'Mockingbird Lane' review: A stylish 'Munsters' make-over

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Image Credit: Gavin Bond/NBC

Mockingbird Lane was an attempt to update The Munsters for an audience that likes Once Upon a Time and True Blood — is there such an audience? Apparently NBC didn’t think so, because the proposed series doesn’t seem to have a green light from NBC. Instead, the network aired this pilot on Friday evening. It was smart and colorful — which makes sense, since producer Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies) was behind it, but it also didn’t feel as though all of its elements had come together to make it clear where such a weekly series might go.

Lane hewed to the Munsters many of us remember to this extent: They’re an odd, cheerfully morbid clan residing at 1313 Mockingbird Lane. Jerry O’Connell’s Herman is constructed, Frankenstein’s-monster-like, of various body parts; wife Lily (Portia de Rossi) is slinky; Grandpa (Eddie Izzard) is a gabby rascal, son Eddie (Mason Cook) is distinctly werewolf-ish; and cousin Marilyn (Charity Wakefield) is the “normal” one in the family.

There was a more grim tinge to the show, in the sense that there was a lot more talk about eating people — Izzard’s face was bloodied by a meal — and at one point Herman had his heart replaced in a manner more vivid than the original show would have dared. Certainly the acting talent was evident. Skewing the tale toward the grandfather (in The Munsters played by the wonderful comic Al Lewis; go dig up Car 54, Where Are You?), was wise. Izzard knows how to deliver sinister lines with amused insouciance. On the other hand, de Rossi barely registered as Lily, but one presumes that her character would have garnered more screen time, and more personality, had Lane been allowed to go to series. (Remember how good she was in Better Off Ted?)

This is why what we saw on Friday evening can’t really be judged too harshly or too optimistically. The episode wasn’t conceived as a one-off (if it had, I’d be more negative in my assessment). No, it was meant to launch a series. And in this, it was definitely intriguing. I left the episode wanting to see more of where Fuller and company wanted to take these Munsters, which is a good thing — leaving your audience wanting more is a positive, obviously. Whether Mockingbird Lane could have been something distinctive as well as funny will remain, for now at least, a mystery. As it was, this was certainly one of the better bits of Halloween programming any network has aired this season.

(Bonus point: Unless I’m mistaken, that was Stephin Merritt/Magnetic Fields on the soundtrack at one point. Always good.)

What did you think? Would you have liked to have seen more episodes of Mockingbird Lane?

Twitter: @kentucker

For more: Mockingbird Lane’ ratings help ‘Grimm’

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