Because they’re monsters. Get it.
This week, Sports On TV looks at the 10 greatest sports moments from the hit 1964 sitcom ‘The Munsters,’ about a family of Universal Monsters who live in a creepy old mansion and try (and mostly fail) to interact with the normal people in their community. Sure, it’s the Go-Bots to ‘The Addams Family’s’ Transformers, but it was a fun show and a great example of 1960s sitcom joy, and come on, I know at least one of your parents loved this and made you watch it. Hopefully the same parent who made you watch ‘The Brady Bunch.’
If you’ve never seen the show, check out the list anyway, because it is all about a Frankenstein making life difficult for strangers. The list features appearances from Hall of Fame baseball players, legendary MMA instructors and a drag racing coffin that Rob Zombie made famous to a new generation. So yeah, click through to enjoy the 10 greatest sports moments from ‘The Munsters.’ And don’t forget to unlock our commenting badge while you’re at it.
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Episode: “Herman’s Peace Offensive” (season 2, episode 13)
What Happens: Poor little Eddie Munster is being picked on at school, and because this is the 1960s, he’s able to say things like I’LL KILL HIM. His parents, a vampire and a Frankenstein, encourage Eddie not to fight, and to take the peaceful way out. This leads to Eddie getting a black eye, like it always does. Meanwhile, Herman (who is a shoot Frankenstein) is being harassed by a prankster at the morgue (where he works), and things escalate until the guy’s just trying to hurt him out of cruelty. When Herman and Eddie’s stories meet, it’s time for BOXING TRAINING, courtesy of a heavy bag hanging in the downstairs lab/dungeon. For extra emphasis, Herman draws both Eddie’s bully and his own on the bag, which leads to lots of FRANKENSTEIN PUNCHES SHIT SO HARD laughs. Eddie knocks out his bully (who looks like one of the fatter members of ‘Our Gang’ time-traveled into the 60s), and Herman finally utilizes his ability to BE A GIANT FRANKENSTEIN (and also a joy buzzer) to emasculate his. Violence DOES solve problems, everybody!
Key line: “Eddie, as Sonny Liston said after his last fight: I think it’s time to sit down and reevaluate our philosophy.”
“Parents encourage their kid not to fight the bully, but then the bully gets physical so they decide to give him boxing training to whomp the shit out of the kid” is one of the best of the 1960s sitcom tropes, best exemplified by that one episode of ‘The Brady Bunch.’ In the broader sense, “nerd must prep to fight the bully” is one of the best sitcom tropes of ALL, and lives on in shows as good as ‘Freaks and Geeks’ or as Urkel as ‘Family Matters.’ I don’t blame the sour-faced Little Rascals kid for picking on Eddie, though. Eddie only has one outfit, and it looks like it should only be worn by a porcelain doll on QVC.
Another thing I learned from this episode is that I’ve been mad at the colorization of ‘The Munsters’ for DECADES for the wrong reason. I was always mad that they made Eddie green (because he’s supposed to be a werewolf, right?), but in this episode the bully’s all WHAT’RE YA, YELLA, and Eddie responds with “no, I’m green.” So it’s canon. That horrible, inaccurate colorization is canon. Ah well, I guess now I can just get back to worrying about how a vampire had sex with a Frankenstein and made a werewolf.
Episode: “Herman The Great” (season 1, episode 8)
What Happens: Yes, ‘The Munsters’ had a pro wrestling episode, and it happened only 8 episodes into the run of the show. They only had 7 better ideas than “Herman moonlights as a pro wrestler to earn extra money, because he’s worried that he won’t be able to pay for Eddie’s college tuition one day.” Don’t get me wrong, that is the best idea, I’m just saying.
But yeah, that’s the plot here. A friend of Eddie’s sees Herman twist a metal bar into a knot and takes it home to show his dad, who turns out to be a fight promoter. Friend’s Dad convinces Herman to wrestle on his weekly TV show as “The Masked Marvel,” and Herman is clearly physically superior to his opponents (because he is a GODDAMN FRANKENSTEIN), but keeps losing because he has a soft heart and can’t bear to beat up wrestlers with such believable sob stories. They’ve got kids to support! I like to think this is what happens on Raw. Dolph Ziggler’s about to pin John Cena in the main event, but then Cena’s like “oh man, I feel so bad, I just got divorced and everybody’s booing me.” Ziggler goes “well gee, I’m sorry” and just lies down.
Eventually the matches get a “we’ll pay you for every minute you can last in the ring with The Masked Marvel” stip, and a carny promoter brings in a ringer to extort the company. Grandpa Munster overhears the plan, exposes the fraud, does magic to make Herman airplane spin the guy to death and saves the day. Note to all create-a-wrestler fans making Munsters characters in WWE 13: Herman’s finish is the airplane spin.
Key line: “I saw the match on television, I haven’t seen such a dive since I was forced down by a vulture over Transylvania!”
Important note here: Herman’s first opponent is “Tarzan McGuirk,” played by none-other than Grandfather of MMA, former pro wrestler and instructional legend Gene LeBell. Modern wrestling fans may know him as the guy Daniel Bryan originally named his “LeBell Lock” submission move after. Gene is also a Sports On TV legend, having previously appeared as the referee in the wrestling episodes of ‘Married… With Children’ and the wrestling episode of ‘Family Matters.’ The lesson here: If you made a TV show between 1960 and 1995 and it had a wrestling episode, Gene LeBell was probably involved.
Episode: “Herman The Rookie” (season 1, episode 29)
What Happens: Herman teaches his son the finer points of baseball by hitting pop flies at the local park. Because he is a Frakenstein, Herman has the ability to hit home runs that not only clear the fence, but travel eight blocks away and strike people in the face. Today, he banks a ball off the face of Hall of Fame manager Leo Durocher (playing himself, between managerial stints in New York and Chicago). Durocher is so impressed by the moonshot that he visits the Munster mansion and offers Herman a tryout with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Well, the Dodgers are MENTIONED. When they actually get to the field, everybody’s wearing generic “baseball” uniforms, like the ones players wear when they get macaroni and cheese box cards.
One of the enduring themes of ‘The Munsters’ is that Herman is a nice, gentle guy, but he is also a f**king Frankenstein, which means he doesn’t know his own strength and can’t participate in sports with human beings because he’ll literally murder them by accident. He puts a hole in the outfield fence, destroys the scoreboard with a home run and causes his teammates to forfeit the practice because they don’t want to get injured. Ultimately the Dodgers decide that Herman isn’t worth the thousands of dollars of repairs they’d have to make to Dodger Stadium after every game.
Key line: “I think this whole thing is ridiculous! Imagine, Herman, a grown man of a 150 years old, playing baseball with young men of 55 and 60.”
The episode ends with a play on its opening, with Herman giving up baseball to teach Eddie football, punting a ball 8 blocks and hitting the owner of the Los Angeles Rams in the face.
Also in this episode: Herman hits a grounder so hard it literally goes through the third baseman’s hand (!!) and Leo Durocher has to decide whether or not to sign Herman to the Dodgers or SEND HIM TO VIETNAM. This is the best “hahaha oh shiiiit” line in The Munsters history, especially if you’re a weird guy on the Internet watching episodes in 2013.
ALSO also in this episode, Durocher lands one of the great “whoops, people in the 60s were awful” lines in sitcom history during this exchange, where he throws hilarious racist shade at the poor Munsters:
“Hey Leo, where’s this great prospect you were telling me about?”
“He’s in the clubhouse, getting his uniform on. He’ll be right out.”
“Hey, what’s he like?”
“Well, he’s no matinee idol, but oh, you, know, it’s a whole family, it’s a weird set up. Eh, they all look like a bunch of wetbacks from the petrified forest.”
Episode: season 2 intro
What Happens: In the opening credits of season 1, Lily Munsters stands at the bottom of a staircase and greets the members of the family as they’re leaving. In season 2 we jump to the front porch, where everybody walks through the door and does something silly. Herman leaves a Herman-shaped hole in the door, for example. For whatever reason, Eddie Munster emerges from the Herman hole with a gigantic baseball bat, strikes a weird bunting pose, then continues on his way. So yeah, I get that the Munsters are monsters so they do monstrous things, but where the hell did he get a twice-his-size baseball bat? They did a baseball episode in season 1, and Frakenstein-ass Herman was even using regulation bats. You are weird, Eddie. Why do you need a bat that big if you’re just gonna bunt? Are you worried you’re going to miss the ball?
Key line: Here’s the intro:
That really is one of the best TV show themes ever. And while I’m talking about the opening credits, can I point out how I think “Pat Priest” was just the stage name of Betty Hofstadt Draper Francis from back in her modeling days? ‘The Munsters’ started in 1964, so the timeline almost works. And seriously, look at them:
Episode: “Country Club Munsters” (season 1, episode 30)
What Happens: Remember that thing I mentioned about how the show is mostly about a community of people who have their possessions destroyed and their lives threatened because a Frakenstein won’t stop showing up and accidentally wrecking shit? In “Country Club Munsters,” the family wins a membership to a prestigious local country club, so Herman decides to go golfing. HE IS A FRANKENSTEIN FOR CHRIST’S SAKES so when he swings at balls he destroys them, drives the ball 1500 yards with an 8 Iron and digs up 80% of the green by stomping around on it with his godless Frankenstein feet.
He goes home happy about how fun golf is, but reads in the paper about how a “madman” destroyed the country club’s golf course. He decides he doesn’t want his family to go back if there are madman roaming around. Oh, to be a Frankenstein.
Key line: “Grandpa, this place is depressingly cheerful. But I suppose this modern decor is what they go in for.”
It’s not quite Moe Howard murdering people with a shower of angry golf balls, but it’ll do.
Episode: “Hot Rod Herman” (season 1, episode 36)
What Happens: In an episode that originally aired in 1960-five-five-five, Eddie gets Herman involved in a bet with a professional race car driver, and they plan to drag race for the ownership of the Munster Koach. The driver doesn’t seem to care that Herman is a Superbeast who is More Human Than Human, so Grandpa Munster steps in and takes Herman’s place in the race. Grandpa’s car is a high-speed racing coffin known as DRAG-U-LA, which he built after looking through Satan’s blueprints, choosing a few of The Devil’s Rejects and using some of the creepier things from his House Of 1,000 Corpses. Grandpa uses DRAG-U-LA to dig through the ditches, burn through the witches and win. But wait! It turns out the pro racer is the Scum Of The Earth and has removed Grandpa’s brake chute! Suddenly Grandpa is a Demon Speeding, and when he realizes the car is Never Gonna Stop, gets Herman to grab it, plant his feet on the asphalt and Bring Her Down.
Key line: “You know, Eddie, I used to be a great racing fan back in Transylvania. Oh, I had such gay times going to the wolf tracks and betting on our family.”
Jokes aside, this is where Rob Zombie got that song title. The techno remix is actually called the “Hot Rod Herman” remix.
One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is how super gay Herman Munster is. I don’t mean that in the pejorative, he’s just extremely gay. In this episode, his drag racing outfit is almost exactly what Tobias Funke bought to be a leather daddy on ‘Arrested Development.’ He looks like a member of the Village People, if one of them was a Frankenstein. Just an observation. In the world of ‘The Munsters,’ almost any problem or solution to a problem can be excused with A GAY FRANKENSTEIN DID IT. Love it.
Episode: “Bronco-Bustin’ Munster” (season 2, episode 2)
What Happens: speaking of a gay frankenstein
The township of Mockingbird Heights is celebrating “Frontier Days,” which will feature a rodeo. Eddie gets into the spirit of things (because if there’s one thing we all know, it’s that child werewolves love cowboys … I think this is what the fourth Twilight book was about) and signs Herman up for a bucking bronco contest, talking to anyone who’ll listen about how great his dad is. Herman ISN’T great and is terrified of riding a horse, so Grandpa agrees to use magic, transform HIMSELF into a horse, let Herman ride him and take the prize without getting hurt. Meanwhile, crooked Frontier Days promoters hear Eddie’s boasts and decide to give Herman “Volcano,” the most dangerous bronco of all. Things go well until Grandpa’s horse spell wears off and Herman ends up riding the dangerous horse, but don’t worry, he weighs like 2,000 pounds and has no trouble taming Volcano. He wins the prize, then faints when he realizes he hadn’t been riding his father-in-law. Yeah, ‘The Munsters’ was pretty weird sometimes.
Key line: “Uncle Herman is certainly showing the spectators what he’s made of.” “Yes, and I hope we can replace the parts!”
One of my favorite things about Herman is how eager he is to fit in with people, even young people. He just wants to be accepted for who he is on the inside … a calm, gentle, helpful man who just happens to be godless, possess the ability to make werewolf babies, performs black magic on the regular and may or may not eventually drown a little girl in a lake.
I also love how wonderfully 1960s he is. You know how Adam West’s Batman would just randomly break out into 60s dances or whatever? Herman is fresh with 60s lingo, and if I get anything out of writing a column about ‘The Munsters,’ it’ll be a desire to use the word “wizard” to mean “cool.” Why is that still not a thing?
Episode: “Herman, Coach Of The Year” (season 2, episode 4)
What Happens: Eddie Munster is the worst performer on his school’s track and field team (because he is baby-sized and wearing baby doll clothes, and/or because he doesn’t just go into wolf mode and Teen Wolf the shit out of everybody), so Herman resolves to each him the finer points of Olympic track and field, including the shot-put, discus and pole vault. Herman gets overbearing about it and Eddie isn’t producing results, so Grandpa goes behind Herman’s back and gives Eddie “special vitamins,” aka magic PEDs that make him spazz out and run in fast forward. Herman is sad when the event day arrives, but Eddie outperforms everybody on the field, wins everything and makes his dad proud.
The very end of the episode reveals that Eddie only took the magic pills once, and it was his drive to make his father happy that propelled him to greatness. Also, the lingering effects of f**king magic pills. The moral: PEDs are fine, if you only take them sometimes.
Key line: “o far Herman has had him praticing at three events this morning, and he’s gotten worse at each one.”
This episode has one of the cheapest cheats ever in it. Whenever Herman plays a sport, the joke is that he hits the ball way too far. When he hits a baseball, he hits it eight blocks, and we see it zip away over a line of trees. When he golfs, we see the golf ball zip away over a line of trees. When he kicks a football, same thing. But when he throws a shot-put, we see a BASEBALL fly over a tree line. Okay, close enough, I guess. And then he throws a discus, and WE SEE A FOOTBALL FLYING AWAY END OVER END OVER SOME TREES. COME ON, THE MUNSTERS, A FOOTBALL AND A DISCUS DO NOT LOOK LIKE THE SAME THING.
Oh well. The best part of the episode is that when Eddie is playing sports, they make him change out of his velour hotpants.
Episode: “Herman Picks A Winner” (season 2, episode 14)
What Happens: this is an episode about Herman digging for boogers
Key line: “Let’s see. To pick a loser…” “Herman. Why don’t you let Lily pick one for you? She picked a loser when she married you.”
Just kidding. This episode is about Herman and Lily discovering that Eddie has been “pitching pennies” at school, and decide to teach him a lesson about the dangers of gambling by busting open his piggy bank and betting his life savings (10 bucks) on the worst horse they can find. But whoops, the horse wins! So they have to do it again. They pick the worst horse again, but the worst horse wins again. This draws the attention of THE MOB, who are in charge of horse racing because 1960s Television. They think Herman’s either a genius or a criminal, and vow to take care of him either way. It starts with the mob enlisting the help of a “beautiful dame” to seduce Herman and ends with them shooting guns at him. He escapes by walking down the side of a building, because … Frakensteins can do that, I guess.
Anyway, the episode ends with Herman having TAKEN DOWN THE ENTIRE MOB by snitching on them, everyone feeling great about themselves, and Eddie (I’m assuming) planning to gamble his ass off at every opportunity.
Episode: “All-Star Munster” (season 1, episode 17)
What Happens: Marilyn comes home from college crying, having been kicked out of school on a tuition technicality. Thankfully her Uncle Herman IS A FRANKENSTEIN and decides to visit the college himself and straighten things out. He doesn’t know how to find the dean, and ends up talking to the college’s basketball coach, who mistakes him for a star recruit who is late for his scholarship tryout. Herman dazzles them with his hilarious basketball skills, doing a little Globetrotter dribbling, dunking several times and banking in a full court shot over his shoulder without looking. I guess you have a lot of time to practice sports when you’re a social pariah.
Herman signs a scholarship agreement with the school thinking it’ll resolve Marilyn’s problems, but finds out that he’s accidentally stolen some kid’s college education. He tries to make it right, but the coach bullies him about it and forces him to play. Herman accidentally gets upset and pounds the guy’s desk into the ground without breaking it, which lets the college wise up to the fact that they are f**king with a murderous monster, and they make everything right.
Key line: “Jerry, our scout’s report show that this guy’s got everything: footwork like a gazelle, hands like a gorilla and he’s tall as a giraffe!” “Who’s sponsoring him, the SPCA?”
One of the best parts of this episode (besides Herman suddenly turning into a lithe black guy in Frankenstein makeup when it’s time to play basketball well) is Pat Buttram as the “paw” of the kid getting boned out of a scholarship. If you don’t know him, he’s Mr. Haney from ‘Green Acres,’ sorta looks and sounds like Slim Pickens and voiced a character in everything Disney did for 2 1/2 decades. You’ll recognize him when you hear his voice.
I hope somebody else watched shows from this time period, because they’re the most fun thing to write about. A FRANKENSTEIN DID IT.