CONELRAD: Mutated Television
The Cleaver boys receive an award


Mutated Television: New Neighbors

The Andersons[ 1 ], Cleavers[ 2 ] and Nelsons[ 3 ] resided in the blissfully Caucasian, fictional suburbias of Springfield, Mayfield, and Hillsdale respectively. And although the patriarchs of these families were always seen reading newspapers before supper, current events never seemed to make it to the dinner table. No, these television Levittowns were built strong to keep unsettling news out and entertain mainstream America, not rock the boat. Nelsons come clean - and good for fallout too!Thus, the Bomb, the miraculous and terrifying creation that spared Jim, Ozzie, and Ward from certain deaths in a Pacific invasion, was never spoken of.

Atomic warfare was never overtly discussed on the new mutant sitcoms either, but one look at "Thing" (a disembodied hand) on "The Addams Family" and you just knew something subversive was going on. The Munsters and the Addams were the post-nuclear monsters who literally moved in next door to the Cleavers. In fact, "The Munsters" was filmed on the same back lot and produced by the same team who brought us the adventures of the Beav (Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher).

The ghoul-coms of the early '60s held a funhouse mirror up to the family shows of the previous decade (The obsessive viewer will note that the opening to the Munsters is a nearly shot-for-shot parody of the opening to the Donna Reed Show). Where June Cleaver made beautiful casseroles for her family, Lily Munster cooked up ghastly stews with lizards and bats. Where Ward Cleaver worked at a respectable accounting firm, Herman Munster labored at a mortuary. Beaver played with his friend Whitey and Eddie Munster played with his pet dragon Spot.
The Munsters - Granpa Munster prefers the electric chair
Jim Anderson sat in an easy chair after a hard day at the office; Granpa Munster preferred an electric chair. And so on. The neighborhood itself had changed: Mayfield became Mockingbird Heights ("The Munsters") and Springfield had become Cemetary Ridge ("The Addams Family).

Just as the atomic bomb remade the world overnight in 1945, Mutated Television cratered the TV landscape in the early 1960s. The craziest thing that had ever happened to Ozzie Nelson was when two chairs were mistakenly delivered to his house. Herman Munster - on the other hand—was once struck by lightening and "disfigured" to resemble actor Fred Gwynne. And this was one of his less exotic misadventures. The hijinks that these mutant characters got mixed up in were so bizarre that the "straight" bystander characters often fainted from anxiety. These shocked reactions were broadened for comic effect, of course, but they also mimicked the wild and not so wild fears many Americans had about radiation and atomic war.
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1. Father Knows Best
2. Leave it to Beaver
3. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet
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