‘Mockingbird Lane’ Review

Published 1 year ago by , Updated October 29th, 2012 at 8:21 am,

Jerry OConnell and Eddie Izzard in Mockingbird Lane NBC Mockingbird Lane Review

By now, you are probably well aware that NBC has opted not to turn Mockingbird Lane, Bryan Fuller’s re-imagining of the 1960s sitcom ‘The Munsters,’ into a full-fledged series. However, in what feels like a nod to a time when television pilots would be given one brief moment to shine and live on in our hearts and minds as a made-for-TV-movie or holiday special, the peacock network has decided to air the Mockingbird Lane pilot – and possibly recoup some of the reported $10 million it took to make the episode in the first place.

Then again, if audiences really pull together and embrace this Mockingbird Lane Halloween special, NBC might see some value in putting the series into production – but you’d best not hold your breath.

At any rate, the first thing audiences will likely notice is Mockingbird Lane isn’t some slavish reproduction of the ’60s sitcom, nor is it a serious update, stuffed to the gills with gothic-looking appurtenances in an attempt to Burton-ize the proceedings into a more palatable experience for the viewers. Instead, it’s quite simply a glimpse into a horror-meets-fantasy world brought to life by the rather fertile imagination of Bryan Fuller. Though there are plenty of sly throwbacks to the original series (the silhouette of Jerry O’Connell as he’s introduced), the pilot doesn’t shy away from showcasing the more monstrous (albeit, family-friendly) aspects of each Munster family member, or the classic horror icons they bring to mind. But in that special Fuller way, it’s all sort of sweet and charming while still being abnormal and unquestionably macabre. Here, hearts are quite literally broken; “the talk” means explaining to a young boy he’s a werewolf; and the circle of life includes suicidal deer.

Charity Wakefield and Eddie Izzard in Mockingbird Lane NBC Mockingbird Lane Review

In short, it’s all played for fun. And Fuller, along with the episode’s director, Bryan Singer, manage to get the whole cast in on the joke without turning the pilot into a complete farce. The end result becomes something that is both charming and flawed.

After a scout troop is terrorized in the woods by a “baby bear” that turns out to be Eddie Munster (Mason Cook) running amok under the effects of a full moon, the Munster family embarks on their latest relocation effort intended to shield the sensitive boy from his true nature. Eddie, as it turns out, is under the impression he’s normal, like his cousin Marilyn (Charity Wakefield), and even though his Grandpa (Eddie Izzard) is constantly harassing her about that fact, normal is something Eddie desperately wants to be. Meanwhile, his parents Herman (Jerry O’Connell) and Lily (Portia de Rossi) are struggling to find the right way to break it to their son that he is, in fact, quite the opposite of normal.

But what is really going on is the Munster clan attempting to carve out a special place where they don’t have to run away from who (and what) they truly are. That means taking the long road around breaking the news to Eddie, which is handled primarily through a series of discussions that end with Herman needing his ticker jump started, and eventually replaced. As far as plots go, it feels run-of-the-mill, but once the Eddie Munster identity crisis is resolved, there seems to be some real potential for more entertaining stories set around the kind of oddball world Fuller has imagined.

Jerry OConnell Mason Cook and Portia de Rossi in Mockinbird Lane NBC Mockingbird Lane Review

While there are some shortcomings, the high point would be the way the pilot handles the darkly comic dialogue. Fuller is, if nothing else, very clever and quite talented when it comes to endowing nearly all of his characters with the gift of gab. Moreover, nearly all of the exchanges involving Grandpa are quite good, as Izzard is particularly well suited to delivering the sweetly macabre dialogue with his rather distinguishable intonation. But as good as Izzard is, he works as an addition to the proceedings, rather than letting his comedic talent outshine everyone else in the scene. This, somehow, makes everyone seem sharper and funnier. The dinner sequence, in which Eddie, Grandpa and Marilyn discuss whether or not Steve (Cheyenne Jackson), the scout leader with heart, would wind up on the menu, is a particularly good example of this.

Additionally, the pilot’s special effects were (though distinctly of the television variety) decent and certainly in line with the tone Fuller was laying out for the series. Herman’s uneven body and chest-zipper – for easy access to his fragile heart – felt like a nice update and decent alternative to the Boris Karloff look that almost certainly would have sent audiences running. The real eye-catcher of the episode, however, was the set design. The Munsters’ new house at 1313 Mockingbird Lane – not so lovingly dubbed a “hobo murder home,” by its Mockingbird Heights neighbors – is a nice piece of work that would almost certainly have yielded plenty of spooky passageways and creepy rooms to look in on had the series progressed.

What’s unclear is just who this series would have been aimed at. How many people that watched Mockingbird Lane even remember The Munsters, let alone have seen it recently? While the image of Fred Gwynne as Herman Munster will forever be locked in my brain, I can’t recall having seen a rerun of the show airing anywhere in years, so it’s not like some consensus was reached that the people were clamoring for more Munster. To that end, not having a clear picture of who the intended audience was, in addition to what must have been a fairly hefty per-episode price tag, may have been at the root of its undoing with the NBC brass.

Mason Cook Eddie Izzard and Charity Wakefield in Mockingbird Lane NBC Mockingbird Lane Review

Most surprisingly, though, is how this pilot feels like Fuller is holding something back. There’s some genuinely funny and potentially intriguing elements at play, but they just didn’t seem to be as distorted and ghoulish (in a good way) as we had been led to believe they would be. Maybe it was working from source material that was holding him back, but, while enjoyable, Mockingbird Lane just didn’t feel like the kind of work we’ve come to expect from a unique talent like Fuller. It’s as if he was saving the more resonant stories for further down the line – which sometimes is all you can ask for in a pilot that delivers more on potential than anything else. As it stands, we won’t be seeing where that potential was headed.

This may not have been the return to television Fuller fans had imagined, but at least they still have Hannibal to look forward to.

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Mockingbird Lane isn’t currently in production, but Screen Rant will keep you posted should things change.

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  1. I loved it. I went to set a recording for it and was disappointed to see it wasnt coming back.

    • How about another company hires the actors and remakes this show or make a movie out of it….. since NBC are a bunch of idiots; if they dont keep this show up.

      They can sell this show and get their money back…. no problem.

  2. I love this show!! But I’m very sad tht it’s not again!! :(

  3. One of the local stations here in New York is playing a marathon of the original show, great timing.

  4. I am a Little Disapointed that they decided to not make this a Series I really enjoyed the revamp of the show and was really looking forward to seeing a 2nd episode but once again a Network has decided wrong. Long Live the Munsters!!!!!!

  5. I think that if this doesn’t become a series (season) i think that they should do it like a once a year thing, obviously they would have to shrink the budget but having this a once a year special on Halloween would be great. i watched the show and loved it, i think that Izzard was the better of the cast and loved how the show ended, but at the least this should be given another chance.

  6. Loved it !!! Networks as usual are CRAZY

  7. We couldn’t even get to the end. It was awful. Total lack of chemistry with Portia and Jerry. I love eddie Lasarre but his makeup was horrible and not in a good way.

    • It’s Izzard! Not Lasarre! He was the gem of the show and if it does not go into a series, I will be waiting for a movie!

      • Its Eddie Izzard. Get the names of the peoples names correct before you bash them.

  8. I genuinely enjoyed it BECAUSE it was different. The concept was well-handled. This is to the original Munsters series what Coppola’s Dracula was to the Lugosi one.
    There have been several remakes of the Munsters that were carbon copies – they were all awful. This worked because it wasn’t a rehash.
    And the original Munsters knew what they were. In this one, only Grandpa is acting like a monster – the rest are trying to be normal. So it’s a generation thing: old school versus modern views. The new Herman and Lily hurt no one, Eddie is now a vegetarian, Marilyn is human – only Grandpa did monstrous things. I liked it very much. I understand why some didn’t, but just doing the same show again would be a waste.

  9. Loved this show…but as with all that is NBC any good show they cancel…please give the show a chance. What a great cast…and Marilyn I think stole the show…she seems to have some sort of dark creepy secret, and I think could turn out to be the worst “munster” of all.

  10. I absolutely loved the show. I was left wanting more, looking forward to a future series I have now heard may not be happening. Excellent updating of a classic original. Thankfully the slapstick style of the original was not present in this version. I may have liked that when I was 10 but haven’t we all grown up by now? Herman and Lily could have had more on screen chemistry but I imagine Bryan Fuller was planning to develope that relationship and more as the show progressed. Though as usual because of the network and their ridiculous decisions we won’t be getting a new fall series. The house was great complete with Spot’s classic “under the stairs” hideaway. The scene of the spiders weaving Lily’s dress was brilliant and Herman’s stitches and zipper really added to the excellent visuals.

    My local NBC station in Detroit which has a fairly large audiance didn’t even carry it and put on some lame local 1/2 hr. programing and a Jeopardy repeat so I had to wait and watch it on another station and not in it’s intended HD format. Someone there probably read Jerry O’Connell’s comments regarding letting his 3 yr. old watch the show and how it was a little to graphic. Also interesting how there was only one or two days notice given that the show was even going to be on. Great way to kill a great project NBC. I’m hoping the show gets picked up for syndication and does great. That would show them. No wonder NBC is so low in the rankings.

  11. I gave it a go. I lasted 20 minutes. Not for me.

  12. I loved it and hope that they actually do make a regular series of it. There is so much on television not worth watching. I am so tired of all the reality television shows — just so much garbage. Unfortunately they keep canceling all my favorite television shows. I even cancelled my satellite subscription because it wasn’t worth keeping. I loved this show. It was just so darn funny!!

  13. We LOVED it!! Very upsetting they are not going to continue. I don’t understand who makes the decisions. Everytime something interesting and fun comes along………..they cancel it :o(

  14. Being a huge fan of the original series, I knew that this show couldn’t possibly compare. That being said, it was an okay show. It’s one of those things where I COULD watch it, but I probably wouldn’t watch it.

  15. I am so upset, I went to set my DVR to record this show tonight and couldn’t find it. I’ve been looking forward to this since the show ended last week. Please bring it back!!!

  16. loved it. very disappointed it wont be on again.

  17. I’ve never seen the original. In fact, it was the first time i’ve ever heard of it.

    But this reboot worked admirably with me. This pilot achieved a complex mix between dark comedy (i laughed hard a few times) and a nice family depiction.

    Actors, direction and the house well all good.

    Still hoping they finally decide to make it into a series.

  18. We really liked the show, great set and costumes. The chemistry was a little awkward but would have smoothed out after a couple more episodes. Disappointed it’s not coming back, Eddie Izzard is a genius!

  19. I loved it, I think it should be a full series. they need to understand that the night they aired this there were a lot of Halloween shows on that night. I recorded it and was very mush hoping that it would be coming back. So please bring back Mockingbird Lane !!!!!

  20. PLEASE BRING THE MOCKINGBIRD LANE BACK. I WANT IT AS A SERIES. IT WAS THE FIRST SHOW IN A LONG TIME THAT I WAS EXCITED ABOUT. IT WAS SO MUCH MORE THAN WHAT I EXPECTED. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE I WANT MY MOCKINGBIRD LANE. ONLY SHOW MY WHOLE FAMILY ENJOYED

  21. Y is this show not comin back on I really loved it last friday i was really dissapointed that it didnt come and thought well maybe that it was just a special and would come on at a later date but 2day when i saw that it didnt come on that is when I really started 2 get aggravated it has been 2 weeks since it first premiered and I was really looking forwrd 2 watching this show So PLEASE PLEASE bring it back and Im sure the cast was reallly excited 2

  22. I loved it…. I remember watching re-runs of the original when I was a teenager…. Please bring it back

  23. I can’t believe with all the trash on TV these days that Mockingbird Lane wasn’t picked up. It was great! Much better than 75% of the crap they shove down our throats on network TV.

  24. LOVED IT! I’m a big Jerry O’Connell fan, and he did a great job of pulling off Herman. I remember watching few episodes of the original, and what I could remember Mockingbird Lane did it justice. It was campy as the first, it could have gone with better CGI, but I’m glad it didn’t.
    I would love to see more of this series and hope that NBC will bring it back.

  25. I LOVED IT! As usual the network isn’t giving it a chance catch on. They never know what doing that’s why their network SUCKS!