It ‘Gives Me a Second Career’ : Bonnie Franklin Directing ‘Munsters Today’
Bonnie Franklin is spending the summer in Los Angeles, dealing with monsters and loving every minute of it.
The vivacious, red-haired actress, best known for the lead role in “One Day at a Time,” is directing 12 episodes of “The Munsters Today,” based on the 1960s comedy.
“I started directing when I was doing ‘One Day’ and I’ve continued doing it,” Franklin said. “I directed a few episodes of ‘The Munsters Today’ and they asked me to direct all of them. I said I’d do 12. . . .
“The weird thing is I did an episode of ‘The Munsters’ when I was 18. I was a regular person on the show. I wasn’t in makeup. I can’t remember the role, but whenever it’s rerun, I get mail.”
The show tells the story of the Munster family, which lives at 1313 Mockingbird Lane. Herman is 7 feet tall and looks like Frankenstein’s monster. Lily resembles a vampire. Grandpa looks like Dracula, and son Eddie has the look of a werewolf. Niece Marilyn is the weird one--she looks normal.
In the new version, for first-run syndication, John Schuck is Herman, Lee Meriwether is Lily and Howard Morton is Grandpa. It’s filmed in front of an audience at Universal Studios by the Arthur Co.
“They’re trying to change the show this year, which is better for me,” Franklin said. “They know the show’s going to appeal to children. Herman’s got the green makeup and the bolt sticking out of his neck. But they want to expand the audience for more adult appeal.
“In the first show I directed, Herman and Lily have been married 300 years and are trying to make their marriage exciting and viable after that long. It still retains a silliness, but the stories now are fun for an adult to watch. And I enjoy directing them.”
She has also directed episodes of “Karen’s Song” and “Charles in Charge.”
She’s just back from six months of stage appearances in the East. She did “Annie Get Your Gun” with Byron Nease in the Bucks County Playhouse in Pennsylvania and “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune” with Tony Musante at the West Side Arts Theater in New York.
“I was very lucky,” she said. “I had co-stars in both shows who were wonderful human beings. I’m going through a wonderful period. Life is great.”
Although born and raised in the Los Angeles area, Franklin said, she’s an avid New Yorker. “When I was 16, I was an exchange student in Greece,” she said. “When I came back, I stopped in New York. I loved the theater. Since then, I’ve been on the stage in New York many times.”
She began acting as a child, appearing with Donald O’Connor on “The Colgate Comedy Hour,” and as a teen-ager joined Barbara Hershey and Richard Dreyfuss in guest roles on “Gidget,” which starred Sally Field.
Franklin was in the original Broadway production of “Applause” and in such plays as “Dames at Sea,” “A Thousand Clowns,” “George M!,” “Carousel” and “The Owl and the Pussycat.” She returned to Los Angeles to play Judd Hirsch’s wife in the TV movie, “The Law.”
After that, she returned to New York, but producer Norman Lear had a project in mind for her. She ended up spending nine years with “One Day at a Time.”
Directing “The Munsters Today” calls for a lot of special effects, which are filmed the day before the actors go before the audience. That way, the studio audience can watch the special effects on the TV monitors.
She honed her directing skills by watching directors on other three-camera shows, a common practice in the film business. She wants to learn single-camera directing and is now observing on ABC’s “China Beach.”
“With the vagaries of the business, directing gives me a second career,” Franklin said. “I don’t have to sit around waiting for the networks to say, ‘Yes, go ahead with your new project.’ I think the older you get, the more difficult it gets. I’m not giving up acting. I’m developing a new half-hour comedy series.”