Let’s face it, you cannot bury The Munsters. Oh, you can certainly give it a shot — and people have — but it’s only a matter of time before the first family of horror comedy come back, as they’re preparing to do now for NBC. Their longevity, of course, is not completely surprising considering this particular family dynamic.
The grandfather (“Grandpa”) is a vampire, as is his daughter, Lily, who is married to a variation of the Frankenstein monster, Herman. Their son, Eddie “Wolfgang” Munster, is a werewolf, and they have a beautiful, perfectly normal niece named Marilyn, who is considered the freak of the family. Sounds insane, doesn’t it? But let’s face it, the 1960s were a wacky time for comedies, when writers and producers would throw whatever came to mind out there and see what would stick. And, man, the things that did.
Wacky shows of the 1960s
There was the advertising exec who fell in love with and married a witch (Bewitched), the astronaut stranded on a desert island who was rescued by, and began a relationship with, a genie in a bottle (I Dream of Jeannie), the guy whose late mother came back to him — as his 1928 Porter car (My Mother the Car), a comedy about life in a Nazi P.O.W. camp during World War II— if you can even imagine such a thing now (Hogan’s Heroes), the martian who came to visit and wouldn’t leave (My Favorite Martian), a nun whose habit allowed her to fly (The Flying Nun) and a talking horse, of course, of course (Mr. Ed). And then, again, there was The Munsters, which looks like it just may outlive them all.
As reported by Deadline, Odd Mom Out creator Jill Kargman and Late Night host Seth Meyers are currently developing this new take that will see the Munsters clan actually relocate from 1313 Mockingbird Lane in California to “hipster” Brooklyn, New York. It will be interesting to see that culture clash.
The Munsters only ran for two seasons on CBS beginning in 1964, but has remained alive in reruns ever since. The original show starred Fred Gwynne as Herman, Yvonne De Carlo as Lily, Al Lewis as Grandpa, Butch Patrick as Eddie, and both Beverley Owen and Pat Priest as Marilyn. In its final year it spawned a big-screen version called Munster, Go Home, which took the family to London following the death of a relative.
In 1973, ABC aired a forgettable (you don’t remember it, do you?) animated film called The Mini-Munsters, for which only Al Lewis provided the voice to his character; however, Lewis, Gwynne, and De Carlo came back together for the live action 1981 TV movie The Munsters’ Revenge. In it, the owner of a wax museum creates robots of Herman and Grandpa that are used to commit robberies. (Yeah, we don’t really get that one, either.)
From 1988-91, audiences were given 72 episodes of The Munsters Today. It seems the family had been asleep in Grandpa’s lab for 22 years and, reawakened, now had to try and fit into a whole new world. The stars of this one were John Schuck as Herman, Lee Meriwether as Lily, Howard Morton as Grandpa, Jason Marsden as Eddie, and Hilary Van Dyke as Marilyn. Another one lost to the mists of time (not necessarily a bad thing).
TV’s first family of horror
In 1995, we saw the release of the TV movie Here Come The Munsters, which served as a prequel to the original show: After being persecuted by the people of Transylvania, the family learns about their niece Marilyn in California and decides to relocate. This one featured Edward Herrmann (Gilmore Girls) as Herman, Veronica Hamel as Lily, Robert Morse as Grandpa, Christine Taylor as Marilyn, and Matthew Botuchis as Eddie.
Most recently, there was the TV movie Mockingbird Lane that was designed to be the pilot for a new TV series. This one was different from the others — if it had gone to series, it would have been an hour-long dramedy produced by Bryan Fuller (American Gods, Star Trek: Discovery). Now, seriously, have you ever watched an episode of The Munsters and wondered what it would be like if it was a dramatic show? It didn’t work with The Bradys in the ’90s and it didn’t seem likely to work here. Interesting casting, though: Jerry O’Connell was Herman, Porta de Rossi was Lily, Charity Wakefield was Marilyn, Mason Cook was Eddie, and Eddie Izzard was Grandpa. Deciding not to go with a series, NBC aired it as a Halloween TV movie in 2012 instead.
The modern version
The new version from Meyers and Kargman returns to The Munsters’ roots by turning it back into a 30-minute sitcom. You’d think after all these incarnations, there’d be no more room for Munsters mania — but you’d be wrong. The beauty of the franchise is that in the proper hands it can easily adapt to changing times, nicely commenting on the world around us. And they can get away with pretty much anything they want, because the comments are coming from monsters…uh, Munsters. So watch out, Brooklyn: here comes Herman and the gang, and we can’t wait!