The Munsters are headed back to television.
After developing a reboot of the ’60s sitcom last season with Guillermo del Toro (who has since moved on to full-time duties on Pacific Rim), “Pushing Daisies” creator Bryan Fuller’s new millennium “Munsters” pitch was one of the few to survive the changing of the guard at NBC. As of November 4, Fuller delivered a reworked, “edgier” script for current NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt, who promptly ordered it to pilot.
According to Deadline, Bryan Singer (X-Men, Superman Returns) is finalizing a deal to direct that pilot episode and executive produce the potential series, said to be “a visually spectacular one-hour drama” intended for the summer or an event series. (No, not “The Event.” NBC tried that already.) Singer also directed the pilot episode of FOX’s “House,” and serves as executive producer on the long-running medical drama.
Fuller’s revival won’t be the first time the monster family has returned to television. A remake (now in color!) titled “The Munsters Today” ran for 72 episodes in the late ’80s, based on the premise that Grandpa’s failed lab experiment put the family to sleep for two decades. But the Bryans’ take on the classic show will be different. How different? How “edgy?” Well, we took a look at Fuller’s pilot script and have some details on his reinvention. Spoilers:
The pilot, titled “1313 Mockingbird Lane” after the famous Munsters address, begins appropriately with the re-introduction of the five main characters. In a pre-title sequence, a Boy Scout troop camping in the wilderness and squabbling over ravaged foodstuffs is interrupted by a rampaging werewolf under a full moon. The next morning, Eddie Munster, still a “fresh-faced” 10-year-old boy, awakes unaware of what he became overnight.
As a result of Eddie’s nocturnal transition, the Munsters are forced to move away (again) to Mockingbird Lane, which Marilyn, the oddly ordinary human, buys despite the realtor’s insistence the house is full of “dead hobos.” Herman is introduced with the Frankenstein monster’s familiar bolt-necked profile, but revealed to be quite handsome, despite being stitched together from corpses by Grandpa, a 580-year-old vampire initially introduced as hundreds of rats stacked atop one another. Finally, Lily, the beautiful Munsters matriarch, is made of a fine mist and clothed by dresses spun by her swarm of mind-controlled spiders.
So, clearly Fuller has taken some liberties with the Munsters’ traditional look for the 21st century, changes that will undoubtedly improve the series’ visuals through modern effects, but the family’s core values and archetypes remain safely intact. The pilot’s split plot involves teaching lil’ Eddie about his transforming body, with lines like “there’s a difference between being a Munster and being a monster,” and Herman’s existential crisis about his failing heart, saying, “That’s how I know who I am when I’m made of so many people.”
But is it really “edgy?” I suppose there’s a certain edginess to an elderly man wading in a drained swimming pool of dead hobos, fishing for a heart. That’s wickedly funny though, and no more morbid than Fuller’s sadly short-lived show “Pushing Daisies,” an award-winning fairy tale series that centered around a man who could bring the deceased back to life. In fact, Fuller’s morbid, quirky sense of humor is the right blend for a charming comedy about monsters dwelling in sunny suburbia, and it works in print. The script gets some clever mileage out of bewitching unsuspecting neighbors or Herman’s penchant for acquiring new body parts — he appropriately works at a funeral home (also Greenblatt produced “Six Feet Under”). If you can’t see the humor in a pun about Herman’s “arranged marriage,” you probably won’t appreciate Bryan Fuller’s reinvention of “The Munsters.” (Would it help if Kristen Bell played Marilyn?)
Will 2012′s “The Munsters” be the series that rescues NBC from fourth place? Of course not. But the script is fresh and funny, and the collective pedigree of the Bryans certainly makes this pilot a must-see when it eventually airs. And, if “The Munsters” reboot sounds eerily familiar to NBC’s other failed resurrections (Knight Rider, Bionic Woman, Wonder Woman), there is always Fuller’s other potential project at NBC to watch out for: a dark drama centered around Hannibal Lecter.