Maniac Mansion from Lucasfilm Games (now Lucasarts) was a revelation back in the day with its adventure gaming setup, quirky humor, memorable characters, and enjoyably frustrating puzzles. Released during the era when traditional media first began to try and adapt video games for other forms of entertainment, a series of business deals and licensing agreements eventually brought us the Maniac Mansion television series on the now-defunct Family Channel. Imagine the possibilities of Dave, Razor, Michael, and the other teenagers attempting to break into the Edison mansion week after week to rescue Sandy the cheerleader before her pretty brains are sucked out by Dr. Fred. Sounds like a sci-fi / comedy riot, right? Too bad the production wasn't faithful to the source material. Hardcore Gaming 101 looks back at this travesty of a television show.
Maniac Mansion is only very, very loosely based
on the Lucasarts game. It ditches the whole bit with the teenagers and
just focuses on the Edisons, except the Edisons are nothing like they
are in the game. Sure, the head of the household is named Fred, he's a
mad scientist, and there's a meteor in his basement (which isn't
sentient like the games), but that's about all they have in common. The
rest of the family is completely different, albeit with some quirks due
to his experiments - his 4 four old son was turned into a hulking,
halfway mentally handicapped giant with an annoying falsetto voice, and
his brother-in-law was turned into a fly. The quote on the cover of the
VHS tape I have says that New York Post claims it's "The '90s
equivalent of the Addams Family". It isn't. It has none of the same
horror-fueled charm as the Addams, nor even the schlocky atmosphere of
the game. The house isn't even so much a mansion as just a large house,
and the family certainly isn't crazy enough to be considered maniacs.
The Canadian-produced sitcom ran for sixty-six episodes and had some of the creative force of SCTV at the helm, so it must have been something of a success, but I was never a fan. The characters are grating, but its biggest sin is that it's just not a funny program. There was so much potential here for a fun little thirty-minute slice of mad science and talking tentacles, but instead we're stuck with, well, this. I think it's the abandonment of the original game's premise that stings the most. This version of Maniac Mansion is right up there with a hypothetical Street Fighter series that features Ryu, Ken, and Chun-Li traveling the countryside in a van while solving mysteries. The point is completely missed.