Take the Universal Monsters and mash them into a family unit not unlike The Beverly Hillbillies (fish out of water) and hijinks ensue! Enjoy the normal world as it reacts to the monster madness that is the Munsters.
Originally concieved by Universal Studios animator Bob Clampett, who worked on it in the mid-40s as a series of cartoons, the idea didn’t gain traction until the early 1960s. Rocky and Bullwinkle writers Allan Burns and Chris Hayward brought a similar idea to Universal. This was then assigned to Norm Liebman and Ed Haas, who wrote a pilot.
The make up is so good on this show that one assumes they had to turn up the acting to level 10 every day for the humor to translate. Especially when one takes a look at the original pilot of the show, when the comedy and the delivery haven’t been worked out, its easy to see how the comedy could struggle to translate.
(Seriously, check it out—here’s the unaired Pilot with Herman’s original wife and the Eddie who just couldn’t get house trained!)
It’s the loveable charisma of Fred Gwynne, who brilliantly played Herman Munster, that truly carries the show. Not that Yvonne De Carlo wasn’t excellent as the doting wife, or Al Lewis wasn’t great as the full of himself Grandpa, but it really is the strength of the main character that carries a show like this.
There were 70 episodes of the show in it’s short two year run (blame ABC’s BATMAN which was full color for its ratings drop), but there were some really good ones in that bunch.
My Five Favorite Episodes of The Munsters are as follows (I can only find three of them for your viewing pleasure here on the free interweb—the rest are on Netflix if memory serves):
“If a Martian Answers, Hang Up”
Season 1, Episode 18
has Herman tuning in his new Ham radio, when he picks up two of Eddie’s friends playing Spaceman on their walkie talkies. He and Grandpa are convinced the antics are real and go out hunting spaceships.
“My Fair Munster”
Season 1, Episode 2
makes lovebirds out of both Herman and Lilly as they each accidentally take a love potion, becoming both seductive and irresistable.
Season 2, Episode 22
features a jealous Herman who finds out his son, Eddie’s new hero is the host of a television horror show by the name of Zombo. When Eddie wins a contest to go and meet Zombo in person, Herman tries to become just like Zombo to impress Eddie.
“Happy 100th Anniversary”
Season 2, Episode 6
Herman and Lilly each think the other has forgotten about their upcoming anniversary, so they both get part time work as welders at a shipyard. Because they wear welder’s masks, they don’t recognize each other and yet they begin flirting.
“A Visit From Johann”
Season 2, Episode 26
brings in a visiting Dr. Victor Frankenstein IV, who brings along Johann, Herman’s “identical cousin” who is one of his great grandfather’s creations that’s less sophisticated than later models of the monster. Herman volunteers to teach him manners and ways of the civilized world. Meanwhile, Lily mistakes him for Herman and the hijinks ensue.