The Addams Family of Yesteryear Versus Wednesday of Today

For the past two nights, my adult children and I binged the entire first season of Wednesday on Netflix. I was intrigued because I watched the Addams Family TV show as a child. It was on TV for two seasons in the 60s, 32 episodes each season. These days that would be enough episodes for a half dozen seasons. The catchy song with the undeniable finger snaps had all of us tweens tuned in.

The old show was a comedy with a laugh track. You had all the regulars, Gomez and Morticia, Pugsley and his little sister, Wednesday, Thing, Cousin It, Uncle Fester, and Lurch. The romantic couple was goofy. The entire family loved dark and dreary things, depressing things, things that ended badly.

The first episode of today’s Wednesday has all the characters except Cousin It and Uncle Fester.  Wednesday is now older than Pugsley. Wednesday is headed to boarding school.  She is in her usual black dress and long braids, but now she is old enough for boyfriends and roommates and violent visions.

The boarding school is broken into groups similar to the Harry Potter books, but instead of all of them being wizards, now we have vampires, werewolves, seers, shape shifters, and sirens (mermaids).  Everyone looks the same in their school uniforms of bright blue and black, except Wednesday, who is given a black and gray uniform, more to her liking.

Wednesday’s roomie (Emma Myers) is a burst of color. She’s a werewolf who hasn’t wolfed out yet. She’s adorable and often the comic relief. Everything goes pretty well for the first half of the series of eight episodes. 

Then the show starts to become very dark, with two guys vying for Wednesday’s attention, an angry siren who turns out to be an ally, some elements from Stranger Things (grumpy chief of police and monsters in the woods, anyone?) and Harry Potter (now rated R, with death and dying). A new twist is a supernatural pilgrim. The witch burning or yesteryear takes a turn as well.

Thing is more comic relief, thank goodness., Wednesday smiles a half smile and no full smiles in any of the eight episodes.  She does change up her wardrobe a bit in black and white sweaters and a ripped and ruffled black prom dress for the Rave’N Dance bought at Uriah’s Heap Antique Shop (clever).  Her dancing is inspired (kudos to whoever thought that up, a bit better than Elaine from Seinfeld), but the rest of it gets bogged down by plot and the fun is gone.

Yes, plots are important. Yes, dying is expected in teen thrillers. Thank God Eugene makes it. In any other show, he would’ve been toast. He’s a bit more of comic relief and has lesbian parents (nice touch), but not enough of him, if you ask me.

The principal (Gwendoline Christie) is six foot three and marvelous, and the poison plant teacher is five foot one (Christina Ricci, who played Wednesday in the 1991 movie). The make-up artists are fabulous, and there are many close-ups of red lipped ladies with crooked smiles. The stage sets are perfectly dreary, so kudos to those people, also. I especially love the shed/art studio with the asymmetrical door and windows.

As for casting, Catherine Zeta-Jones is the only one who could play Morticia. Luis Guzman makes an interesting Gomez. The teen characters seem well-cast. Jenna Ortega makes a perfect Goth girl.

Uncle Fester (Fred Armisen) shows up in the last episode as comic relief. The Nightshades (a secret organization of students) doesn’t seem to go anywhere. The nice barista who turns out to be a bad guy (or controlled by a bad guy) has us convinced that he’s the boy next door, but then he’s not.

Overall, the best episodes have Morticia and Gomez in them. The therapist plays it straight as a sunny blonde to Wednesday’s dark teen.  The siren’s mother’s sub plot also goes nowhere. Maybe it’s a set-up for season two.

We’ll be watching, I’m sure. What a great way to bond with your easily-entertained adult children.

3 thoughts on “The Addams Family of Yesteryear Versus Wednesday of Today

  1. Interesting take! I’ve been hearing raves about this series. If I may ask, how was the portrayal of Gomez in this version? (I’ve read that Luis Guzman, who plays Gomez Addams, is Puerto Rican — same as Raul Julia, who played the Addams patriarch in the 1991 and 1993 films.)

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      1. I see. Thank you! I do remember Julia (who also played M. Bison in the Street Fighter movie, his last before he died) portraying Gomez Addams as a rather refined gentleman, which matches Anjelica Huston’s performance as Morticia.

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