"The Munsters", like "The Addams Family", was shown on network TV from 1964 to 1966. Both shows featured families on the macabre side, with "The Addams Family" being about a droll and wonderfully morbid family, while "The Munsters" was about more of a regular, loving, mid-60's T.V. sitcom family (except composed of vampires, werewolves, and Frankenstein's monsters). I'll avoid the never-ending flame war that erupts when these two shows are discussed; which show someone prefers is definitely a matter of taste. As for me, I recall watching both of these shows with the uncritical eyes of a 8-year-old T.V. junkie.
With the relatively cheap medium of DVD, every single show ever filmed seems to be getting a release. I volunteered to watch and review the first season of "The Munsters", figuring it might be an amusing trip down memory lane. All 38 episodes. All 16 hours. Sweet animal crackers, what was I thinking? First off, I can't get that damn theme song out of my head. Ack. Second, I can't close my eyes without seeing Herman, Lily, and Grandpa. I won't even describe the nightmares. But I stuck with it, and I studiously took notes because besides an overall feel for the show, I wanted to list the better episodes.
They were all the same! None of them stood out to me as particularly funnier than the rest. Well, One ep, "Knock Wood, Here comes Charlie" gave me a good belly laugh, because Fred Gwynne played Herman's Evil Twin. He wore an ascot and had a faux British accent, so I was having flashbacks to Mel Gibson on "Saturday Night Live". Okay, you had to be there. I also liked the ep where Herman goes on a 10 day vitamin and water diet for a reunion, and on day 9 goes on a monstrous rampage and terrorizes a family who just sat down for Thanksgiving dinner. Been there, done that.
Monstrous Herman (Fred "What the hell is a 'yoot'?" Gwynne) and somewhat undead Lily (Yvonne De Carlo) Munster live on 1313 Mockingbird Lane with bloodsucking mad scientist Grandpa, their horribly normal niece Marylin, and their werewolf son, Eddie. Because, you know, they are MUNSTERS, most of the hilarity from this series comes from the misunderstandings between them and their community. If I were a politically minded person, I would say this was a subversive look at racism, intolerance, and cultural relativity. Luckily for you all, I'm not. Mid-60's sitcoms are no place for dead serious political discussions. "Dead serious", get it??
Sorry. All the jokes tended to be the same ones, over and over again. Herman and Lily would fret that their normal-looking niece would not be able to attract a nice man (and any man she brought home would of course bolt in terror after meeting the family). Someone would tell Herman not to lose his head, so he would nervously twiddle with his neck bolts. Or he'd look in a mirror and it would crack. Or a woman would look at Herman and her hair would stand on end, etcetera etcetera and hardy har har. I need a stiff drink. Get it? "Stiff"? Oh, never mind.
The shows blended together, and my notes ended up as a factoid collection. For instance, Lily's maiden name is "Dracula", and Herman works at a Funeral Parlor. I also guest star hunted, and the show regularly featured typical tv personalities like Harvey Korman in two different roles, and Paul "Center Square" Lynde, who had a semi-recurring role as the fortunately severely nearsighted family physician. The show also listed a Pat Buttram in the credits in one episode. Man, if I were in high school I would be absolutely murdered if I had that last name. See what I'm reduced to? Getting my laughs from an unfortunate family name! What a ghoulish endeavor. Please don't hit me, I'll be good. Am I rambling?
Anyway, now comes time to discuss the DVDs themselves. The shows are packaged in a slim, sturdy cardboard container with 3 double-sided disks. It's a nice metallic sickly green with a photo of the cast on front and Herman on the back. Except for an episode listing inside that's it for literature/photographs. After I adjusted to watching black and white, I appreciated the transfers. The pictures were very crisp and the sound was sharp. It was Mono (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, I might add) of course, but clear. Each episode has a preceding episode description, initial broadcast date, and notes any guest stars or cast changes of interest.
The release didn't have much in the way of extras; in fact only one: a segment of the show's pilot episode, and it was in color and in stereo. It had a more orchestral score and Lily was named Phoebe back then (tuck that tidbit away to amaze your friends). Unfortunately the pilot isn't even funny so I wonder how the show ever got greenlit. Matter of fact it was dead on its feet. Ha! I slay me! Okay, I'm making myself sick again.
The disk discussion brings up the topic of whether these shows warrant a release at all. I'm not against anything being released. Hell, if there's an audience for "Misfits of Science" or "the Man from Atlantis" I say go for it. No one's forcing me to buy it and some people are compulsive collectors who just eat this stuff up. So, if you just absolutely love "The Munsters", I don't think you'll be disappointed in these disks. As for me, I think I'll just stick to the occasional TiVo'ed episode of the moldy oldies off of TV Land. Right now I am suffering from toxic Munster overdose, and I'm not sure what the cure is. I suspect it's at my local package store.