|Created by||Allan Burns|
|Developed by||Norm Liebmann|
Yvonne De Carlo
Beverley Owen (1964)
Pat Priest (1964–66)
|Theme music composer||Jack Marshall|
Bob Mosher (unaired lyrics)
|Opening theme||"The Munsters' Theme"|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||70 (list of episodes)|
|Production locations||Universal Studios, Universal City, California|
|Running time||25 minutes|
|Production companies||Kayro-Vue Productions|
|Distributor||NBCUniversal Television Distribution|
|Picture format||Black-and-white 35mm film|
|Original release||September 24, 1964 –|
May 12, 1966
|Followed by||The Munsters Today|
The Munsters is an American sitcom depicting the home life of a family of benign monsters. The series starred Fred Gwynne as Frankenstein's monster[Notes 1] and head-of-the-household Herman Munster; Yvonne De Carlo as his vampire wife Lily; Al Lewis as Lily's father, Grandpa, the somewhat over-the-hill vampire Count Dracula[Notes 2] who longs for the "good old days" in Transylvania; Beverley Owen (later replaced by Pat Priest) as their college-age niece Marilyn, who was attractive by conventional standards but the "ugly duckling" of the family; and Butch Patrick as their werewolfish son Eddie.
Produced by the creators of Leave It to Beaver, the series was a satire of American suburban life, the wholesome TV family fare of the era, and traditional monster movies. It achieved higher Nielsen ratings than the similarly macabre-themed The Addams Family, which aired concurrently on ABC.
In 1965, The Munsters was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series but lost to The Rogues. In the 21st century it received several TV Land Award nominations, including one for Most Uninsurable Driver (Herman Munster).
The series originally aired on Thursday at 7:30 pm on CBS from September 24, 1964, to May 12, 1966. Seventy episodes were produced. It was cancelled after ratings dropped to a series low due to competition from ABC's Batman. Butch Patrick said, "I think 'Batman' was to blame. 'Batman' just came along and took our ratings away." But The Munsters found a large audience in syndication. This popularity warranted a spin-off series, as well as several films, including one with a theatrical release, and several more recent attempts to reboot it.
The Munsters are a Transylvanian-American family living at 1313 Mockingbird Lane in the fictional city of Mockingbird Heights.[Notes 3] The series' running gag is that the decidedly odd-looking family with strange tastes considers itself to be an average American family. Herman is the family's sole wage-earner, though Lily and Grandpa make short-lived attempts to earn money from time to time. While Herman is the head of the household, Lily also makes many decisions. According to episode 44 ("Happy 100th Anniversary"), in which Lily and Herman try to surprise each other for their anniversary, they were married in 1865.
The character's costumes and appearances (other than Marilyn) were based on the classic monsters of Universal Studios films of the 1930s and 1940s, including the iconic version of Frankenstein's monster developed by Jack Pierce for the 1931 Universal Studios film Frankenstein. Since Universal jointly produced The Munsters the show was able to use these copyrighted designs. Make-up for the series was credited to Bud Westmore, who pioneered many other make-up effects and designs for Universal's monster movies after Pierce.
The show satirized the typical family sitcom formula of the era: the well-meaning father, the nurturing mother, the eccentric live-in relative, the naïve teenager, and the precocious child. Members of the Munster family even refer to several sitcoms which the Munsters themselves watch. In episode 45, "Operation Herman", Lily tells Herman to have a father-son talk with Eddie because "a thing like this is up to the father. Anyone who's watched Father Knows Best for nine years ought to know that," to which Herman replies, "All right. But Donna Reed always handles things on her show." In episode 47, "John Doe Munster", Grandpa describes My Three Sons as being about a "crazy, mixed-up family that's always having weird adventures."[Notes 4]
Al Lewis, in an interview with Daily Variety explained, "We can do a lot of satirical pointed things on society that you couldn't do on an ordinary show." Lewis also said, "Philosophically, the format is that in spite of the way people look to you physically, underneath there is a heart of gold. The Munsters reflected changes in social attitudes during the Civil Rights Era, and in 2020 the speech Herman makes to Eddie in the 1965 episode "Eddie's Nickname" went viral: "The lesson I want you to learn is that it doesn't matter what you look like. Whether you are tall or short; or fat or thin; or ugly or handsome – like your father – or you can be black, or yellow, or white. It doesn't matter. What matters is the size of your heart and the strength of your character."
Main article: List of The Munsters characters
The idea of a family of comical monsters was first suggested to Universal Studios by animator Bob Clampett, who developed the idea from 1943 to 1945 as a series of cartoons. The project did not take off until mid-1963 when a similar idea was submitted to Universal Studios by Rocky & Bullwinkle writers Allan Burns and Chris Hayward. The proposal was later handed to writers Norm Liebman and Ed Haas, who wrote a pilot script, Love Thy Monster. Some executives believed the series should be animated while others argued for live-action.
According to Burns, "We sort of stole the idea from Charles Addams and his New Yorker cartoons.... Because Universal owned the Frankenstein character and the Dracula character for movie rights, they decided to take their characters instead of the characters we had written."
In 1964 a live-action pilot titled "My Fair Munster" was filmed in color by MCA Television for CBS. Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis were the first to be cast early in February 1964. They had just come off Car 54, Where Are You? and had good chemistry together. Beverly Owen was signed to play Marilyn; Joan Marshall was cast as Herman's wife, "Phoebe"; and "Happy" Nate Derman was cast as Eddie. A second pilot was ordered in April 1964 with Yvonne De Carlo replacing Marshall, and the character renamed "Lilly". For a third pilot, "Happy" Nate Derman was replaced by Butch Patrick. CBS liked both DiCarlo and Patrick, but ordered a fourth pilot where Eddie was less bratty.
The show was produced by Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher, who were already known for creating the Leave It to Beaver television series. Prior to that they wrote over 1,500 episodes of Amos 'n' Andy, a popular network radio program, for nearly its entire history.
Over the course of season one, the makeup for Herman, Lily, and Grandpa was adjusted. Lily's hair originally had a large white streak, which was reduced in later episodes. Her necklace featured a bat instead of a star, and her eyebrows were angled more. Grandpa's make-up was exaggerated, including heavier eyebrows, and Herman's face was widened for a dopier and less human appearance. Gwynne also added a stutter whenever Herman was angry or wanted to make a point, and he frequently left his mouth open, adding to the effect of a goofy, less frightening, figure.
Main article: Munster Mansion
The Munsters' home was a decaying Second Empire Victorian mansion located at 1313 Mockingbird Lane in Mockingbird Heights. The town's location is not specified in the series, but in later incarnations it is described as a small town outside Los Angeles.
The Munster home was located on the Universal Studios back lot. It was originally constructed with two other houses on Stage 12, the studio's largest soundstage, for the 1946 film "So Goes My Love" (aka "A Genius in the Family"). After that film was completed, the sets were put into storage until 1950, when they (along with other house sets built from stock units) were reassembled on the north edge of the backlot along a road christened Colonial Street, after the Colonial Mansion which was the first house on the street. All three houses were seen in many TV shows and films, including Leave It to Beaver.
In 1964 the house was redressed as the Munster home and a stone wall was added around the property. After The Munsters ended its run, the house was restored. It was the home of the family in Shirley (NBC, 1979–80).
In 1981 all of the homes on Colonial Street were moved from the north end of the lot to their present location. The former Munster house was used in Coach and, after another remodel, Desperate Housewives.
The interiors of the Munsters' mansion were filmed on Stages 30 and 32 at Universal Studios. The interior was riddled with dust, smoke and cobwebs. (When Lily "dusted" the house, her Electrolux emitted clouds of dust, which she applied to surfaces most people would clean.) As a running gag, parts of the house would often be damaged (mostly by Herman's tantrums or clumsiness), but the damage would not last.
In the fourth episode ("Rock-A-Bye Munster"), Lily buys a hot-rod and a hearse from a used car dealership and has them customized into one car (Munster Koach) for Herman's birthday present. The Munster Koach and DRAG-U-LA (built by Grandpa in episode 36, "Hot Rod Herman") were designed by Tom Daniel and built by auto customizer George Barris for the show. The "Munster Koach" was a hot rod built on a lengthened 1926 Ford Model T chassis with a custom hearse body. It was 18 feet long and cost almost $20,000 to build. Barris also built the "DRAG-U-LA," a dragster built from a coffin (according to Barris, a real coffin was, in fact, purchased for the car), which Grandpa used to win back "The Munster Koach" after Herman lost it in a race.
The instrumental theme song, titled "The Munsters' Theme", was composed by composer/arranger Jack Marshall. Described by writer Jon Burlingame as a "Bernard-Herrmann-meets-Duane-Eddy sound", the theme was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1965. The song's lyrics, which were written by co-producer Bob Mosher, were never aired on CBS.
The first presentation was 16 minutes and in color (later cut to just over 13 minutes) and was used to pitch the series to CBS and its affiliates. (The episode is available on the complete first season of The Munsters DVDs.) It never aired, but the script was reused as the basis for episode 2, "My Fair Munster". The cast in order of appearance in the title sequence was: Joan Marshall as Phoebe (instead of Lily), Beverley Owen as Marilyn, Nate "Happy" Derman as Eddie, Al Lewis as Grandpa, and Fred Gwynne as Herman. Although the same house exterior was used, it was later changed to appear more gothic and "spooky" in the series. This included adding the tower deck and Marilyn's deck; a new coat of paint; and enlarging the living room. Although Grandpa had the same dungeon, Gwynne did not wear padding in the pitch episode, had a more protruding forehead, and was broad but thin. The most noticeable difference was his somber expression, compared to his comic silliness during the series. Except for Marilyn, the family had a blue-green tint to their skin. The biggest character difference was that Eddie was portrayed by Derman as a nasty brat. Eddie, as played by Patrick, was mostly respectful.
The pilot title sequence had light, happy music borrowed from the Doris Day movie The Thrill of It All instead of the instrumental rock theme. It was also decided that Joan Marshall looked too much like Morticia Addams and that Happy Derman was too nasty as Eddie, so both were replaced. On the basis of the first presentation, the new series, still not completely cast, was announced by CBS on February 18, 1964. A second black-and-white presentation was filmed with DeCarlo and Patrick. In this version, Eddie appeared with a more "normal" look, although his hairstyle was later altered to include a pronounced widow's peak.
During the first season, the Munster family appeared in an Easter special when they visited Marineland of the Pacific in Palos Verdes, California, to get a new pet for Eddie. Shot on videotape, it aired just once on CBS on April 18, and was long thought lost until a copy was donated to the Paley Center in New York in 1997.
Main article: List of The Munsters episodes
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||38||September 24, 1964||June 10, 1965|
|2||32||September 16, 1965||May 12, 1966|
|Special||April 18, 1965|
The series entered syndication on local stations after its original run. In the 1990s it aired on Nick at Nite and on TV Land from 2000 to 2008. In October 2011, the series was picked up by Cartoon Network's sister channel Boomerang and ran through the entire month of October that year for Halloween alongside The Addams Family. It vanished from Boomerang after Halloween 2013.
On October 5, 2015, Cozi TV began airing the series, currently on weeknights at 7pm Eastern and in a two-hour block on Sunday evenings.
Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis appeared in full make-up and costumes riding in the Munster Koach in the 1964 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Gwynne made solo appearances in character on the Red Skelton show in April 1965, in the Murray the K special, "What's Happening, Baby?" in June 1965, and on and the Danny Kaye show in April 1966.
Main article: The Munsters (film series)
Several Munsters movies were released, three featuring original cast members.
Main article: The Mini-Munsters
In 1973, ABC aired an animated one-hour special, The Mini-Munsters, based on characters from the original series.
Main article: The Munsters Today
A sequel television series, titled The Munsters Today, ran from 1988 to 1991 and lasted for 72 episodes. The unaired pilot episode, written by Lloyd J. Schwartz, explained the 22-year gap through an accident in Grandpa's lab that put the family to sleep. They awake in the late 1980s and have to adapt to their new surroundings. It featured John Schuck (Herman), Lee Meriwether (Lily), Howard Morton (Grandpa), and Jason Marsden (Eddie). Marilyn was portrayed by Mary-Ellen Dunbar in the unaired pilot, and by Hilary Van Dyke thereafter.
Main article: Mockingbird Lane
A reboot from Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller, was developed for NBC. The show was to be a reboot as a one-hour drama with "spectacular visuals". NBC ordered a pilot episode, and announced in January 2012 that it would be called Mockingbird Lane, a reference to the Munster's address. NBC ultimately canceled plans for Mockingbird Lane to be produced as a weekly series, but later announced the pilot episode would air in late October 2012 as a Halloween special. The series failed to be picked up by NBC due to disagreements on the dark nature and inconsistent tone.
In 1998, Rob Zombie released the single "Dragula". Its title came from the name of Grandpa's eponymous dragster DRAG-U-LA. The music video mimics, in parts, The Munsters family getting into the car for a ride.
A sample of the theme's guitar riff was used in the song "Uma Thurman" by Fall Out Boy.
Between 2004 and 2008, Universal Studios Home Entertainment released the entire series on DVD in Regions 1 & 2.
|DVD Name||Ep#||Region 1||Region 2||Region 4||Additional Information|
|Season 1||38||August 24, 2004
February 5, 2013 (re-released)
|October 17, 2005||November 30, 2006||
|Season 2||32||October 25, 2005
February 5, 2013 (re-released)
|May 1, 2006||October 25, 2006||
|The Complete Series||70||October 7, 2008
September 13, 2016 (re-released)
|The Complete Series (Closed Casket Collection)||70||N/A||October 8, 2007||
|The Complete Series||August 3, 2016|
The "Family Portrait" episode in color, which was absent from the season 1 and 2 standalone box sets, was released on a standalone Region 1 DVD on October 7, 2008.
Gold Key Comics produced a Munsters comic book which ran 16 issues from 1965 to 1968 and had photo covers from the TV series. When it first appeared, the Comics Code Authority still forbade the appearance of vampires in comic books. However, this was not a problem at Gold Key, because Gold Key was not a member of the Comics Magazine Association of America and therefore did not have to conform to the Comics Code. Lily and Grandpa appeared in the comics without controversy.
Other merchandise included a set of rubber squeaky toys, Colorforms, and an Aurora model kit of the living room and family. AMT produced model kits of the Munster Koach as well as Drag-u-La. The Aurora model of the living room featured Herman in his electric chair, Eddie squatting in front of the fire, Lily was knitting and Grandpa was hanging, bat like, from the rafters. Marilyn was not included. ERTL later produced a very detailed 1:18 scale diecast of the Munster Koach. Mattel issued two Herman Munster Dolls, one was a talking doll and the other was a hand puppet (both having chatty rings that you could pull to make them talk utilizing Gwynne's actual voice) that were issued from 1964 until around 1968.
A video game based on The Munsters was published by "Again, Again" (a division of Alternative Software) in 1989. It was available for the Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga, Atari ST, MSX, and DOS, but was heavily criticized by gaming press at the time because of its short length and lackluster game play.
In 1990, Atari Corporation released Midnight Mutants for the Atari 7800, featuring Al Lewis' likeness in his Grampa Munster character on the box art and label art. However, since Atari did not sign an agreement with Universal, they could not call him "Grampa Munster"; he was simply called "Grampa".
Sawyer's View-Master Stereo Pictures issued a 3-D reel set of The Munsters depicting the episode "The Most Beautiful Ghoul in the World" in 1966, Packet No. B 481. The set contains three reels, each with seven 3-D views, as well as a small booklet containing drawings and additional text. The View-Master set is notable because the photographs provide rare color views of the characters and sets, including house interiors and Grandpa's dungeon laboratory. The photos are an accurate depiction of the characters' makeup as designed for black and white filming. Herman, Eddie, and Grandpa all wear heavy greenish-white facial makeup, which contrasts noticeably with their un-made-up hands and wrists. Lily, besides heavy facial makeup, has light greenish-white makeup on her hands and wrists. Marilyn, identified on the packet as "Daughter Marilyn," is of course in non-character "normal" makeup.