Brothers and sisters, we are gathered here today to remember the newly dead. NBC aired what should have been the pilot for the new Bryan Fuller-penned series, “Mockingbird Lane,” on October 26th. The network opted not to order a full series of this Munsters for a modern era from Fuller, the creative mind behind such critical hits as, “Dead Like Me,” and “Pushing Daisies.”
Bryan Fuller is no stranger to tales of the macabre, “Pushing Daisies” danced lightly around the various corpses featured on screen and “Dead Like Me” fairly frolicked with them. Death was not the end for his characters, but a jumping off point for telling stories. His motto seems to be–though there is death, somehow we are in life, and isn’t life weird? And “Mockingbird Lane” was no different–the latest Fuller installment was full of whimsical details mixed in with bloody death.
We were introduced to each member of the Munster clan via their own particular brand of weird: Patriarch Grandpa (the divine Eddie Izzard) was a vampire with a dry wit and healthy appetite; son-in-law Herman (Jerry O’Connell) hoped he was more than the sum of his many mismatched parts; daughter Lily (Portia de Rossi, underplaying) received wardrobe assistance from vermin, as opposed to Cinderella’s birds; granddaughter Marilyn (Charity Wakefied) somehow fit in despite being seemingly without creature features; and grandson Eddie (Mason Cook) bristled against his newfound werewolf-hood. We met the family as they uprooted themselves–due to an ill-timed werewolf transformation on Eddie’s part–and made their home at 1313 Mockingbird Lane. And wackiness ensued, naturally.
I don’t think anyone will deny that Fuller’s version had more of an edge to it than the original series, and the characters had more teeth, literally and figuratively (in fact, Grandpa made a meal of a jungle cat on screen). These additions made it all the more suited for a TV viewing public that expects a certain amount of realism, while this new incarnation still stayed true to something innate in the source material. Was that the original Munster house across the street from their new abode? A note or two from the precursor’s theme song was quietly woven in. And one of the more inspired updates involved Herman’s heart replacement, which arrived via a zipper that opened his chest cavity. More notably, he was offered a mechanical, steam-punky heart which he turned down in favor of the real deal. I predict the future of the show would have mirrored this choice, favoring genuine emotion over gimmicky effects, but with a healthy dose of dark comedy.
Brothers and sisters, what’s frustrating about NBC’s decision not to take the show to series is that perhaps the pilot episode didn’t quite tell the whole story, but it did have a world of potential to flesh that story out. And as a Fuller fan, there was a lot to like about it, I would have happily watched onward, had the show been awarded more episodes. Fuller has a history of telling terrific, different stories with a stylistic flair. His shows have previously attracted a smaller audience, but those who do watch are fiercely loyal. NBC had the chance to access a wholly different kind of viewer had they shown a little faith in Fuller, and certainly there is nothing on the network airing now that is in any way comparable. It seems to me to be a missed opportunity for the Peacock to try something a little new, by updating–lovingly–something rather old.
And so it is on this day, my dear friends, that we entomb “Mockingbird Lane” and its inhabitants in their final resting place. May flights of devils sing them to their rest. We can only hope that, as it is with many Fuller shows, there will be an afterlife.
Watch the episode now on NBC’s website: http://www.nbc.com/mockingbird-lane/
By Katie Moeller