Archive for May 13th, 2018

by Lucille Juliano

1313 Mockingbird Lane.  The address of one of the most funny “outside the box” families of 60s sitcoms.   A product of Universal Studios, the show was masterfully filmed in black and white to be modeled after the old monster movies.  The Munsters on the surface appears to be a “fish out of water” story where the family sees themselves as your average American family while the community at large has a completely different perspective on things.  In fact, that is precisely where much of the humor stems from.

But, The Munsters is much more than that.  Its writer/developers, Norm Lieberman and Ed Haas put the show’s characters into various situations that were absolutely hysterical and the physical comedy was outrageous.  Along with its talented team of writers, the casting for the show was phenomenal. Fred Gwynne (Herman) and Al Lewis (Grandpa) were a brilliant comedic team that have been likened to Laurel and Hardy and/or Abbott and Costello.  Yvonne DeCarlo as Lily was the shows center and kept the family grounded. It has been said that these three actors were irreplaceable and that the show never would have existed without them. The show’s set, a gothic Victorian house, to Grandpa’s lab to the Munster Koach were one home run after the other.

The Munsters were a different kind of family and that includes the family pets!  

(These descriptions were taken from “The Munsters – a trip down Mockingbird Lane” by Stephen Cox)

Herman Munster (Fred Gwynne) — 150 years old, size 26C shoe, 7’ 3”,

steel bolts in neck, green complexion, flat head, ears don’t match, lantern jaw, lightning bolt on forehead, built in Germany by Dr. Frankenstein.

Works in a mortuary – Gateman, Goodbury, and Graves.


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phone booth

By Stephen Mullen

I love 60s sitcoms. Even now, along with a few British shows, and cartoons (Simpsons or Futurama or Bevis and Butthead) they are the sit coms I am most likely to watch when they come on TV, even ahead of great shows like Seinfeld, or All in the Family or Taxi or MASH. Get Smart, Batman, Hogan’s Heroes – even the Beverly Hillbillies – I can always watch those shows.

It’s personal preference, shows I grew up on (though already in syndication; watching them at 4 in the afternoon, between Gunsmoke and Mr. Rogers), but it’s also the style. Sitcoms changed in the 60s – especially in the mid-60s. The culture changed; the technology changed (color TV!) – sitcoms shifted along with these things. The early classics – I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners, Leave it to Beaver – were all domestic shows, centered in the home; this was still the case in the early 60s, with shows like My Three Sons, The Andy Griffith Show, though the latter is as much about the town as his home. But around the middle of the 60s, shows started to appear that were more and more set outside the home – Get Smart, Hogan’s Heroes, Batman, Gilligan’s Island. And shows still built around home and family started to get a bit stranger – Bewitched and its magic, The Munsters and Addams Family, with their monsters, even the Beverly Hillbillies, with it’s over the top farce (it’s Li’l Abner vibe.) The technology changed – most of these shows were in color; most of them used single camera setups rather than multi-camera live shooting. And the tone changed – they were parodic, satiric, they embraced absurdity, camp, surrealism. They stopped trying to be realistic, they stopped pretending to be about people like you and me in naturalistic (if comic and extreme) situations – they embraced genre stories, and made fun of them, usually by combining commonplace situations (going to work, hanging with your friends, or even the old domesticity of sitcoms) with absurd situations – spies, POWs, witches, superheroes. In many ways, they adopted the style and tone of cartoons, comic strips, comic books – directly, when it comes to the Addams Family or Batman, but a lot of these shows share the style.

It didn’t last. Sitcoms in the 70s developed in a different direction – even political and socially aware shows became naturalistic again, treated their characters and situations as real people. All in the Family and Normal Lear’s other shows; Happy Days; and all the (wonderful) workplace comedies of the 70s – The Mary Tyler Moore Show, MASH, Taxi, Barney Miller – did this. Showed real work places, not comic spy headquarters or German POW camps; dropped the genre parodies, the absurdity, the magic and science fiction. The 70s was a great era for sitcoms – but I miss the weirdness of the 60s.

And none of them did it better than Get Smart. It was developed and written by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry (with Henry staying on as story editor for two years), conceived as a combination of James Bond and Inspector Clouseau. It starred Don Adams, Barbara Feldon and Ed Platt, plus a mob of character actors, with single or recurring roles. It ran 5 seasons, 4 on NBC and one on CBS, fading a bit through the years, and engaging in more than a few cheap ratings boosts in latter years, though we don’t need to dwell on that. And it was exemplary of the kind of show I am talking about here. It was made right when shows switched to color – the pilot is black and white, but the rest of the show is color; it was a single camera show for it’s whole run; it was a genre parody, and one that let in a lot of genre nonsense – spies and adventure, and funny gadgets, and straight up science fiction; it was never shy about parodying other culture – movies, other TV shows, and so on; it was packed with in-jokes, puns, references outside the show (names and titles and such); and it was a work place comedy, combining the goofy spy stuff with the banalities of an office job, using both to send up the other. (more…)

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