This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (November 2016)
|Created by||Richard P. Rubinstein, Mitchell Galin|
|Theme music composer||Donald Rubinstein|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||72 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer||Richard P. Rubinstein|
|Producers||Erica Fox, Michael Gornick|
|Production locations||New York, California|
|Camera setup||Arriflex 16SRII (New York), Multicamera setup|
|Running time||22 min.|
|Production companies||Laurel Productions|
Tribune Entertainment Company
|Distributor||Tribune Entertainment Company|
|Picture format||16 mm|
|Original release||October 1, 1988 –|
April 1, 1991
|Related shows||Tales from the Darkside|
The series shares a producer (Richard P. Rubinstein) with Tales from the Darkside, and in some ways succeeded the show (which ended the same year Monsters began). It differed in some respects nonetheless. While Tales sometimes dabbles in stories of science fiction and fantasy, this series is more strictly horror. As the name implies, each episode (with very few exceptions) features a different monster which the story concerned, from the animatronic puppet of a fictional children's television program to mutated, weapon-wielding lab rats.
The series has featured cameos from celebrities including: Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller, Laura Branigan, Troy Donahue, Linda Blair, Deborah Harry, Kaye Ballard, Imogene Coca, Farley Granger, Pam Grier, Wil Wheaton, and Meat Loaf.
The introduction of the show begins with an aerial view of a middle class suburban neighborhood, drawing closer to what seems to be a typical Cape Cod style house. The camera enters this innocent setting as a father and daughter sit before an old television. The mother enters, revealing herself to be a horned cyclops, pushing a cart and remarking, "Honey, it's family hour, there must be something on." The daughter rushes to the cart, also a horned cyclops with green, molting hands, exclaims as she uncovers the dish, "Oh wow, Candied Critters!" As the mother and daughter make themselves comfortable, the father, a potato-like humanoid with one hand mostly root-shaped and molting green (a literal "couch potato"), makes a noise of surprise as the mother exclaims, "It's Monsters, our favorite show!" The daughter quietly replies, "Shh, it's starting." As the camera zooms in on the father's face, his low chuckle morphs into a high pitched giggle as the title fills the screen.
Each episode is a stand-alone tale, none of the episodes connect with each other, and feature a variety of monsters from vicious man eating plants to friendly aliens from outer space.
The series was well known for its guest stars, many of whom went on to become famous. These included Lili Taylor (in "Habitat"), David Spade (in "Small Blessings"), Tony Shalhoub (in "Leavings"), Steve Buscemi (in "Bed and Boar"), Gina Gershon (in "Jar"), Matt LeBlanc (in "Shave and a Haircut, Two Bites"), Tori Spelling (in "The Match Game") and Chris Noth (in "Satan in the Suburbs") .
Directing and writing
A number of directors helmed more than one episode. Bette Gordon and Ernest D. Farino each directed four episodes; Gerald Cotts (directing as "Jerry Smith") and Jeffrey Wolf each directed three episodes; and Warner Shook, Theodore Gershuny, Brian Thomas Jones, Allen Coulter, and Tom Noonan each directed two episodes.
Several writers also wrote more than one episode. Edithe Swensen wrote six scripts, and the writing team of Peg Haller and Bob Schneider wrote five scripts. Michael Reaves and Benjamin Carr (writing as "Neal Marshall Stevens") each wrote four episodes. Jule Selbo, Joseph Anderson, Michael Kimball, D. Emerson Smith, and Haskell Barkin each wrote three scripts, while Harvey Jacobs, David Misch, Paul Dini, Michael McDowell, David Odell, and Dan Simmons each wrote two.
Three stories by noted fantasy and horror author Robert Bloch were used for the series. Theodore Gershuny contributed two stories to the series (and a script).
Director Allen Coulter also contributed a story.
Notes on episodes
Monsters is generally considered a horror anthology. But the show was about monsters, whether in a horror context or not. Although "New York Honey" (the third episode aired) is the first episode to mix humor and horror, "My Zombie Lover" (the fifth episode to air) was played strictly for laughs ("black comedy") and was not meant to be taken seriously (e.g., to horrify). Eleven episodes were played for laughs rather than horror. The show is also well known for its "twist endings". This occurs many times in the series: An ally turns out to be a secret enemy, a villain's victory turns sour in the final seconds of the show, a wish is revealed to have a negative downside. However, more than a quarter of the show's episodes had no twist ending, and were straightforward horror stories. "The Vampire Hunter" is one example of this. Others include "Sleeping Dragon", "The Match Game", "The Mandrake Root", "Cellmates", and "Household Gods."
The series used special effects, makeup, costuming, and other theatrical tricks to create believable monsters. Particularly good effects or makeup occurred in "My Zombie Lover" (the zombie boy's makeup), "Mannikins of Horror" (the mannequins are well-animated), "Love Hurts" (the zombie's makeup), "Jar" (the swamp monster is visually effective), "The Offering" (the giant cancer-inducing bugs are visually effective), "Stressed Environment" (the anthropomorphic rats are well-animated), "The Hole" (the zombie makeup), and "The Moving Finger" (the finger is well-animated). But poor special effects were just as common. They occurred in "New York Honey" (the queen bee visible at the end of the episode), "Glim-Glim" (the alien, Glim-Glim), "Their Divided Self" (the conjoined twins), "Half as Old as Time" (the exceptionally poor make-up on Leif Garrett), "Mr. Swlabr" (the reptilian title character), "Micro Minds" (the enlarged monstrous virus visible at the end), "Murray's Monster" (a particularly poor monster suit), and "The Space-Eaters" (a giant glowing eye).
The series also included a number of sexually explicit episodes. Among the episodes which included risqué love-making scenes were "The Cocoon", "Love Hurts", "Jar", "The Mandrake Root", "Museum Hearts", "Desirable Alien", "Bug House", and "The Young and the Headless". Bare breasts were seen twice in the third season. In "Stressed Environment", a real woman's breast is seen on screen for several seconds as a character dresses. In "Leavings", the camera lingers on a fake woman's breast for several seconds. In one shot, the fake breast fills the screen.
The series focused on a wide variety of monsters. Among the most popular were aliens (featured in eight episodes) and demons (featured in six episodes). Vampires and zombies were the focus of four episodes each, while ghosts, reptilian creatures, and witches figured strongly in three episodes each. Cursed Native American objects, giant spiders or spider-like people, and werewolves were also common. A mummy was depicted only once.
There were 72 episodes of the series produced over three seasons. There were 24 episodes per season.