A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this 1960s family sitcom features characters resembling those from classic horror stories like Frankenstein and Dracula. But despite the characters' unusual appearance, they're a pleasant, loving family. Occasional jokey references to blood, graves, or Mr. Munster's work at a funeral home is about as scary as the show gets -- though people often express fear when they meet the family, and many beat a hasty retreat. Herman and Lily show affection toward each other, and some episodes include romantic kisses.
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What's the story?
THE MUNSTERS is a classic 1960s sitcom centered on an extended family whose members happen to resemble horror movie characters. Herman Munster (Fred Gwynne) looks just like Frankenstein, while his wife Lily (Yvonne De Carlo) could be the Bride of Frankenstein's double. Grandpa (Al Lewis) is a vampire, and little Eddie (Butch Patrick) is a werewolf. Niece Marilyn (Pat Priest) also lives with the family, and she's the black sheep because her looks are so conventional.
Is it any good?
The primary conceit of the series (which debuted a week after the similarly themed Addams Family in 1964) is that the Munster family doesn't realize that they're unusual. Their lives are rather ordinary -- Herman works, Lily does housework (which involves making the house dirty, rather than clean), Eddie goes to elementary school, and Grandpa tinkers in the basement with his experiments. Each episode usually contains at least one interaction with the outside world. For instance, when Grandpa accidentally puts a Sleeping Beauty spell on Marilyn, the family puts an ad in the paper searching for a genuine prince to wake her with a kiss. Two actors show up expecting an audition for a theater part; when they realize their error, they retreat in horror -- much to the Munsters' surprise.
Aside from the fact that it embraces the traditional gender roles that were typical of the era, The Munsters is still clean, non-problematic family entertainment. Occasional arguments occur between Grandpa and Herman, but they typically involve one calling the other "goofball" and then sharing a giggle. And the show's general ghoulishness is entirely benign and will probably confuse or amuse very young viewers rather than frighten them.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the different kinds of families. Kids: Do you know any families that are nice even though they're very different from you and your parents? What makes them different? Do those differences affect what you think of them? What other people think of them? How are the Munsters similar to and different from your family? What fictional characters would play your family members, and why? Families can also discuss how values change over the years. What things do you notice characters in the show doing that aren't typically acceptable now? Why do you think that changed? What else has changed between now and 40 years ago (on TV and in general)?
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