TV comes to mind.  A bulky number with 'Rabbit Ears' crumpled with pieces of aluminum foil to grab the signal better, and a pair of needle-nose pliers close by for changing the channels (the knob had broken off at some point).  Since both "The Addams Family", and "The Munsters" were b&w shows, it worked out. They originally aired the year I was born (1964), so I would first enjoy them in reruns.  Both shows had the perfect mix of awkward fun, and macabre humor.  As with a lot of kids my age, I had a vivid imagination.  In terms of fantasy worlds generated by the mind, I had many.  In one of my favorites, I lived in a neighborhood where the Addams' lived on one side of me, and the Munsters' lived on the other.  How cool would that be?  To me they were the perfect family units.  They were interested in some of the things I always have been (heh-heh), and they genuinely cared for each other.  Both families enjoyed meeting new people, never judging them even though they were always judged for their eccentricities (which made them charming).

(Left:  001 Cemetery Lane, Woodlawn ~ the Addams' home;
Right:  1313 Mockingbird Lane ~ the Munsters' home)
(Gomez & Morticia Addams ~
John Astin & Carolyn Jones)
When I first heard of the initial feature remake they were making of "The Addams Family" many moons ago, I was a bit resistant.  So often remakes (or reboots as many call them these days) fall short of the mark.  If the remake is of a show I hold dear, I can be rather critical.  My feeling is "why fix it if it ain't broke?"  The casting looked rather good on the face, so I gave it a shot and saw the film.  I was pleasantly surprised, and would go on to enjoy the films that followed.  The people responsible for the remake(s) pulled just enough of the darkness from the original comic drawn by Charles Addams, and married it to the television version. When it comes to good remakes, it falls comfortably into that minority.

(Lily & Herman Munster ~ Yvonne De Carlo & Fred Gwynne)
Now it's happening again, only this time "The Munsters" are in the cross-hairs. I am trying to stay optimistic.  I am!  Really!  For Herman, Lily, and company, their world is in for a complete re-imagining.  The man at the helm of this new project is Brian Fuller, who some may know as the creator of the short lived "Pushing Daisies".  (Unfortunately, I have to count myself among those who didn't watch 'Daisies' I remember, it was on opposite something I already watched regularly.)  The new Munsters is going to be longer than the original at an hour, and according to Fuller, "darker and less campy".  Okay, that kind of has my attention.  The darker side of life in the Munster home.  With the new title of "The Munsters: Mockingbird Lane", it is going to have more of a back story approach.  Where did these people come from, and how did their family happen?

(Some examples of Alexander McQueen's animal textured designs...the new
Lily could be very interesting.  Photos:
The next thing I read while looking up information on the project kind of made me cringe, and not in a good way.  The comment came out of an interview where Lily was being discussed.  The new Lily will "have domain over nature". The first time we see Lily, she is supposedly going to have a nest of spiders weave a dress directly on her body.  At another point, some ravens fly in to create a blouse of feathers on her.  Apparently, the costumes will be heavily influenced by Alexander McQueen's animal inspired designs.  Now for the cringe moment I spoke of earlier...Fuller said, "Think 'Real Housewives of Transylvania'."  Ooohhh...he had me on board, and then he had to go and say that. (*sigh*)  Okay, shaking that off, and moving right along...

(The new Munsters abode...looks like they are definitely going darker, and more Gothic.)
Brian Singer is set to direct the pilot which is good news.  A couple of other projects he has been a part of that you may know are the TV series "House", and the X Men films.  Both, I like.  If Singer is attached, it can't be all bad.  Then there is the casting...

(Left:  Eddie Izzard;  Right:  Al Lewis as "Grandpa Munster")
The first officially announced casting choice is Eddie Izzard, as "Grandpa".  I saw that Izzard is on board as a producer, as well.  'Grandpa' Izzard?  I can see it.  Been a fan for a long time, and have come to know him as a talented actor.  No arguments here.

(Left:  Pat Priest as "Marilyn Munster";
Right:  Charity Wakefield)

(Left:  Mason Cook;
Right:  Butch Patrick as "Eddie Munster")
The new Marilyn is a definite change.  Miss Wakefield is a cute young lady, but she doesn't really seem to fit the Marilyn mold. There was just something about the pretty, bottle blond Priest that fit the "ugly duckling" role better. Guess it's part of the "re-imagining".

The casting choice for young Eddie seems to be a fit.  Cook seems to have a hook to his eye that adds some mischievousness to the role.  That's my read anyway.  I haven't seen any of his work.  Now for what I see to be the most interesting casting choice so far.  The most interesting, and the most recent.

(Left:  Fred Gwynne as "Herman Munster"; Right:  Jerry O'Connell)
'Lily" and 'Herman' are the two roles I have been most curious about.  Now we know who has been signed to play 'Herman'. Jerry O'Connell is a fine actor, who definitely has the "whimsy" deal down.  He's come a long way from the chubby kid in "Stand By Me". As I'm sitting here thinking about him in the role, I think I can definitely see it.  I think he can bring the necessary sense of humor to Herman.  But there is the "re-imagining" deal.  I did read some background on Lily and Herman in an interview with Fuller.  He was talking about their relationship, and how it has a 'tragic love story' aspect.  Herman, as a man made from a collection of body parts, is in a "constant state of decay, while his wife never ages".  Guess this is one of the darker qualities of the new story line.   

Now we just have to see who the new Lily will be.  If I could pick anyone, who would it be?  I do have one thought, but I doubt she would do it. Historically, she has been a film actress. My choice for Lily would be Angelina Jolie. Yvonne De Carlo was a beauty, and she was also rather exotic looking.  Jolie fits the bill on both counts.  She is also a wonderful actress, and I think she has the chops to do something completely different.  Something no one would expect her to do.  That being said, I could see the producers going for someone like Brook Shields.  Yes, she is pretty and can act, but she would be kind of obvious.  Hmmm...I wonder...

(Left:  Munster Koach; Right:  Drag-U-La)
A feature I loved about the old series were the cars. The Munster Koach, and the casket shaped Drag-U-La, both designed by car customizer, George Barris.  I'm very curious to see what new fangled ride the new designers come up with.  They better be cool...that's all I'm saying.

NBC ordered the pilot of "The Munsters: Mockingbird Lane" in November of last year.  Since they still have a key member of the cast to announce, I think it's safe to say that we won't be seeing it in 2012.  That bit about the 'Real Housewives of Transylvania' has made me a bit nervous to see it, but I am more curious than nervous.

Crossing my fingers...please don't let it be terrible...


  1. Made it at last! And well worth the wait, if I may say. Enjoyed your descriptions, as ever, of the old b/w shows and their deliciously awkward campiness. Eddie Izzard will be brilliant at that. Though of course he will be a very young grandpa and it will be all in the acting - I have to say that because (HUGE name drop about to fall...) I once shared a stage with Eddie when we were at school together!! (He was hilarious then too.)

    1. Izzard will definitely be younger. That was actually my first thought. Great history you have with him. It's interesting to see people that we "knew when" having success like that. :)