The Munsters are a fictional family, mostly made up of monsters. They first appeared in the American sitcom The Munsters which ran for two seasons on CBS between 1964 and 1966. To some extent, the series spoofed both the Universal horror movies of the 1930s and 1940s and the wholesome family sitcoms of the 1950s and early 1960s. Most of the series initial run coincided with that of a similar series, The Addams Family, on ABC. The Munsters never achieved very high ratings when it was first broadcast but became a cult favorite during its many years in syndication. Four movies based on the series have been made, one of which had a theatrical release. The characters were brought back to television in 1988 in the series The Munsters Today, which ran for three seasons. A reimagining of the series called Mockingbird Lane was in development in 2012. A pilot for the new series was made which aired on NBC in the United States on October 26, 2012. However, the network later announced that no further episodes of Mockingbird Lane would be made.
The Munsters premiered on CBS on September 24, 1964. It ran for two seasons with a total of seventy episodes, all of them in black and white, being made. The series' original run came to an end on May 12, 1966.
The characters in the series are Herman Munster (Frankenstein's monster, played by Fred Gwynne), Grandpa (Count Dracula who sometimes refers to himself as "Sam Dracula", played by Al Lewis), the vampiric Lily Munster (Grandpa's daughter and Herman's wife, played by Yvonne de Carlo), Eddie (a werewolf who is Lily and Herman's son, played by Butch Patrick) and Marilyn (the only member of the family who looks like an ordinary person, played by Beverley Owen for the first thirteen episodes and by Pat Priest for the remainder of the series' run). The appearance of the monstrous members of the family was modeled after that of characters from Universal horror movies of the 1930s and 1940s. The family's home, 1313 Mockingbird Lane, appears to be a typical haunted house, full of dust and spider webs. The house often gets accidentally damaged by Herman, either when he is throwing a tantrum or jumping for joy. The family pets are a black cat and a fire-breathing dragon, Grandpa keeps a bat in his laboratory.
Running gags in the series include people running away in terror at the sight of the Munsters, the inability of the Munsters to understand why people suddenly run away from them, the other Munsters feeling sorry for Marilyn because they think she is ugly and Marilyn herself wishing that she could be "normal" like the rest of her family.
In spite of their monstrous appearance, there is nothing evil about the Munsters, who consider themselves to be a normal working-class American family. Eddie and Marilyn attend school. Herman, who works at a funeral parlor, is the family's main breadwinner (Lily and Grandpa have had short lived jobs in some episodes) but Lily is the real head of the household. In many ways, the Munsters are typical of sitcom families of the time, consisting of the whacky relative (Grandpa), the precocious child (Eddie), the bumbling dad (Herman) and the sensible mom (Lily).
The first spin-off of The Munsters was the 1966 movie Munster, Go Home!, also the first opportunity that most viewers had to see the characters in color. In the movie, Herman inherits the title of Lord Munster when a British relative of his dies and the family move to England to take up residence at Munster Hall. All of the main characters are played by the same actors as in the television series, except for Marilyn. Universal, the studio behind the movie, insisted that their teenage star Debbie Watson play the role, much to Pat Priest's displeasure.
The Mini-Munsters is a 1973 animated cartoon in which the teenaged Eddie Munster forms a rock group when his cousins Igor and Lucretia visit from Transylvania. Al Lewis was the only member of the cast from the original series to voice the animated version of his character in the movie.
In the 1981 movie The Munsters' Revenge all of the characters are played by the actors who originally portrayed them in the TV series, except for Marilyn (played by Jo McDonnell) and Eddie (played by K.C. Martel). The plot revolves around two robot copies of Grandpa and Herman which are used by the owner of a wax museum to carry out robberies. Grandpa and Herman are arrested for crimes they did not commit and have to clear their names.
The 1996 movie Here Come the Munsters stars Edward Hermann as Herman, Veronica Hamel as Lily, Robert Morse as Grandpa, Mathew Botuchis as Eddie and Christine Taylor as Marilyn. Al Lewis, Yvonne de Carlo, Butch Patrick and Pat Priest make cameo appearances, Fred Gwynne having died in 1995. The movie acts as a prequel to the TV series. Tired of being persecuted in Transylvania, the Munsters decide to move to America when they receive a letter from their niece Marilyn in California. On arrival in California, they discover that Marilyn's father Norman Hyde is missing. They later find out that he has accidentally transformed himself into Brent Jekyll and is running for Congress on an anti-immigrant platform.
The Munsters' Scary Little Christmas from 1996 stars Sam McMurray as Herman, Ann Magnuson as Lily, Sandy Baron as Grandpa, Bug Hall as Eddie and Elaine Hendrix as Marilyn. Grandpa feels sad that he is unable to spend Christmas in Transylvania, so Herman invites the Wolfman, a swamp monster and a mummy to spend Christmas with the family to cheer him up. When Grandpa casts a spell to make it snow, he accidentally brings Santa Claus and some of his elves to the Munsters' home.
Munster, Go Home! was the only one of the four movies to get a theatrical release. The other three were made for television.
A new movie version of The Munsters for theatrical release has reportedly been at some stage of development since 2005.
Later television series
The Munsters Today ran in syndication for three seasons from October 8, 1988 to May 25, 1991. The series stars John Schuck as Herman, Lee Meriwether as Lily, Howard Morton as Grandpa, Jason Marsden as Eddie and Hilary Van Dyke as Marilyn. The sets from the original series were reused for The Munsters Today and some episodes from the first season were reworkings of scripts from the 1960s series. An unaired pilot episode of the series explained both the Munsters' twenty-two year absence and the reason why they had not aged. Grandpa had invented a "sleeping machine" which would prevent people from aging while inside it. All of the members of the family entered the machine, intending to spend thirty minutes in it. A lightning strike caused the machine's setting to change to "forever". The Munsters were eventually woken up when someone attempted to demolish their house.
A reimagining of The Munsters, called Mockingbird Lane, was in development for NBC in 2012. It was reported that the series would be a drama rather than a comedy and that the Munsters would look like ordinary people but would secretly be man-eating monsters. A pilot episode was made which aired in the United States as a Halloween special on October 26, 2012. In December 2012, NBC announced that they would not be commissioning a full series of Mockingbird Lane and no further episodes were made.