It has its own stormy weather and fire-breathing housepet named Spot, but the mansion at 1313 Mockingbird Heights is otherwise like any other American sitcom home. This is the address of the Munsters, the family that for two seasons, 1964-66, found a permanent place in pop culture--if not "monster" success. Developed by Leave It to Beaver
team Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher, the series was a standard sitcom (complete with the same awful canned laughter), except that the Ward Cleaver character was a reanimated corpse.
Dad Herman (Fred Gwynne) was a Frankenstein's monster, mom Lily (Yvonne DeCarlo) and Grandpa (Al Lewis) were vampires, and son Eddie (Butch Patrick) a little wolf-boy. Munster niece Marilyn was inexplicably normal, which prompted much worry from the other members of the family (she was played in early episodes by Beverly Owen, who left to get married, and then by Pat Priest). The plots revolve around typically tortured sitcom situations: Herman must lose weight to fit into his old Army uniform, Herman has insomnia, Herman takes dance lessons from a crooked instructor. (As that list would suggest, 6'5" Fred Gwynne's wonderfully agile slapstick and Borscht Belt comedy made him the center of the show.)
What distinguished The Munsters from Father Knows Best was the Universal horror-movie lineage and the ghoulish one-liners (the latter growing a bit tedious after a while). The three-disc DVD has all 38 first-season episodes in excellent transfers, a 15-minute pilot with different actors as Lily and Eddie, and no extras or commentaries. High points include "Hot Rod Herman," which features the tricked-out Munster Koach and Drag-u-la (boss wagons both), and "Eddie's Nickname," the one where Grandpa gives Eddie a potion that causes the boy's beard to grow (a weirdly memorable image, if you're a kid). The show was either pure kiddie farce or a radical comment on the absurdly unreal world of sitcoms. Either way, if you grew up with them as an alternate TV family, you can't help but have warm feelings for the Munsters, as clammy as they are. --Robert Horton