Mockingbird Lane, the reboot of the Munsters, is what is known as a busted pilot. It is a pilot for a TV show that the network, NBC in this case, decided to pass on. But it also was expensive to produce so NBC decided to air it as a Halloween special.
So how was it?
I guess the first thing is how did Mockingbird Lane differ from the original? And the answer is a lot. The original Munsters show was a sitcom featuring characters based on the Universal Monsters. The joke was that they thought they were perfectly normal and that the rest of the world was off. Mockingbird Lane went a whole different direction with Munsters knowing that they were different and trying to blend in.
The humor on Mockingbird Lane is also darker than the original. Most plots on the original show usually centered on Herman and Grandpa getting into some form of hijinks. For Mockingbird Lane it was more a conflict between Herman and Grandpa about how to live their lives and raise Eddie.
There were two basic plot threads for the pilot. One was that Eddie had just become a werewolf and the family was addressing how to deal with this and break the news to him. The other thread was that Herman’s heart, his last original body part, was wearing out and needed replacing. Herman was resistant to this as he was worried that without his heart he would not love his family the same way.
When judging a comedy there is one simple test, did I laugh? I’ve watched it twice now, and I laughed out loud both times. So on that alone we have to say yes it succeeded.
A lot of this was due to a smart script written by Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller. I’m sure a lot of credit can also go to director Bryan Singer for timing the interplay between the characters. Most of the humor was dialog and character based rather than the slapstick the old series depended on.
And how did the characters fair?
In what should be a surprise to no one, Eddie Izzard as Grandpa Munster stole the show. His expert comic timing meshed perfectly with Grandpa’s dark nature.
What was a surprise Mason Cook as Eddie Munster. This kid is 12 but held his own and delivered almost as many laughs as Izzard.
Another surprise was how well the character of Marilyn was used. On the original show she was almost a background character, having little development. Here she was clearly a Munster and despite being normal, which was treated as a point of shame, may have been the creepiest of the family. Charity Wakefield played her with a subdued sense of glee.
Herman Munster, played by Jerry O’Connell, was the emotional core of the show, but not the source of much humor. He was largely a foil for Grandpa and the voice of reason.
Lily Munster, played by Portia de Rossi, got the short end of the stick in the pilot. She was relegated to the role of love interest.
Overall I give Mockingbird lane a B+
But I would like to see more. Hopefully enough interest was generated by showing the pilot to convince NBC to order the series.