First, a little classic TV history. In 1964, two sitcoms about two ghoulish families made their mark on the television landscape. The Munsters and The Addams Family took the traditional concept of family sitcoms like The Donna Reed Show, Father Knows Best, and Leave it to Beaver and turned them on their heads using macabre humor, over-the-top gags, and plenty of people running away in fast-motion.
Both shows debuted at the end of the black-and-white era of TV and could have been shot in color for all intents and purposes, but it was cheaper to shoot in black-and-white so that’s what they used. For two seasons the Munsters and Addams delighted children and their parents with their zany antics, but their fate was sealed thanks to the Caped Crusader.
When the campy Batman series starring Adam West premiered in vivid color and aired new episodes twice a week, the kiddies turned away from the black-and-white ghouls they had watched for two seasons and moved over to their newfound colorized hero. It meant a quick ratings death for both series and they were cancelled around the same time.
While there have been film versions of both, only The Addams Family has successfully made it to the big screen twice, while The Munsters movie failed at the box office in the mid-60s. Both have had TV-movies that failed to capture the magic of either series, and in the early 90s, The Munsters Today attempted to bring the aforementioned Munsters back in syndication.
So when the announcement came that Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller was creating a re-imagined version of The Munsters for NBC that was darker and edgier, I couldn’t help but wonder why? In our current climate of remakes, sequels, reboots, and rehashes, it fits the mold perfectly. But the problem lies in making the show work as a drama.
It’s hard to recapture the magic of The Munsters for three reasons: Fred Gwynne, Al Lewis, and Yvonne DeCarlo. They were the heart and soul of the original series, the reason that many people tuned in. Gwynne and Lewis have been compared to comedy duos of the past, and DeCarlo was a screen siren that proved she could handle the broad slapstick The Munsters delivered week after week with style and grace.
Can you take the world of The Munsters, make it dark and edgy, and still have it work? The Addams Family movies were able to make the Addams universe much more like the Charles Addams comics that inspired the 60s show, but the Addams always had a darker sense of humor than the much more campy Munster clan.
There’s a part of me that wants to see the pilot just to see how they handle the material. Will it be an origin story? How dark will it be? And what audience do they plan to attract with this new spin on the series?
What makes it a challenge as well is that most TV remakes have been failing and getting cancelled fast, which makes this news all the more puzzling. If Charlie’s Angels, Dragnet, The Bionic Woman, and Knight Rider (the last two were also on NBC) failed to capture audiences, I wonder if revamping a kid-friendly sitcom about a family of monsters and making it a creepy drama will even have legs. And don’t get me started on America’s failed attempts to remake BBC shows (The Office being an exception)!
True, remakes of 90210, Melrose Place, and Hawaii Five-0 seem to have found their place in the current TV universe, but for every one that works there are even more that didn’t make the cut. Even the attempted remake of The Rockford Files was scrapped after the networks saw the pilot due to bad writing and bad casting. I guess sometimes they can make wise decisions.
If The Munsters remake is a hit, would it mean that The Addams Family would get their own reincarnation on the small screen? And what happens when Hollywood starts to toy with remaking the sacred cow that is I Love Lucy? Imagine a darker, edgier version of that show. I think I’ll pass.
Finally, I don’t believe Hollywood is out of ideas. It’s much easier to hedge your bets on the familiar than to risk it all on something new. Is this the best strategy? No. I think, much like the 3D craze, audiences will begin to revolt and leave the box office and TV ratings in the toilet if this trend continues, which appears to be the case.
Do you think retooling The Munsters into a drama is a good idea? Will you check it out? Would you rather see a reboot of The Addams Family, or should Hollywood let the past go and create new series based on fresh ideas? Leave a comment and let us know!