Monday, October 29, 2012

Mockingbird Lane: Pilot Review

Written by: @ElbowsMcGee

Mockingbird Lane is a modern re-imagining of the cult CBS sitcom, ‘The Munsters’ and developed for NBC by Bryan Fuller, who brought us such programs as ‘Dead Like Me’ and ‘Pushing Daisies’. 

Having grown up watching many reruns of the original classic, learning of someone attempting to remake The Munsters set my teeth on edge, like fingernails on a chalkboard. We all have a personal opinion on how we feel about reboots and remakes, especially with so many classic films having already been remade or are set to come. Personally, I'm really not a fan. Which is why I was delightfully surprised to find that after just the pilot episode, I was already hooked on Mockingbird Lane.

There are inevitably many differences to the original show. However a lot of what the show was is still there. For example, in The Munsters, Herman was in fact Frankenstein’s monster and moved to Great Britain from Germany and was adopted into the name Munster, before moving again to Transylvania and meeting Lily. As of yet, it isn't apparent as to whether Mockingbird Lane would keep this character heritage, however what is certain is that the new Herman (Jerry O'Connell) no longer resembles the typical look of Frankenstein’s monster. The creators have decided to do away with the cliché neck bolts and flat head and instead have portrayed Herman as simply a man sewn together out of many parts. So in my opinion, they've probably done away with Herman’s Germanic history altogether. In fact they've done away with a majority of the immediately apparent visual cues as to the family's background, apart from Grandpa. Most of those cues now come from visual / special effects and not from make-up or costume. That being said, there is a well made mixture of make-up and CGI to create the zip-up door in Herman's chest, to work on his defective heart. It seems our new Herman 'loves too much' and requires constant maintenance. Just because the visual cues aren't there, that doesn't mean the characters or the show lose anything from it. In fact I would argue that not only an unsuspecting audience, but the family's neighbours are more led into the belief that the Munster family are just normal people. 

Grandpa (Eddie Izzard) has also changed considerably. He has now become a much darker and more involved member of the family. Probably considering himself the head of the household much more than his predecessor. Although he still experiments and creates things in his laboratory, it is now much more organised and professional. In the pilot, Grandpa baked cookies into which he dropped his own blood, in order to enslave people. The experiments and potions from the original Grandpa usually went spectacularly wrong. However despite the darker touch to his character, Grandpa still remains quite the comedy relief, providing most of the funniest lines so far.

There are some amazing CGI scenes that really make this show come alive, like Lily (Portia de Rossi) and Grandpa's entrance to the show. This could never have been done back in the 60's. I’d like to think that if Allan Burns and Chris Hayward were writing The Munsters today, they’d probably have taken a lot of the same approach. Back in 1964 when The Munsters first aired, there weren't so many things you could do that came under the heading of ‘Special Effects’. Nowadays, we have a whole plethora of effects that can and are used to compliment the ambience of what Mockingbird Lane is trying to capture.

The pilot episode deals with young Eddie Munster (Mason Cook) coming of age and needing to be told that he's a werewolf. After having changed into a werewolf at a scout trip and attacked his friends and his scout master, the Munster family are forced to relocate to a new neighbourhood, probably to escape what used to be villagers with pitchforks. There is a scene which involves Marilyn (Charity Wakefield) viewing a house with a realtor, before espying the run down and condemned house across the street, more in keeping with family tradition. 

"My aunt and uncle prefer pre-cleansed." - Marilyn
This show provides a perfect, modern and comparative view on The Munsters. The great cast is complimented by the superb collection of sets, with every little piece being just right, down to the traditional dungeon entrance in the stairs. At the end of the episode, they even included a CGI version of Eddie's pet... monster, Spot. Which was a nice and heartfelt ending to an amazing episode.

NBC have actually only created a pilot so far and originally passed on making more. However, now it has been aired and ratings and reviews are in, they will hopefully change their mind. While the immediate future of this show remains uncertain, this writer would like to say that Mockingbird Lane has got to be this season’s best new arrival to its line-up. NBC, you should make more. Immediately.

No comments:

Post a Comment