THE SHOW "Mockingbird Lane"
WHEN | WHERE Friday night at 8 on NBC/4
WHAT IT'S ABOUT When something terrifying happens to little Eddie Munster (Mason Cook) during a Boy Scout camping trip in Maine, the Munsters decide to pack up and move west -- to 1313 Mockingbird Lane, a forbidding Gothic monstrosity that once housed a serial killer. They love it.
"They" are Grandpa (Eddie Izzard), a vampire; Herman (Jerry O'Connell), constructed of various body parts from other bodies; Lily (Portia de Rossi), a shape-shifter with a marvelous ability to float on ceilings; and Marilyn (Charity Wakefield), without any special talents per se. Herman has a problem -- he loves too deeply, which is bad for his heart. Grandpa actively seeks a replacement. It's based on the 1964-66 Fred Gwynne/Yvonne De Carlo CBS classic.
MY SAY "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.
New management at NBC, for example, has demanded that all new comedies have "heart" -- an emotional little kicker that makes viewers reach for the hankie. But in addition to his many other talents, Fuller is apparently a literalist, too, because he gave the network not just "heart" but many hearts -- pulsing, bloody things ripped from a chest that closes with the aid of a zipper. And as in Fuller's "Dead Like Me," where the protagonist is dispatched by a falling toilet, 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: "I've had many brides," he says. "All dead now. We keep in touch." Even Al Lewis -- the original Grandpa -- would be shocked at what he's become in the new version.
BOTTOM LINE Outrageous, eccentric, funny, campy -- and too creepy for small kids. A real shame this isn't sticking around.