The emergence of Mockingbird Lane got me thinking about the utter bizarreness of TV in the 1960s.
Mockingbird Lane, which premieres Friday on NBC, is a re-imagined, more drama-based version of the mock-spooky '60s sitcom The Munsters.
Those eerie but lovable Munsters lived at 1313 Mockingbird Lane in the original series, which aired from 1964 to 1966.
I have great affection for the old Munsters, particularly Herman -- the Frankenstein patriarch of the family -- played by the late great Fred Gwynne. There were vampires and werewolves and a dragon named Spot that lived under the stairs.
And what of poor niece Marilyn, a blond bombshell and the only "normal" Munster? In their world, of course, she was considered to be horribly "disfigured." That joke always made me laugh.
The Munsters never was high art. But it actually was well-acted and just kind of goofy fun.
Now, I watched The Munsters in after-school reruns as a kid. But when you ponder the wider roster of '60s TV, you have to wonder what the adults of that era were thinking, or drinking, or smoking, or sniffing.
There was The Munsters, The Addams Family, The Flying Nun, Mr. Ed, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, My Favorite Martian, My Mother the Car and, last but not least, Batman, which I still hold near and dear to my heart. But what was with all the fantasy and the aggressively absurd premises?
I don't have any scientific research to back this up, but I would suspect that the 1960s was the era in which television essentially cemented its reputation as the boob tube. Now, some of it was great -- as I said, I loved The Munsters and Batman -- but you understand what I'm getting at, I'm sure.
This brings us to Mockingbird Lane, which stars Jerry O'Connell as Herman, Portia de Rossi as Lily, Eddie Izzard as Grandpa, Mason Cook as Eddie and Charity Wakefield as Marilyn.
Based on a script by Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies, Heroes) and directed by Bryan Singer (the X-Men film series), Mockingbird Lane is being billed as a one-hour drama with a darker tone than The Munsters, but with a dose of comedy, too. NBC has decided to air the pilot in a supposedly appropriate pre-Halloween slot, and audience reaction will be one of the factors in determining whether the network ever moves forward with Mockingbird Lane as a series.
The entertainment world today certainly is different than the entertainment world five decades ago. These days, with so many TV channels and so much programming taking just about every idea to its extreme, I just wonder if a hybrid show such as Mockingbird Lane -- part fantasy, part horror, part serious, with inherent humour and unavoidable sight gags -- can find enough souls to possess.
In the '60s, you couldn't have imagined Mockingbird Lane as anything but a goofy sitcom. But this is 2012, Mockingbird Lane is mostly a drama, and its TV executives who are living in haunted houses.
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