It’s official. The Munster’s clan for the new television production, “Mockingbird Lane”, is now complete. As of my initial post on this ‘reboot’, the role of the family’s matriarch had not been filled. That all changed in mid-June when actress Portia de Rossi was announced as the new, Lily.
Hmm…don’t know if that’s a good or a bad choice. I haven’t seen her more recent gigs (“Better Off Ted” and “Arrested Development”). I know her for the feature film, “Sirens”, and the TV show, “Ally McBeal”. Both we’re decent performances. However, in this case, de Rossi will be stepping into the shroud of Yvonne de Carlo, a Canadian born beauty whose career spans six decades.
De Carlo has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for motion pictures, and one for television. She had more than earned her stripes in the “business” by the time ‘The Munsters’ came around. Apparently, when the role of Lily Munster came her way she had been dealing with a very rough patch in her life (her movie career had abruptly ended, and she suffered from depression). On top of all that, she was carrying a heavy debt (she says that the show coming along “saved her”). In 1964, when Yvonne de Carlo was signed to portray Lily Munster, the producers lucked out. She was perfect. I can’t think of how anyone could have done it better. Her gracefulness, her humor…she has been quoted as saying that she was told to “play her just like Donna Reed”. I think that’s what really made the show work. Not just with Lily, but with all of the characters. To them, they were perfectly normal, and went about their lives with that mind-set.
Stage and screen actor, Fred Gwynne, stepped into the role of the Munster patriarch, Herman Munster. He and de Carlo were brilliant opposite each other. The new Herman (Jerry O’Connell) has some tall shoes to fill. O’Connell definitely has the humor element, and I think he can play the ‘dark’ card (this new version is supposed to be much darker). When comparing the picture of O’Connell, to the one of Gwynne (sans make-up), I do see a whisper of a resemblance. I don’t know how important that was to the producers, but I like to think that they are going to at least give the original a few nods. ‘The Munsters’ of 1964 are iconic, as silly as that may sound to some.
I know I have a tendency to sound like a broken record on some things, but (here goes…) ‘why fix it if it ain’t broke?” Doesn’t anyone have an original story line to pitch these days? Whenever I see something about a television show, or a movie, being remade…it smells of a little arrogance. “Yeah, it was great the first time around, but I can do it better.” I know, that sounds a tad harsh, and yes, I am speaking as a fan of the original. I obviously haven’t had a one-on-one chat with Fuller to find out exactly what his intentions are. Admittedly, I have read a few bits about some of the newer design elements, how the story is being updated and morphed, and I am a bit intrigued. It’s Fullers comment about “The Real Housewives of Transylvania” that has me a tad worried. I am hoping that ‘Mockingbird Lane’ doesn’t intersect with ‘Wisteria Lane’…for me that could very well spell tragedy.
Portia de Rossi, as Lily Munster. I can’t help but compare her with Yvonne de Carlo, and she’s not measuring up for me. I'm not saying she's not a capable actress, I guess I'm just a stubborn purist on certain levels when it comes to classic shows I dig. Some may be thinking, “Maybe Portia de Rossi fits well in the newer, re-imagined world of ‘The Munsters’?” Yes, I have thought about it from that angle. I think it’s safe to say that I’m going to be a tough nut to crack, when it comes to looking at the new show from a completely open perspective.
So…what will it take? What will have to happen for me to accept…maybe even ‘like’…”Mockingbird Lane”? They are going to have to blow me away. They will have to both keep and change the right things.
Confused? Okay, I’ll put it another way. To make a successful ‘reboot’, changes will have to be significant. Yes, the worlds of make-up and effects have evolved by leaps and bounds since 1964, but just updating the character make-ups, and showing us a more realistic sarcastic raven popping out of the cuckoo clock to say “Nevermore”, isn’t enough. They will have to completely retool the entire Munster family and environs, without…and this is the most important element…without that world losing its soul.
“Mockingbird Lane” is currently filming. We should see the pilot hit televisions around the middle of next year. Aside from a redesigned Munster abode, character costuming and make-ups have been kept under-wraps. (No sneaky photographers have leaked any photos…yet.)
All things considered, my curiosity is definitely peaked…I just hope it doesn’t end in an avalanche.