'The Munsters' Enjoy an Afterlife with New Reboot 'Mockingbird Lane'

Talk about a treat! Jerry O'Connell, Portia de Rossi and Eddie Izzard star in this special -- airing tonight! -- which reimagines the '60s favorite

Remember The Munsters? That wacky, 60's-era sitcom about a loving family of monsters who didn't realize how different they were? Tonight, TV fans can tune in for a modernized version of that show, Mockingbird Lane (8 p.m. ET on NBC).  

What viewers will see is actually the pilot episode of what was originally meant to be a scripted drama -- and one with quite a pedigree. Its writer and co-executive producer is Bryan Fuller (known for Heroes and that critical darling, Pushing Daisies.) The director of the pilot is Bryan Singer (known for the X-Men movies). Jerry O’Connell plays Herman Munster, Portia de Rossi plays Lily and Eddie Izzard plays Grandpa. Nonetheless, NBC passed on Mockingbird Lane as a series, and now it's being offered as a one-time Halloween special.

So why watch? It may be a failed pilot episode, but the ambitious scope of this show makes it worth checking out. As the voiceover in this trailer makes clear, this reboot is "an entirely new experience." Watch here:

 
Pros like Fuller and Singer didn't take on The Munsters just to repeat the broad humor and sight gags that entertained audiences in the sixties. Their re-imagined show is ghoulish and funny, but also has darker, subtler themes about the nature of evil and our universal need to fit in. In this preview clip, Herman pulls the skin of his chest open and literally shows Lily his ailing heart. It's ailing, because he loves too much.

Unlike their sixties counterparts, this Herman and Lily are painfully aware of their outsider status. Some critics have found fault with the moral ambiguity of those characters, and have pointed out that the show is strongest when the unapologetically evil Grandpa is on the screen. "The best [part of this show] is Grandpa, played with sardonic mischief by Eddie Izzard," writes Mary McNamara of The L.A. Times. "He is quite brilliant as the only member of the Munster family at peace with his bestial ways."

"Eddie Izzard as Grandpa sets the tone with a combination of evilness and snark, aiming for and achieving a larger-than-life feel without sliding over the edge into scenery chewing (at least when he’s not sucking the blood out of an animal or human)," writes Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter. "If the series went that route, it might have had something."

"I was going to take his heart, and Grandpa wants to drink his blood," Herman says of a guest in their dining room. Herman wants the man's heart to replace his own ailing one, because he loves too much. And Grandpa wants the blood because…he's thirsty. Neither guy is anything like the original, benign character he's modeled after. But it's fascinating to see how they've changed over 40 years!

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