Mixing gothic elements in a social satire, The Addams Family series may have had a short life when it was first aired between 1964 and 1966, but its afterlife has been proven eternal so far.
The series was based on the characters created by cartoonist Charles Addams for the New Yorker magazine, which was about an eccentric and rich family who lives surrounded by elements from the gothic imagery and is blissfully unaware of how different they are and the effect their bizarre lifestyle has on others.
The original single panel cartoons were published between 1938 and 1988, when Charles Addams died. In its posthumous success, the series was succeeded by TV specials in 1972, 1977, and 1998, 2 animated series in 1973 and 1992, 2 movies in which Morticia and Gomez were played by Anjelica Huston and Raul Julia in 1991 and 1993, and this year, a stop-motion movie is being produced by Illumination Entertainment.
The 30-minute episodes are very funny with their ironic tirades, and for our present standards, have a light innocent sense of humor. Dialogues like this one are very common:
Gomez: “What news, Tish?” Morticia: “The police are on their way over. Oh! Good Heavens, the neighbors will think we committed some crime.” Gomez: “Does make me feel like a fraud.” - (from the episode Wednesday Leaves Home)
Basically the Addamses make fun of stereotypes that were usual in sitcoms of the time, showing the ‘perfect American family’, only in their case, it was a bit twisted.
Gomez Addams (John Astin) is the head of the family, always enthusiastic about his plans, madly in love with his wife, Morticia, a dedicated father, who loves playing of wreaking toy trains with his son Pugsley.
Morticia (Carolyn Jones) is the aristocratic mother and wife, loves gardening her poisonous, carnivorous plants, she is always kind with everyone, and is a devoted mother to her two children Pugsley and Wednesday.
The Addamses’ children are quite amusing: Pugsley (Ken Weatherwax) makes his parents worried from time to time, because of his bouts of being ‘different’, which means playing baseball and becoming a boy scout, among other weird pastimes. As for Wednesday (Lisa Loring), she is very charming, and loves playing with her beheaded dolls Marie Antoinette, Mary Queen of Scots, and Little Red Riding Hood. She also has a pet lizard called Lucifer.
Complementing the Addams Family are the characters Lurch (Ted Cassidy), the sinister butler, who loves playing harpsichord and speaks in monotones and grunts, Cousin Itt (Felix Silla), whose body is covered in head-to-foot hair and chirps like a bird, Thing (Ted Cassidy), the servant hand in a box, always ready to help, Uncle Fester (Jackie Coogan), Morticia’s uncle, and Grandmama Addams (Blossom Rock), Gomez’s mother.
Much of the humor in the series is attributed to producer Nat Perrin, who was a close friend of comedian Groucho Marx and had previously worked as a screewriter for the Marx Brothers. There various subjects: politics, the legal system, Beatlemania, Hollywood, parenthood.
Below is one of their episodes, Wednesday Leaves Home: