Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Munsters: "My Fair Munster" (October 1, 1964)

In “My Fair Munster,” another boyfriend drops Marilyn (Beverly Owen, and Grandpa (Al Lewis) decides to do something about it. He concocts in his basement laboratory a love potion that will make her irresistible to all who set eyes on her. 

Grandpa puts the potion in Marilyn’s oatmeal, but Marilyn skips breakfast, and Herman (Fred Gwynne) and Lily (Yvonne De Carlo) end up eating the love potion.

Before long, the mailman, Mr. Bloom (John Fiedler) is madly in love with Lily, and the nosy neighbor, Yolanda Cribbins (Claire Carleton) is in love with Herman…

Funnily enough, “My Fair Munster,” the second episode of The Munsters (1964 – 1966) is something of a bedroom farce.

This format, a forerunner to the Theatre of the Absurd, is known for its strange sexual pairings, and the running through and slamming of various household doors.  The form features a mixture of high and low humor, and focuses, often, on outrageous dialogue.

That brief definition perfectly describes the last section of “My Fair Munster,” as Lily and Herman attempt to avoid and escape their suitors, sometimes in apparent fast-motion. 

They do so by running through secret doors, hiding in wardrobes, and going in and out of various rooms in their Gothic mansion. 

So the episode -- in somewhat inspired fashion -- couples 1940s Universal Monsters and Gothic settings with French-inspired bedroom farce situations.

And here I thought American sitcoms of the 1960s were stupid…

But seriously, this is another Marilyn-centric early episode of The Munsters, in which her doting parents worry for her because they see her as being out of the norm.  and therefore disadvantaged.  Lily notes that Marilyn is “not as fortunate as the rest of us,” and so, by inference, the others should be patient with her.  

Exasperated, Herman notes “No one of my side of the family looks like that.”

And, of course, Marilyn is conventionally beautiful, whereas Herman is, conventionally-speaking, hideous.  Once more, it’s all part of The Munsters' ongoing conceit about fitting in, and beauty being in the eye of the beholder. The Munsters don’t see themselves as being outside the norm. They see themselves as perfect, normal, Americans.

It’s everyone else who is weird.

Once again, “My Fair Lady” hits the same gag, over and over.  Herman, tending to his back yard, observes “I'll be out back, watering the weeds.”  And later, he is told “You know, they just don’t make men like you, anymore.”  This is literally true, since he is cobbled together from several dead men.

Again and again, these jokes point out clichés of American life and then twist them to some monstrous (and therefore funny) standard.  

The Munsters hits this target again and again, repetitively, over its run, a one joke show.  But, again, that one joke is really pretty funny.  

You either get tired of the joke, or get on board, and admire the target practice.  

I go with the latter option, especially since The Munsters seems so concerned with a pro-social outcome: helping us understand that "normal" is in the eye of the beholder.

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