The Munsters Lily Munster
by Christopher Chouinard
The Munsters is an American television sitcom depicting the home life of a family of benign monsters. It stars Fred Gwynne as Herman Munster and Yvonne De Carlo as his wife, Lily Munster. The series was a satire of both traditional monster movies and the wholesome family fare of the era, and was produced by the creators of Leave It to Beaver. It ran concurrently with The Addams Family.
The series aired at night once a week in black-and-white on CBS from September 24, 1964 to May 12, 1966, for 70 episodes. It was broadcast weekly on BBC1 in the UK. It was canceled after ratings dropped to a low due to the premiere of ABC's Batman, which was in full color. Though ratings were low during its initial two-year run, The Munsters grew in popularity during decades of syndication. This popularity warranted a spin-off series, as well as several films, including one with a theatrical release. On October 26, 2012, NBC aired a modern reimagining of The Munsters called Mockingbird Lane. The family, while decidedly odd, consider themselves fairly typical working-class people of the era. Herman, like many husbands of the 1960s, is the sole wage-earner in the family, though Lily and Grandpa make (short-lived) attempts to earn a little money from time to time. While Herman is the titular "head of household," Lily actually makes most of the decisions.
Despite the novel approach of the family being (mostly) supernatural creatures, the show followed the typical family sitcom formula – the bumbling, well-meaning father, the practical mother, the eccentric extra-nuclear live-in relative, and the precocious kid.
Despite superficial similarities of horror-movie characters incongruent with their communities and a generally gothic look, this and Addams Family were different in the style of series and characterization. Overall, the characters of The Addams Family were wealthy eccentrics with a gothic look who generally stayed at home, while the Munsters were a blue-collar and generally outgoing family of legendary monsters.
The costumes and appearances of the family members other than Marilyn were based on the classic monsters of Universal Studios films from the 1930s and 1940s. Universal produced The Munsters as well, and was thus able to use these copyrighted designs, including their idiosyncratic version of Frankenstein's monster for Herman.Other studios were free to make films with the Frankenstein creature, for example, but could not use the costume and style of makeup originally created by Jack Pierce for the 1931 Universal Studios film Frankenstein.