I once heard John Schneider (Bo Duke, “The Dukes of Hazzard”) say that there were only two kinds of people in the world: Addams Family people, and Munsters people.
There are countless variations on that “two kinds of people” phrase, but this was one I found particularly interesting.
Two series, premiering only a week apart, on two rival networks. The same genre, the same basic appeal. On the surface, “The Addams Family” and “The Munsters” may seem easily interchangeable. But when you get right down to brass tacks (or His & Her’s beds of nails), they are two VERY different creatures.
The first of these two series was the devilishly macabre “The Addams Family”, which premiered September 18, 1964 — 50 years ago today — on ABC. Like its CBS counterpart, it ran for only two seasons, ending a 64-episode run on April 8, 1966.
“The Addams Family” was the darker, more serious-feeling of the two. Here you had the ideal family: A husband and wife who were madly in love, and two children who rarely caused their parents any grief, sharing a mansion with an eccentric uncle, a quirky grandmother, and a butler. There was even a picket fence. Well. Sorta. It’s made of metal, and Gomez keeps the tips filed sharp… but yeah, there’s a fence.
They’re the perfect family, but with a creepy little twist. They are like THE ultimate fans of horror.
What I like most about “The Addams Family” (and many other series from the ’50s and ’60s) is that it was entertainment and fun created out of pure innocence. No one ever tries to hurt anybody. There is no hate-filled dialogue. The family named Addams might as well have been called Cleaver. The only real difference between the two was Ward’s love of golf vs Gomez’s penchant for fencing. Ward had a den, Gomez had a torture chamber playroom. The Cleavers loved bright, warm, sunny days, and the Addamses thrived when it was dark, gloomy and thundering. Beaver played with marbles, Wednesday chopped the heads off her dolls. Okay, so they’re not exactly the same.
But “The Addams Family” and “The Munsters” were to me, two of the most important television shows ever produced. Because they took what society THOUGHT was the norm, and proved that “normal” has nothing to do with external appearance, and everything to do with the kind of person you are INSIDE.
Put “Leave it to Beaver” alongside “The Addams Family” and for one second look past the things that make them different. What is the “normal”, ideal family? It’s not defined by your clothing or your job, what car you drive or what you eat for dinner. Simply put, it’s the family that loves each other.
Today we are constantly bombarded with such negative imagery on TV. Fighting, hatred, violence and bloodshed. Families ripped apart and feuding amongst themselves. How I long for the glory days of old, where television was an escape from the harsh and cruel realm of reality! Today people would rather watch “Game of Thrones” and spend the next 72 hours feeling like they’ve been mind-raped, than to see the silly, harmless antics of a kooky family with a pet lion, a severed hand, and a morose Frankenstein monster for a butler.
Sad. Just sad. We need shows like “The Addams Family” to cleanse our palates after enduring 45 minutes of 95% of the filth on TV today. The class is gone. The fun is gone. And “morality”? What’s that? Watching the shows of today feels more like punishment than privilege.
Well, I, for one, am tired of all the negativity. I want to take the time to celebrate these rare gems of television history. Starting with “The Addams Family”.
♫ They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky, they’re altogether ooky, the Addams Family. ♫
For 50 years we’ve sung along to that most recognizable of theme songs, snapping our fingers as we go. As the opening credits roll, we smile as Gomez files the tops of his fence to sharp points; we laugh when Morticia snips the blooms off her roses. And we’re treated to a quick peek of their museum-like house where “people come to see ‘um.” They really are a scream, you know, the Addams family. *snap, snap*
The series was based on the cartoon characters created by Charles Addams, whose wacky family began appearing regularly in the weekly magazine The New Yorker in 1938.
Like any series, a cool idea is only half the battle. To be successful and win over the hearts of viewers, you need an exceptional cast to execute the story. Chemistry is so important, especially among the two main characters. And it’s even more important when they’re an on-screen couple.
TISH. That’s French! *kiss* Speak some more. *kiss* Au revoir. Avant-garde. Ooh la la! *kiss*
Is there any greater television couple than Gomez and Morticia Addams? As far as I’m concerned? No, there really isn’t. They are the quintessential romantic couple. If you want to see what true love really looks like? Just sneak a peek at these two.
This is what love should be! A flurry of kisses, passionate adoration and unbridled madness driven by a powerful longing for one another. The phrase “I just can’t get enough” comes to mind whenever I see Gomez and Morticia in a scene together. They can’t get enough of each other, and I can’t get enough of them not getting enough… of, er… each other. :P (Try saying that five times fast and you’ll sound like Cousin Itt.)
But you can’t write chemistry like that. Either it’s there, or it’s not. Once John Astin was cast as Gomez Addams, the search was on for his Morticia. A number of actresses tried out for the role, but as you can see from the following photos, each one fell dreadfully short of the mark.
Then in walked Carolyn Jones. And just LOOK at them.
And so the world’s greatest couple was born. They are the heart and soul of “The Addams Family”. I don’t even have to say anything more about that. This photo speaks for itself.
And the rest of the cast didn’t disappoint either. Every weird, zany character was complemented by an outstanding actor or actress. I think that characters are truly the most important aspect of any show. A crappy story can be carried by excellent characters, but boring, lackluster characters/actors will drag down the most well-written script. Thankfully, back in the 1960s, the networks knew what they were doing. It was the best of both worlds.
Sexy yet demure, Morticia Addams is a lady in every sense of the word. Whether she’s driving Gomez wild with a line of French, knitting, painting or exercising her musical prowess, Carolyn Jones’s Morticia exudes an unrivalled degree of femininity, grace and class. She is definitely one of the greatest on-screen female characters ever. She is the true anti-feminist — living proof that you can be treated like a goddess and still be a smart, sexy and extremely capable woman.
Gomez Addams is a successful, eccentric billionaire who loves cigars, fencing, and knife-throwing. He enjoys an occasional bounce on his trampoline and he explodes into a ball of white-hot passion whenever Morticia speaks French. Or, let’s be honest, whenever she just walks into the room. There’s no denying it: He’s wild about her. John Astin plays Gomez with such a wonderful dramatic flair. His trademark moustache, pin-striped suits, and jovial grin are pure over-the-top silliness and fun.
Gomez and Morticia’s son, Pugsley Addams, looks like a regular little boy. But with a pet Octopus, a love of dynamite, and a keen interest in tinkering, building and engineering, he’s anything but regular. Ken Weatherwax plays the character in such a refreshingly polite way. It’s so nice to tune in to an old show and see well-behaved children. Today, there seems to be no such thing.
Cute as a button with her braided pig-tails and often slightly grim expression, little Wednesday Addams likes to play with dolls. Her favourite? Marie Antoinette, who — true to life — is missing her head. The show didn’t really focus on the children (each were in only about half the episodes), but some of the sweetest, most memorable moments are of tiny Lisa Loring palling around with her gigantic buddy Lurch (Ted Cassidy).
What can be said for Uncle Fester? We all know him best for his unique ability to illuminate a light bulb simply by putting it in his mouth. Fester is Morticia’s uncle (in this 1960s incarnation of the Family) who enjoys putting his head in a vise (literally) and tightening the screws. Jackie Coogan plays him as a lovable oaf-type character, which suits him to a tee, both physically and fundamentally.
“You rang?” Ah, Lurch. Truly my favourite character on the show. This gentle lumbering giant of a man is the Addams family’s faithful butler. Often shown playing his harpsichord, Lurch is always around when you need him. A man of few words (and a few grunts and groans), Ted Cassidy created a pensive, wistful and slightly awkward butler — characteristics that blend together into something truly special. The Family would be incomplete without their beloved Lurch.
Blossom Rock (aka Marie Blake) plays a cute character. She looks a little witchy, she dabbles in witchy things like fortune-telling and potions, but to the family, she’s simply their loving Grandmama.
“Thank you, Thing,” as Morticia would say. Thing is a very helpful disembodied hand who appears out of a series of boxes in nearly every room of the Addams’ house. A disembodied hand, that’s right. Why, you ask? Just because it’s awesome. Thing was usually played by Ted Cassidy, but on occasions where Lurch and Thing appeared in a scene together, assistant director Jack Voglin would step in and… lend a hand.
So I ask you, what’s NOT to love? Creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky — that really does sum it up right there. If you’re a fan of horror but you also enjoy a delve into the lighter, more humourous crypts of life? Then “The Addams Family” is the show for you.
Hmm, I never answered that opening question myself, did I? Am I an Addams Family person, or a Munsters person? Well, Gomez and Morticia will always be my favourite TV couple, but I’m a Munsters girl, hands down. And on September 24, we’ll take a little trip. Our destination? 1313 Mockingbird Lane.
Oh, look, our ride’s here! I call shotgun!