When I first heard about an updated version of the Munsters, I was more hopeful than I really had any reason to be. I usually am when there's news about any supernatural-themed television show. If I had it my way, there would be quality horror entertainment available every day of the week.
The storyline for the pilot episode is essentially this: after Eddie Munster turns into a werewolf for the very first time, the family is forced to uproot their lives and make a fresh start. They move into the titular 1313 Mockingbird Lane, a long-empty manse that formerly housed a serial killer, and, well, there goes the neighborhood. As the elders attempt to teach Eddie about the changes he's going through, Herman's heart--his last original piece--is beginning to conk out, but he doesn't want to sacrifice the final vestiges of his humanity.
This pilot aired on Friday--apparently not as a pilot presentation, but as a Halloween Special, meaning there probably won't be any further episodes. The cost was probably one factor for this decision, as it reportedly held a ten million dollar price tag. This is a pretty hefty sum for a single episode, especially for a pilot, but it seems that all of that money made its way to the screen. They were plenty of effects on display, and a talented cast to hold it all together.
Mason Cook, a young actor best known for his role in Spy Kids: All the Time in the World played Eddie Munster, a budding werewolf whose impending lycanthropy seems tied to puberty, similar in fashion to Ginger Snaps. He did a decent job, but far too much of the plot was resting on his young shoulders.
Charity Wakefield, who has been in a number of movies I've never seen or heard of, plays the normal (i.e., black sheep of the family) Marilyn Munster. She is beautiful, and her character had hints of a great back story that we'll never get to see. Despite her "normal" status, she had a viciously dark sense of humor and was pretty well-adjusted to her family's bizarre lifestyle.
Portia de Rossi as Lily Munster was a pleasant surprise for the eyes. She was a goddamn knockout, and looked phenomenal in her spiderweb dress--which was woven on her naked body right before our eyes. Her role was pretty small, though, relegated mostly to fretting about Eddie and winning the hearts of men everywhere.
Jerry O'Connell as Herman was quite a departure from what we're used to. Gone is the flat head, the green skin, the neck bolts and the clodhoppers. This incarnation of Herman was a handsome, fashionable and affable patchwork man whose only visible deformity when fully dressed was a scar around his neck. He was a real family man, and overly-sentimental--there's a lot of talk about "loving too much" and "broken hearts" that will turn your blood to saccharine.
As expected, Eddie Izzard as Grandpa Munster stole the show. He was a cold-hearted, shape shifting bloodsucker with a keen fashion sense that I can only describe as Victorian Pimp. He thought Herman was a little too human for his beloved daughter Lily, and that Marilyn was far too human to be his own flesh and blood. Marilyn would surely have been his foil had the show continued, as they exchanged a great number of verbal barbs during the pilot.
The subject matter was probably another reason this series didn't make it. Although the violence and macabre elements were all presented tongue-in-cheek, and hit shows like Criminal Minds and CSI portray more realistic scenes of violence, I don't think your typical network viewer is ready to sit down on a weekly basis to root for a family of murderers...no matter how likable they may be. Shows like Dexter, where the villain is a hero, are a rarity and exist in a niche on cable channels, not comfortably on commercial television.
Overall, I found it to be a beautifully rendered and relatively fun, but ultimately empty outing. I've previously enjoyed work by both Bryan Fuller and Bryan Singer, but it seemed here almost as if they had watched Tim Burton's revamp of Dark Shadows and decided to do the same thing with the Munsters. But if I'm going to watch a mediocre Tim Burton flick, I'd rather it be by Tim Burton.
Things may have gotten better as the series progressed and we got deeper into the character's stories, but as a Halloween Special, this was too light on story and too heavy on what it might have become. It would have been better to dump a few extra million into the production and turn it into a made-for-TV movie, where at least we could have gotten a complete story.
What are your thoughts?