Monster Kid Memories: THE MUNSTERS!
If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve seen me mention the term “Monster Kids” and you may be wondering what in the name of Pete I’m talking about.
Back in TV’s infancy, a fascination with horror had been bubbling to the surface among America’s youth. Horror movies, long a province of adults, were being pitched to a younger, teenage audience. Horror comics from publishers like EC — such as Tales From the Crypt, The Vault of Horror and The Crypt of Terror — were gaining notoriety and huge sales. And a one-off network showing of RKO’s King Kong brought in massive numbers of viewers. Universal Studios, once the king of horror movies, saw that they were sitting on a gold mine, and began licensing out their films to TV stations in a syndication package called Shock Theater.
TV stations would typically run the films when network prime-time was over — late at night or on the weekends — and would employ horror hosts to present the movies. Kids were hooked. As a result, Famous Monsters came into existence to piggyback on the movies’ newfound success, and a subgroup of children became known as “monster kids.”
The logical next step was for the networks to jump in on the craze with horror-themed TV shows. ABC jumped into the fray early and began pre-production on The Addams Family (more on them in a separate post). CBS saw themselves being outpaced and sped into production on a show (produced by Universal Studios and thus free to use their monsters’ likenesses) titled The Munsters.
The premise of The Munsters was a typical fish-out-of-water scenario. The Munsters family was composed of monster archetypes (Herman, a Frankenstein monster; Grandpa and Lily, vampires; Eddie, a werewolf; and Marilyn, who was a normal human cousin from Lily’s side of the family). With the exception of Grandpa (who sticks to his “old country” ways and dabbles in mad science), the family has normal blue-collar outlooks and aspirations and wants to fit in with the rest of society. They also stick to typical sitcom character types insofar as their personalities go: Herman is the bumbling dad, Lily is the resourceful and smart mom, Grandpa is the eccentric relative, Eddie is the rambunctious kid and Marilyn is the straight-laced older “sister” with relationships on her mind. In many ways, it combined the “monster kid”-friendly scenario with a story that many could identify with: an immigrant family (from Transylvania) trying to settle into the American dream while feeling like misfits.
The show ran for two seasons, from 1964 to 1966.