‘Mockingbird Lane’ review: Surprise! NBC’s ‘Munsters’ reboot isn’t terrible

Fall TV

We hate TV reboots on general principle. For every half-decent "Hawaii Five-0," we're subjected to a dozen ill-conceived "Charlie's Angels" and "Knight Rider" remakes. So when we first heard NBC was rebooting "The Munsters," we were highly, highly skeptical. But imagine our shock when "Mockingbird Lane," which didn't get a series order but airs Friday night as a one-off Halloween special, turned out to be… pretty good, actually.

"Mockingbird" springs from the fertile imagination of Bryan Fuller, who created short-lived critical favorites "Pushing Daisies" and "Wonderfalls," and his ornate, offbeat sensibility is a perfect fit with the Munsters. He infuses "Mockingbird" with his trademark stylish visuals and a sharp, dark wit that's reminiscent of the recent "Addams Family" movies. His Munsters have a modern edge (werewolf Eddie wants to be a vegetarian; Grandpa reboots Herman's heart with a laptop) and are a lot more dangerous than Fred Gwynne and company. These monsters don't just frighten people... they want to eat them, too.

The Munsters of "Mockingbird Lane" fit into their suburban environment a little better than their movie-monster predecessors, but they're definitely still weirdos. Jerry O'Connell plays dad Herman, a Frankenstein's monster of stitched-together body parts with a zipper on his chest for easy heart-replacement. As his vampire wife Lily, Portia de Rossi is elegant and ethereal, traveling across the room in a cloud of smoke. Charity Wakefield plays non-monster cousin Marilyn, who's the family's bridge to normalcy; Mason Cook is Herman and Lily's boy-scout son Eddie, who's still unaware he's a werewolf. But the highlight is British actor/comedian Eddie Izzard, a true pleasure here as the droll, bloodthirsty vampire Grandpa. (He refuses a friendly handshake by saying simply, "I have a disease.")

Filled with clever nods to the original "Munsters" (when we first see Herman, his shadow seems to have Gwynne's squared-off head and bolted neck; Marilyn whistles the "Munsters" theme song to some crows), "Mockingbird" manages to find an appealingly odd tone all its own. Intrigued? We've got an exclusive six-minute first look at "Mockingbird Lane" right here, which introduces the entire Munster clan:

But don't just take our word for it. Check out these other not-at-all scathing reviews of "Mockingbird Lane" from other critics around the web:

"'Mockingbird' is what's called a 'busted pilot' -- lingo for a show that never went to series -- and it's easy to see what busted it. Besides a special effects budget that would bankrupt a medium-sized city, this one-off produced by Bryan Fuller ("Pushing Daisies") is deeply, happily subversive… There's a touch of the whimsical here, but quite possibly not the kind of whimsical NBC had in mind. Izzard's Grandpa, for example, is a demon polymorph with a murderous blood lust -- but also a martini-dry sense of humor… Outrageous, eccentric, funny, campy -- and too creepy for small kids. A real shame this isn't sticking around. Grade: B+" — Verne Gay, New York Newsday

"It has promise as a more family- and kid-friendly take on fantasy TV than NBC's sophomore hit, "Grimm"… The show doesn't have the quality of "Pushing Daisies," or Fuller's weirdly appealing "Wonderfalls," but there are enough oddball touches to make it benignly watchable… Kids will like "Mockingbird Lane" well enough. But if it does happen to become a permanent address on NBC, Fuller needs to sharpen the writing by throwing even more double-entendres in for the grown-ups. All the parts are here; they just need to be put together correctly." — David Wiegand, San Francisco Chronicle

"[It] starts out like a horror film (with some cheese on it), then segues into a much richer, heightened visual experience Fuller fans might recognize from 'Pushing Daisies'… Eddie Izzard as Grandpa sets the tone with a combination of evilness and snark, aiming for and achieving a larger-than-life feel without sliding over the edge into scenery-chewing (at least when he's not sucking the blood out of an animal or human)." — Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter

But we want to know what you think. After you watch the exclusive clip above, hit the comments and let us know how "Mockingbird Lane" looks to you, and be sure to head back here after the full episode airs to give us your, um, post-mortem.

"Mockingbird Lane" airs Friday, 10/26 at 8 PM on NBC.