‘The Munsters’: Rob Zombie’s Netflix Reboot Isn’t the First to Revisit Mockingbird Lane

by Craig Garrett

The Munsters fans are holding out hope for Rob Zombie’s upcoming Netflix film adaptation of the classic tv series. However, just a decade ago, NBC attempted a full fledge reboot of the series for prime time. This new take on the iconic monster sitcom played things much differently.

Mockingbird Lane was created by Bryan Fuller, who also created the cult hit Hannibal for NBC. The two shows were being developed at the same time for the network. While Hannibal took off thanks to a great cast a familiar modern character in Dr. Hanibal Lector, Mockingbird Lane stalled. The pilot for the series was retooled and aired as a Halloween special alongside the supernatural series Grimm back in 2012. However, this was just the network trying to get some bang for their buck. No other episodes were filmed beyond that initial pilot.

The updated Mockingbird Lane had some of the hallmarks of The Munsters. The characters, at least in name, were all there. Herman, Lily, and Grandpa were still technically monsters. However, all the characters dressed in more contemporary clothes and passed for humans. They also acted on their monstrous urges more. Lily and Grandpa are both vampires, and in Mockingbird Lane, they actually hunt humans. These things were only hinted at in the original series. Fred Gwynne, Al Lewis, and Yvonne De Carlo looked like classic monsters but acted like average sitcom characters.

Mockingbird Lane updated The Munsters to the 21st century

Speaking of the original The Munsters cast, Mockingbird Lane shifted to actors that were nothing like the 60s show. This may have actually been a wise choice, as the 60s cast is irreplaceable. Eddie Izzard played Grandpa in this version. While the original take on the character was an homage to Bela Lugosi, Izzard’s version was closer to Gary Oldman from the 90s Dracula film. Meanwhile, Jerry O’Connel and Portia de Rossi played sexier versions of Herman and Lilly. The pair also appeared together in Scream 2, adding to the horror pedigree.

However, despite having a new take that showed promise, NBC pulled the plug on this Munsters reboot. NBC chief Robert Greenblatt seemed to think making the show an hour long may have hurt proceedings. “We felt great about that cast, but we tried to make it not just a sitcom,” he said at the time. “We tried to make it an hour, which ultimately has more dramatic weight than a half-hour. It’s hard to calibrate how much weirdness vs. supernatural vs. family story. I just think we didn’t get the mix right”.

Meanwhile, many fans of The Munsters are hoping Zombie’s new film reinvigorates the series. Zombie has decided not to reinvent the wheel, sticking close to the tone of the 60s version. Herman, Lily, and Grandpa Munster are played by Jeff Daniel Phillips, Sheri Moon Zombie, and Dan Roebuck in the film. Pat Priest and Butch Patrick, two of the Munsters’ surviving stars, have roles, too.