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With past TV projects like Dead Like Me and Pushing Daisies, Bryan Fuller has demonstrated how to twist humor with morbid subject matter, and bring color to darkness, twisting reality and beyond together into something dark and strange and at the same time, full of heart. He brings all of that to NBC's Mockingbird Lane, the TV special that was meant to be a pilot for a Munsters reboot. While the project's series potential seems dim at this point, NBC is giving viewers a chance to see the finished pilot tomorrow night.
Executive produced by Bryan Fuller and directed by executive producer Bryan Singer, Mockingbird Lane introduces us to the Munster family, an odd bunch of mismatched people-creatures living among humans. The special introduces us to Herman (Jerry O'Connell), his wife Lily (Portia de Rossi), their son Eddie (Mason Cook), Grandpa (Eddie Izzard) and their cousin Marilyn (Charity Wakefield), as they move into their creepy new home. Beyond their introduction to the neighborhood, we soon learn that Herman's having trouble with his heart. As it's one of the few original parts Herman has left in his Frankenstein-like body, he's rather attached to it, but the issue needs to be addressed. As does the matter of Eddie's true nature. Unbeknownst to Eddie, he's a werewolf, and he's about to find out that puberty comes with a whole different set of issues for his kind.
I remember watching Munsters reruns as a kid, but my memory of the series is too vague to draw comparisons between Mockingbird Lane and its source material. So I won't try to rate this special on its remake quality. 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 the special.
Beyond the story, Mockingbird Lane comes complete with interesting special effects, which include some impressive shape-shifting for Lily and Grandpa, and a few more visual surprises that make the special as much fun to look at as it is to watch. It's worth noting that, while small children might be spooked by some monster-related scenes (there's a few scary moments in the first few minutes and some monster moments later on that young ones might find scary), the special seems relatively family friendly.
The special leaves off in an open-ended place, which is just as well. As I said, the fate of this project doesn't look good, and it's already been reported that NBC has passed on taking Mockingbird Lane beyond the pilot episode. As a Fuller fan, not only did I like what he and Singer put together here, but I wouldn't mind seeing the story go further. The combination of supernatural, horror, family and humor makes for a story that's unlike anything else on television, and there's definite potential to take that further in an episodic way. But if that's not meant to be, as a Halloween special, it works just fine, and if it can't go to series then at the very least, NBC has something dark and fun to air during Halloween. Check it out when it airs tomorrow night (Friday, October 26) at 8:00 p.m. ET on NBC.