The Munsters of 1313 Mockingbird Lane!

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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:

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Gather around people, its time for an American Horror Story!

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American Horror Story is about a family and a house. The family consists of the Harmons (Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott, and Taissa Farmiga, Vera’s sister, who plays their teen daughter). They buy a big old house in Los Angeles that may be haunted and was definitely the site of some murders. The Harmons are troubled even before they move into the Big Scary House: Britton’s Vivien caught McDermott’s Ben (a psychiatrist) screwing one of his students a while back, so they’re still working through their trust issues. On top of that, Vivien is still trying to overcome the trauma of having recently delivered a stillborn child.

The above does not come close, however, to conveying the storytelling methods employed by creators and Glee exec producers Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk. Unlike most scary TV shows (and movies), which rely upon the rhythm of a few quiet scenes followed by a boo! fright every 20 minutes or so, AHS is pretty much all scare, all the time: a whole lotta screams, sex, jolts, mashed faces, psychotic behavior, and dead babies. On the basis of this and his Nip/Tuck, it’s difficult to escape the idea that Murphy has a thing about women’s bodies. He and his collaborators find endless ways to distort, alter, or torment them. A maid played by Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under) changes bodies with a younger, sexier version of herself (Alexandra Breckinridge). Taissa Farmiga plays the Harmons’ daughter, Violet, is a cutter. Jessica Lange eludes pain — thus far — as nosy next-door neighbor Constance. Indeed, she’s a malicious hoot, far more colorful than the morose characters McDermott and Britton play (McDermott with futile effort, Britton with cunning ease).  Add to this the dire warnings from a badly burned former occupant of the house (True Blood’s clever Denis O’Hare), and the murderous fantasies indulged by Ben’s teen patient Tate (an effectively troubled Evan Peters), and there’s a general air of moral rot and emotional ugliness permeating AHS.

The latest series from creator Ryan Murphy is a deeply disturbing adrenaline attack in which a haunted house provides metaphorical backdrop to a troubled marriage. Infused with a “Dark Shadows” and “Rosemary’s Baby” vibe, “American Horror Story” is one scream after another. So much creepy stuff happens in the first episode that viewers will be left asking: Can I possibly watch an entire series of this? Followed, of course, by a more obvious question: Why do they stay in that house?

Overdoing things is one of Murphy’s trademark flaws, but this show has a captivating style and giddy gross-outs. It also has Jessica Lange, who’s terrific (in both senses of the word) as a sinister neighbour.

Produced by 20th Century Fox; created and written by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk; directed by Mr. Murphy; Mr. Murphy, Mr. Falchuk, Dante Di Loretto, executive producers; Jennifer Salt and James Wong, co-executive producers; Tim Minear, consulting producer; Chip Vucelich, line producer; Alexis Martin Woodall, producer; Jessica Sharzer and Brad Buecker, supervising producers.

Here’s a fact, even with all the zombies and the vampires, there’s always room for a good “American Horror Story.”

American Horror Story unravels in India with its Series Première on Thursday, March 15, 08:30 P.M. exclusively on FX! 

Unforgettable…….. Literally!

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Stop me if this sounds familiar: A former police detective who left the force after being unable to get over or solve the murder of a loved one is still a valuable consultant to the police because of freakish powers of observation, and is still driven by a determination to find that loved one’s killer.

It’s just possible the new cop procedural “Unforgettable,” starring Poppy Montgomery (“Without A Trace”), will be the female equivalent of “The Mentalist.” With a twist.

Did I just hear you wonder, “Someone has brought back ‘Monk’?” No, instead, someone has given Mr. Monk a sex change and replaced the humor of his show with a simmering romance. The series, which has its premiere on Thursday on STAR World, is called “Unforgettable,” and because the structure and plot points are so familiar, whether it succeeds will depend largely on the appeal of its star, Poppy Montgomery.

And she’s reasonably appealing, at least in the previews. Ms. Montgomery knows something about police work from her years as an F.B.I. agent on “Without a Trace.” Here she moves up to the central role: she is Carrie Wells, who has a bizarre ability to remember everything. You can almost hear Adrian Monk saying, “It’s a gift — and a curse.”

Montgomery plays Carrie Wells, a former detective who has a special ability and also, of course, a special curse. She has a rare condition called hyperthymesia, which allows her to recall in precise detail every moment, conversation and detail of her past. She can replay these memories, zoom in for clues and replay dialog in her head while walking around in the virtual scene-a cool trick neatly dramatized with digital technology onscreen.

As the promo suggests, when her neighbor is murdered, and Carrie is the only witness, it appears her special skills will be called upon. She doesn’t want to open herself to that painful morass again. That’s when Dylan Walsh appears as Al Burns, lead investigator in the neighbor’s murder case. It seems Al and Carrie were an item back in Syracuse; he knows her involvement would be key to solving the case. He is able to lure her back into detective work, and the chase is on.

Another well-crafted cop procedural. Providing a neatly wrapped week-to-week caseload plus an over-arching personal mystery, “Unforgettable” seems to have the formula down pat. Maybe too pat.

Unforgettable premieres, Thursday, March 8, 9PM, exclusively on STAR World!

A New Chapter Begins!

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I was a huge fan of John Grisham‘s The Firm back when it was just a novel, and I even enjoyed the Tom Cruise movie adaptation. But when I heard that AXN was premiering a television series, I was stunned speechless. I wasn’t sure why the entire story needed to be retold in another format. Except that the series, aptly titled The Firm, isn’t just another copy.

There’s something almost old-fashioned about AXN’s new John Grisham series and for once, it isn’t a bad thing. From its slick, retro opening credits through the foot chase scene that sets the story of this new drama, the television sequel to Grisham’s 1991 novel of the same name doesn’t entirely feel like other 21st century legal thrillers.

The series picks up 10 years after McDeere has been in witness protection for taking down the Memphis firm of the original. Why does he leave? A mob boss who became collateral damage from the Memphis meltdown, and who went down the road of revenge for Mitch, is now dead. But, Nothing’s ever the way it seems, there’s always more to the story than meets the eye, as the opening scene reveals: Mitch is running for his life, chased by three nefarious suits through D.C. until Mitch tells Abby the code-red news: It’s happening again. All of this is set against the McDeeres’ determination to live outside of the witness protection program. But it soon becomes clear that the criminals Mitch crossed a decade ago have very sharp memories, and that is going to force changes in the McDeeres’ lives. In the end, Mitch has to make a significant decision about his career and about the cost of being his own boss.

For people those of you who are not familiar with the character, Mitch is an old-school, self-made hero, worked hard to graduate near the top of his class at Harvard — and you can’t help but root for him. And at a time when the procedural format is constantly being reinvented, The Firm‘s straightforward, one-man-against-the-system story feels quite compelling — especially when that one man happens to look like a Tom Ford model and yet comes off as totally relatable. It’s been a while since Hollywood dusted off the trope of the scrappy, Everyman lawyer fighting against Big Corruption. But if you’ve missed more traditional courtroom dramas, you’ll be glad that Mitch is right: It’s happening again. While he is not a carbon copy of Tom Cruise, Actor Josh Lucas does a fine job of reinventing Mitch McDeere, the lawyer Tom Cruise portrayed in the original film, though this time he’s more idealistic than eager that he clearly makes Mitch his own character, someone the audience can enjoy. Mr. Lucas, a film actor best known as Patrick Dempsey’s foil in “Sweet Home Alabama,” brings a riveting competence with a lot of fire to the role of Mitch. Callum Keith Rennie plays Mitch’s brother, Ray, and brings a rough around the edges charm to each scene. Unlike David Strathairn in the film, Mr. Rennie feels like someone who might have actually committed manslaughter! And while I’ve always had a hard time in general watching main characters’ wives whine and complain and try to force their husband not to do what he wants, Molly Parker gives Abby McDeere more of a loving and worried concern for her husband and family. Her initial reluctance is warranted and when she agrees to let Mitch join the new firm, it isn’t aggressive and against her calm nature. Juliette Lewis portrays Tammy, McDeere’s assistant, with charisma and a fun attitude.

The lead producer of The FirmLukas Reiter, is a veteran of Law & Order and of the Kelley lawyer shows like The Practice and Boston Legal. In trying to combine Mr. Kelley’s oddball idealism with elements of a crime procedural and long-arc thriller, he’s set himself quite the victory.

AXN’s new legal thriller “The Firm” is so front-loaded for success, that even two hours feel uncomfortably crammed!

With its frantic pace, jumpy cameras and pounding soundtrack right out of a video game loop, The Firm is determined to prove right out of the gate how edgy it is. And while the time-jumping could be a bit confusing, it is a great way to bookend the two hours and prepares viewers for the intensity to come. It succeeds in its endeavors to provide a compelling and fast-paced plot that introduced characters you want to watch. And although Mitch may never want to work for a law firm again when this is all over, I’m excited to see how he and the rest of his family come out on top.

After all, who doesn’t love an underdog fighting for truth and justice?

P.S.: Television never has enough law series to satiate us; so, let’s take a chance on reinvigorated nostalgia. What say?!

So, Don’t forget,

SUNDAY, FEB 19, 9 P.M., EXCLUSIVELY on AXN!!!

Remember, Its happening again!