For someone exposed to the creepily weird and whimsically funny classic animated series, The Addams Family, at a very early age, a similar, live-action, visually stunning and brilliantly acted television event with a story-line far more endearing and heartfelt than the anterior, Mockingbird Lane is an absolute delight. From start to finish, creator Bryan Fuller and director Bryan Singer managed to take me on a joyride, which is now completely and utterly etched in my memory, and one that makes me not only happy, but also honored to be a part of!
Mockingbird Lane finds itself strangely relevant in this era of True Blood, Once Upon a Time, The Secret Circle and The Vampire Diaries. You can certainly tell Mockingbird Lane is an occupant of this post-Twilight era, where creep is chic, because the Munsters are stylish and sexy.
The episode revolves around the Munster family’s decision to edify their kid, a pre-pubescent Eddie on Werewolves For Tweens. After our young friend unknowingly terrifies his scout troupe during a full moon, the Munsters relocate to 1313 Mockingbird Lane, buying a mansion once owned by a serial killer. Once there, the rodent-emerging vampire Grandpa, is ready to “start drinking again.” But Eddie isn’t sure he approves of his grandfather’s bloody ways. Meanwhile, Herman’s latest heart is starting to give out, and he’ll need a new one as soon as possible.
Of the many conspicuous aspects of the show, the one that struck me most was the acting;
Jerry O’Connell portrays Herman Munster, a very likable Frankenstein’s monster of stitched-together body parts with a zipper on his chest for easy heart-replacement and you immediately recognize his role in the show not only when, but also the way he’s introduced!
Portia de Rossi plays the role of Herman’s gossamer and cherubic vampire wife, Lily Munster traveling across the room in a cloud of smoke wearing horse-skin skirts and dresses made of spider webs.
Charity Wakefield plays non-monster cousin Marilyn Munster, who is the family’s bridge to normalcy and with a blank expression and fiendish eye for the macabre, Marilyn almost plays like the family sociopath. And the fact that Grandpa forever mourns her normalcy, and wants to get rid of her, makes her presence even funnier.
Mason Cook is Herman and Lily’s boy-scout son Eddie Munster, who’s still unaware he’s a werewolf. Cook delivers a fairly believable performance with very little annoyance involved. I’d watch him everyday with no complaints.
But the highlight is British actor Eddie Izzard, as the ludicrous, bloodthirsty vampire Grandpa Munster. He brings a delightfully fresh, unapologetically bloodthirsty spin on Grandpa Munster and delivers his sinister lines with amusing indifference (He refuses a friendly handshake by saying simply, “I have a disease.”).
Another engaging countenance of the show was the writing; Bryan Fuller is very clever and quite talented when it comes to bestowing nearly all of his characters with the gift of loquacity which makes everyone seem sharper and funnier. The dialogue in the show is so smooth and fast-paced that it doesn’t take long to just get lost in what’s going on. Almost instantly Mockingbird Lane makes you think of Fuller’s earlier work, and one of my personal favorite TV Shows, Pushing Daisies. Though the humor is considerably darker, it’s still very smart and snappy, fast-paced enough that I just could not look away for fear of missing something important.
Humor and heart define Mockingbird Lane, a thoroughly entertaining hour of TV that explores the role of the outsider, a frequent theme in Mr. Fuller’s work.
Visually, the show looks spectacular. It’s very bold and stylish, with plenty of detail to please the eye, and great special effects and incredible make-up work. Bryan Fuller infuses Mockingbird Lane with his trademark stylish visuals and a sharp, dark wit that’s reminiscent of the recent The Addams Family movies. His Munsters have a modern edge ,for example, werewolf Eddie wants to be a vegetarian and Grandpa reboots Herman’s heart with an iPad. These monsters don’t just frighten people… they want to eat them, too.
The real eye-catcher of the episode, however, is the production design. The Munsters’ new house at 1313 Mockingbird Lane – not so lovingly dubbed a “hobo murder home,” by its Mockingbird Heights neighbors – is a nice piece of work that would almost certainly yield plenty of spooky passageways and creepy rooms to peep through!
Fuller and Singer make the story both accessible and innately relatable. For all their monstrosity, the Munsters are painfully human, given to foibles and concerns that plague many of us, but which are rendered in a heightened fashion. Herman loves too much, too deeply, and his heart gives out (literally) in the first few minutes of the pilot, requiring both repair and self-analysis. Where Mockingbird Lane succeeds is in the same area Herman is struggling with – heart. The show oozes appreciation for family, despite their dark nature. Yes, the Munsters are a creepy lot, but they matter to one another and that comes through nicely in this Halloween special.
The result is sweet and intriguing, with enough charm to make me want to see just where the series would go, as the family explores the lush, visually rich world of Mockingbird Heights and attempts to discover whether they ultimately want to be human or monster, whether to embrace pride or shame in their identity.
Even though, here in India, Halloween may not be widely celebrated, Mockingbird Lane is definitely a treat I would cherish for a long time!
For those who are not familiar with the new family moving in, here’s a small preview: