Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mockingbird Lane: A Review (As Promised)

They say that there are two kinds of people in the world.

There are dog people and cat people.

There are "Star Trek" people and "Lost in Space" people.

Mickey Mouse people and Bugs Bunny people.

People who return the shopping carts to the corral and those who leave them in the parking lot.

And, there are "Addams Family" people and "Munsters" people.

As I mentioned in my last post, I am an "Addams Family" person.

But, I also confessed to having an affection for "The Munsters."

So, before I tell you what I thought about the new "Munsters" reboot, "Mockingbird Lane," allow me to wax nostalgic about the original.

The Blog is of a certain age that he watched both "The Munsters" and "The Addams Family" when they originally aired. In later years, he loved both shows in afternoon reruns. At some point in his childhood, The PC had a talking Herman Munster hand puppet, a prized toy!

Some young bloggers and commentators have suggested that they were the same sort of shows. They premiered the same season as, either, a coincidental product of the zeitgeist of the time, or a result of network, industrial espionage.

Those young commentators don't really get it.

"The Addams Family" and "The Munsters" were, really, two very different shows.

"The Munsters" were a classic sitcom family. They had classic sitcom story lines. They just happened to be monsters. They had no idea that they were weird. They didn't understand why their neighbors ran from them in terror. They were just living a normal, conservative, sitcom life, oblivious to their "otherness."

The Addams' knew that they were different. They embraced their weirdness and dared anyone to criticize them for it. They were progressive liberal, libertarians. A precursor to the anti-establishment movement that was soon to come.

The Munsters were the Clever family. Herman and Lily were Ozzie and Harriet. They just happened to be monsters.

Which brings me to Friday night's broadcast of "Mockingbird Lane."

I don't know if this show could be sustained for the requisite 5 seasons, (but then, I thought that "The Big Bang Theory" couldn't last past three episodes, so I've been wrong before!) but I have to tell you, I freaking loved this show!

"Mockingbird Lane" managed to achieve that sort of deconstructionist dark humor that I love, while maintaining a sweet streak.

This version of The Munster family are monsters, and they know it. And, they tend to do monstrous things, sometimes.

That is the nature of monsters.

Eddy Izzard as Grandpa Munster, ("You can call me 'D.'") the patriarch of the family, has a truly nasty streak about him. Not exactly evil. Just confident in his belief that he and his clan are superior to the mere mortals in the neighborhood and, therefore, entitled to exploit the lesser humans for the good of himself and his family. The perfect Romney Republican.

Jerry O'Connell's Herman is, well, Jerry O'Connell handsome in a post autopsy sort of way. Not the overgrown man-child that was the original Fred Gwynne version. But, rather, a hopeless romantic, whose heart literally breaks, because he loves too hard. He is the best dysfunctional dad since Homer Simpson.

Portia de Rossi's Lily is beautiful and exotic. And, surprisingly, she is the family's voice of sanity and moderation.

Relative unknown, Charity Wakefield is Marilyn. Physically, she most closely resembles the original version. The "poor, normal" Munster. In this version, she is the family's "public face" in the neighborhood.

But, unlike the original, this Marilyn exhibits signs of some serious crazy.

You know the sort that I'm talking about.

Ladies, she was your friend in college who seemed really sweet at first, but the more you got to know her, the more "off" she became.

Guys, let's be honest here. You slept with her... twice... before you realized that she was saving that bit of hair that she pulled out of your head that last time and that one sock of yours is missing and you thought you saw someone outside you dorm window.

I mean... I've heard of that happening.

What was I saying?

Oh, yeah.

Given a full season's run, I think that "normal" Marilyn could turn out to be "M.L.'s" most interesting and chilling character.

Finally, Mason Cook as Eddie. A kid who believes that he is "normal" like his cousin, and is none too happy to learn that he is, in fact, a werewolf. Lycanthropy has been used as an analogy for puberty before. Many times. ("I Was a Teenage Werewolf," "Teen Wolf," to name two.) But, the analogy is handled deftly, here.

(On a side note... A quick IMDb check suggests that young Mason may be the busiest, most in demand actor in the cast. He has an impressive resumé.)

The most common criticism that I have seen of the show is, "It just isn't funny enough."

I disagree.

My biggest concern, going into it, was that creator Bryan Fuller's sense of humor runs to "balls to the wall" high camp. His brilliant "Pushing Daisies" ultimately collapsed under the weight of it's own, self aware, preciousness.

But, it turns out that "M.L.'s" humor is quite restrained. The funniest lines are tossed off with straight faces. Throw away lines that could be missed if you weren't paying attention. (I credit director Bryan Singer for this.)

That, combined with spot on visual references to the original show and the mixing in of some old school rules of monster lore, made the show's humor the sort of "Yes, you have to think about it for a bit," humor that I love, and is hard to come by in today's television environment.

Many people have written the show off as dead and buried. But, given that Friday night's airing helped deliver some of the best ratings that NBC has seen in some time, winning the night in the prime demographic, (for the first time in I don't know how many years) I have a suspicion that the "suits" at NBC Universal may have spent their weekend desperately repairing burned bridges.

As I said in my last post, I have no personal investment in the success or failure of "Mockingbird Lane." (Although, it turns out, there is one degree of separation between The Blog and the show. Co-executive producer Jack Clements was The Blog's boss for two seasons about a decade ago.)

Your Uncle PC has just been so disappointed by the new TV season. Not one single risky, edgy, "I've got to watch it!" show has grabbed my attention. This season needs a "Once Upon a Time" or "Revenge."

"Mockingbird Lane" seems, to me, to be that show.

And, as someone with a soft spot for the underdog, I would love to see the perpetually last place NBC give the show a chance.

We'll see.


  1. I enjoyed those afternoon re-runs, too! And being the age I was at the time, I preferred The Munsters over The Addams Family. (Looking back, I think I sort of crushed on Herman). I missed the pilot but am glad you gave it the thumbs up, I trust your judgement on this type of thing.

    Now I'm trying to work out who that hair-stealing, sock-hoarding stalker-woman was!

    1. I may have taken some license in my "stalker woman" description, for humor's sake. She is, what they call in Hollywood, a compilation of several people. No single person quite that crazy, but a mix of elements from several individuals wrapped into one character!

      But, that said, I have known some who were that crazy, in my lifetime. Just, thankfully, not mine.

      An example of the dialogue that I loved from the show...

      Neighbor: "Would you like to come in?"

      Grandpa: "Could you, of your own free will, rephrase that as a statement?"

      Neighbor: "Okay? Please, come in."

      Grandpa: "Don't mind if I do."

    2. Another great bit of dialogue...

      Lily: "What is going on here?"

      Herman: "Grandpa was going to give me his heart and drink his blood."

      Lily: "Tonight? On our dining room table?"

      Herman: "I don't know is probably not the answer you are looking for here."

      Maybe I'm just weird, but I think that this stuff is priceless!