Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mockingbird Lane

Tonight I watched the pilot of Mockingbird Lane, a remake of the 1960's series The Munsters. This is quite a departure from the original, and while this is just one episode and it's too early to make a firm judgment, for the most part it was pretty terrible.

For starters, this iteration isn't a comedy, or if it is I didn't notice any humor.  Which is a shame, because Portia de Rossi is a brilliant comedic actress. She was wasted on a very limited role.  If more episodes are made, they would do well to feature her more. Anyway, this is a much darker show, with the pilot primarily revolving around Grandpa's desire to kill and eat people, and young Eddie Munster coming to the realization that he's a werewolf and has killed several people.  I guess the lone attempt at humor was making Eddie a vegetarian, which is one of my pet peeves - kids that don't act like kids.  Kids that age don't have a social conscience or choose to be vegetarian, if they do it is because they are told to be that way by an adult and clearly his family is quite the opposite.  But I'll drop that before I go off on a full fledged rant.

The original was mostly based around the reaction of strangers to realizing that there are monsters in their midst. In contrast, with the exception of some scars on Herman most of which are covered by clothes, these Munsters just look like a family of hipsters.  Other than some flamboyant clothing, they are visually indistinguishable from normal folks.  And rather than trying to fit into society, they are not tied to any community and have no interest in socializing except when it is to their benefit. They calmly discuss killing people and come across more as sociopaths that the lovable monsters they were in the original. 

Jerry O'Connell is miscast as Herman Munster.  His performance was very flat and unemotional.  Perhaps that was intentional, the idea being that as a Frankenstein like monster, he has difficulty feeling emotion.  It didn't work, though, he just came across as bored.  Eddie Izzard did well with what he had to work with, and seemed very devious. In my opinion, though, Cheyenne Jackson stole the show with a small part.  He was the only actor who seemed to bring any life to the role, no pun intended.  It's a shame he won't be back if the series is picked up. 

On the bright side, the production was extraordinary for a television series.  The sets, costumes, and special effects were worthy of a feature film.  I loved the design of the house, it had just the right combination of opulence and creepiness.  The special effects created a wonderful ambiance, for example, my favorite shot was near the beginning of the episode - a boy scout troupe is running through the woods superimposed in front of an enormous full moon.  It was beautiful, but I can't find a screen shot, so here is the mansion instead. 

I know the intent was to create something new, and not simply rehash the original, I just felt it didn't work.  It was as lifeless as Herman Munster's corpse before being reanimated by a jolt of electricity.  The writing, acting, and direction was simply uninspired and honestly, the whole show was disappointing.  From what I've read, the series has not been picked up and only the pilot was ordered so this may be the end of it.  I had high hopes for the series and if it does get picked up, I think there is a lot of re-tooling that needs to be done to salvage it.  There is a lot of talent involved, though, so there is reason to believe that they can make it work.  As is, though, it is pretty lackluster.
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