What to do with a pilot for a seemingly scrapped reboot of a 1960s comedy about a colorful family of monsters? Save it for Halloween.
NBC may have found a creative use for its much-anticipated – then much maligned – “Mockingbird Lane,” which revisits “The Munsters.”
The pilot episode is scheduled to air 8 p.m. Friday as a Halloween “special,” but executive producer Bryan Fuller who gave us the critically acclaimed and fantastical “Pushing Daises” a couple seasons ago, is optimistic that if enough people tune in there could be a future for the series.
“It's such a different show that it merits a different way of getting it out to the audience,” Fuller told TV Guide earlier this month.
So Friday’s airing could prove to either be a treat in the discovery of a promising and once-though-dead reboot instead of the trick you may be expecting from a project which has wavered in development for a couple of years.
NBC is pairing the episode with a Halloween episode of its supernatural series “Grimm” (9 p.m.), which at least makes more sense than the comedies “Whitney” and “Community” that had been scheduled to start last week in the 8 p.m. time slot until those premieres were pushed back a month.
But about “Mockingbird Lane”: The series was intended as a reimagining of the classic 1960s sitcom “The Munsters,” but now as a 1-hour drama with a darker edge and tone. The new series takes its name from the address – 1313 Mockingbird Lane – where the original odd, but loveable family lived. The series starred Fred Gwynne, Al Lewis and Yvonne de Carlo.
The new cast features Jerry O’Connell (“Sliders”) as Herman Munster, Portia de Rossi (“Arrested Development”) as his wife Lily, Eddie Izzard (“United States of Tara,” “The Riches”) as Grandpa, Mason Cook (‘Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D”) as Eddie and Charity Wakefield (“The Raven”) as Marilyn.
The expensive project — NBC had reportedly spent $10 million on the "Mockingbird Lane" pilot — had been in the works at NBC for a couple of seasons.
Fuller had first developed his Munsters remake about 2010, but NBC passed on the series though Fuller was encouraged to further develop the project. NBC confirmed in November 2011 that it had ordered the series to the pilot phase – where a single standalone episode is filmed that is then used to sell the series, or test its potential as a series – only to put that plan on hold three months later to reportedly give more attention to casting and other production plans. The pilot finally went into production in July.
Fuller is optimistic that if enough people watch, the project will have life beyond a single airing of the pilot. He has already written outlines for three more episodes and crafted a six-episode arc should the project get picked up for more.
“Airing a pilot as a standalone seems unheard of, but when you actually see the Mockingbird Lane pilot it has a beginning, middle and an end. It's an emotional story of a family told in such an unconventional way," Fuller told TV Guide. “If we get a huge number, all the cast are in line to be picked up and to go to series. And that was one of the things that NBC wanted to make sure, that they had all of the cast deals in line -- so that if we did get a big number and audiences proved their appetite for this type of show, that they could move very quickly."
The downside is that production on a series likely would begin until next July, which seems a long time to wait and cause any momentum gained by the "special" could dissipate in the next nine months.
From the official NBC synopsis:
In “Mockingbird Lane,” sweet little Eddie Munster is a normal kid about to enter the horrors of puberty. Truth is, he’s about to discover that for him becoming a teenager means growing hair in truly unexpected places every time the moon is full. His loving, supportive, run-of-the-mill family includes his mom Lily, the daughter of Dracula; his dad Herman who brings new meaning to “Frankenstein”; and Grandpa, who would give Dracula a run for his money if he weren’t actually Dracula. Then there’s creepy cousin Marilyn, who’s really the odd one because she’s so completely normal.
The series begins with Herman and Lily scooping up the rambling Victorian mansion at 1313 Mockingbird Lane that was the site of a series of grisly hobo murders.
Settling into their new place, they’re quickly onto the mission at hand: to gently ease Eddie into the reality of his werewolf adolescence. But it’s not always so easy to accept that your child is a little “different” from the rest of the kids. Meanwhile, Herman, who works as a funeral director, is suffering from a heart condition. Since he’s made up mostly of spare parts, he knew his makeshift heart would eventually give out. No worries though, because Grandpa, who is pretty good at procuring body parts, is on the case. All Herman cares about is finding a new heart with the same capacity to love Lily as much as he has for so many decades.
“This exciting new take on a memorable series will definitely blow out conventional wisdom and create its own legacy,” Jennifer Salke, President, NBC Entertainment, said in a news release.
Or at least provide an hour of campy entertainment at the end of a long week.