Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Why I like The Munsters

Why I like The Munsters

1) I used to love classic television. As a kid, I'd watch Nickelodeon until it rolled over into TV Land, when I'd watch all those hammy old comedies like Mr. Ed, Get Smart, and I Dream of Jeanie.  I hadn't seen The Munsters before, but it popped up in Netflix streaming and I've been devouring it with aplomb.
2) Unlike The Addams Family, where the characters are aware of and embrace their strangeness, the Munster family has no idea just how strange they are. I never get tired of Herman Munster, possibly the biggest fuddy duddy on television, constantly getting confused by people's reaction to him.

3) The comedy in the show usually relies on mistaken identities, misheard statements, and Herman's occasional childishness. The jokes run broad and farcical, with liberal use of a laugh track. It ain't high art, but I've lost more than one night watching one episode slip into the next.

4) Herman Monster is genuinely funny. Fred Glenn got a great face for comedy, with a wide, expressive smile and a playful goofiness. He usually gets stuck doing dumb-dad schtick, but I really like how gentle he is. Despite his massive size and apparently terrifying features (people in TV Land are both deeply prejudiced and cowardly) he's very careful not to harm anyone. There's one episode where he goes to confront the man he presumes to be having an affair with his wife. I was expecting a big violent fight, but Herman genuinely wanted to talk things over as gentlemen, and is distraught when the man passes out.

5) The running joke of the show is the family views the "normal" niece Marilyn as a deformed charity case. What's interesting is that she takes her family in stride, seeing their strange world as totally normal. There are a lot of funny moments where outsiders comment on her family or the cobwebbed mansion they live in and she fails to see things the way the outsiders see them.

6) Grandpa Munster is pretty much the best thing ever: an old wacko who fusses around in the basement and waxes fondly for the old days in Transylvania. He's also the most overtly supernatural member of the family, turning into wolves and bats and causing more trouble for the others. I want him in my family.

7) My favorite aspect of the show is how weirdly conservative Herman Munster can be. We tend to think of the 1950s as a very conformist era in American history, and the Munsters are a great parody of that era. Many episodes start with Herman worrying about propriety, social standing, and the family's good name. The fact that most of his adventures involve shocking his neighbor's delicate sensibilities just makes the whole thing funnier.

8) There's a great episode where Grandpa Munster falls for a black widow temptress who wants to kill him for the inheritance. The Addams Family did something similar in their movie, and there's always something funny about a manipulative killer being taken by a family of monsters.

9) I don't know who the guy who plays the family doctor is, but he's like a fey Jerry Lewis. His episodes are always the best. 

Conclusion: I wish I were a Munster. I want to live on Mockingbird Lane, drive a boss Dragster/Hearse, and get a Rockabilly intro theme song, and smash any mirror I look into. I don't get into nearly enough wacky predicaments that lead to happy outcomes. As it stands, I'll just take The Munsters marathon.     

No comments: