31 Days of Horror: Day 15 – The Munsters

I might have a new obsession. I always expected this show to be terrible, but on the contrary, it is a really fine surprise. I found myself laughing out loud at the exploits of Herman and his family, and for those of you who know me personally, you realize what a feat this is. Although I recognize the characters and the actors who portrayed them, I’ve never actually given this show a shot because I always assumed that The Munsters was just another hokey comedy of its era. Even though the jokes are a bit goofy and far fetched, what works for The Munsters is that it’s adorably innocent. Despite their exterior ugliness, the members of the Munster family are utterly content in their living situation, and in fact their family functions more positively than most real non-monster families of today. Truly, the innocence of the Munster family is quite heartwarming; and for those of us who love the Halloween season, it has that perfect element of spookiness. the munsters

If you’ve never seen the show, basically it’s a sitcom about a family that’s made up of various types on monsters, produced by the same people who made Leave it to Beaver. Lily and grandpa are both vampires, while Herman is the quintessential Hammer House style Frankenstein’s monster; and somehow Lily and Herman’s son Eddie is a werewolf. I don’t understand this logic, but I’m willing to accept it simply because it resulted in seeing Butch Patrick it that hilarious outfit. Of course, the show wouldn’t be complete without its source of conflict, and most of that time the conflict in each episode is generated from the fact that the Munster’s live in niece, Marilyn, is a normal human. The result is that Marilyn often brings other typical humans into the picture, causing hilarity to ensue. Something I can’t quite put my finger on though, is whether the Munster family is aware of their out of place nature. One minute it’s clear that they know they are monsters, as they tell grandpa he is not allowed to feed on their neighbors, and Lily cracks punny jokes about how Herman has the worth of several men (referring of course to his patchwork corpse nature). In other scenes, just the opposite seems true, as Lily gives the babysitter directions, ignoring the fact that it’s strange to say “don’t let Eddie’s pet it, last time it ate the couch”. In another episode, Herman is plagued with insomnia that can only be cured by taking walks through the park, where the human population flees in terror every time they see him. Whenever the reports about a nine foot tall, green park monster, come in and are published in the newspaper, Lily advises Herman to stay out of the park for his own safety, not realizing that he is the monster. So which is it? Do they realize they are monstrous or not? Granted, the sincere naivety of The Munsters is part of its charm, but if you think about it too hard this fact can get a bit disorienting. It’s like trying to figure out what animal Goofy is.

This logical snafu aside, I really am enjoying this show. The Munsters is straight up feel-good retro television, complete with delightful morbidity. As a student of literature, I especially appreciate the cuckoo clock that houses a real raven that chimes not on the hour, but nine after the hour, and always ends his announcement with “nevermore”.

On a side note, look at how happy Fred Gwynne is as Herman Munster. I love him in Pet Semetary, but I think I love him even more as this character. "The Munsters" Fred Gwynne 1964 CBS © 1978 Bob Willoughby

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