Friday, October 16, 2015

RR The Addams Family (1964–1966)

Nowadays when you think about the Addams Family, chances are you will probably think about the great Barry Sonnenfeld live action films first. But for me thinking about the Addams Family will always remind me of this great classic cult series I remember trying to watch constantly.

They might be all together ooky, and their house a museum, but if anything the Addams Family is also neat. And sweet. (Although I admit I never got the "petite" from the song...?)

Black is such a happy color.

They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious and spooky, they're The Addams Family!

Name: The Addams Family (1964–1966) also known as The Addams Family (1964) or The Addams Family (TV series)
Created by David Levy
Based on the comic strips created by Chas Addams
Original run 1964–1966
Genre Sitcom

They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious and spooky, they're all together ooky, The Addams Family!

Who won't be immediately humming that song as soon as you read those very few words?

A timeless classic that someone always endures the passage of decades and remains very much relevant to this day without any need for any sort of update whatsoever!?

The secret behind the Addams Family success? A man, Charles "Chas" Addams, the cartoonist behind the successful New Yorker comic strips. Which I already reviewed last time.

The success was so quick and immediate, people quickly thought about getting the rights for this license to adapt it into a full live action sitcom television series. 

The man who would attempt this surprisingly decent adaptation was David Levy. With a fantastic cast and crew willing to do their best they would be able to bring everyone's favorite macabre family to life on the small screen. Despite a lot of shows being made in color at the time already, they decided to shot the series in black and white to better capture the comic strip.

Where the comic was much more loose on continuity and setting, the actual Addams Family gang was purposely put together in the form we now are familiar with for the TV series.

The Addams are a wealthy family that lives in this huge creepy (haunted?) mansion near a swamp and a cemetery. They're an eccentric bunch. And they appear somehow supernatural and kind of inspired by the classic Universal monsters

The chief of the family is Gomez Addams (played by the great John Astin), a passionate loving husband who never puts his money in priority, his family always comes first, and he seems to equally adore dynamite! Morticia Frump Addams is the matriarch of the Addams Family (played by the gorgeous Carolyn Jones), a refined woman that practices all kind of arts in her garden (creating living plant hybrids, etc.). 

In this original incarnation, Uncle Fester was Morticia's crazy, zany and electric uncle. Gomez and Morticia have two children, their daughter Wednesday a strangely sweet little girl that loves violence and torture, and a smart son Pugsley that would try from time to time to fit into the bigger society at large. Living with them there's also Grandmama Frump who is more of a charlatan than a witch really, the inimitable butler Lurch (Ted Cassidy) who serves the family and finally "Thing T. Thing" aka The Thing, a disembodied hand and friend to the whole family who's always helping and poping up around (and funny enough, billed as "itself", while it was actually also portrayed by Ted Cassidy).

There's also several other recurring family members that would star every once in a while, with first and foremost the weird Cousin Itt, a big hairy fellow that talks gibberish.

The series follows their day to day life and all kinds of adventure the Addams clan goes through. Often relying on the culture clash as the main source for humor.

The Addams Family starred John Astin, Carolyn Jones, Jackie Coogan, Ted Cassidy, Blossom Rock, Ken Weatherwax and Lisa Loring

Despite a great source material and really good material and writing, most of the show entirely relied on its cast, which was often the case for simpler television series back then. And The Addams Family had a phenomenal cast that completely captured the original characters and went on defining the roles for generations to come. Most adaptations since then are still actually based on this 1964 series!

The relationships were all clearly defined by Chas Adams and the TV crew in anticipation for the series. And the characters would finally take the form we now know them as.

For example Lurh was originally meant to be a non-speaking role, but everyone loved Ted Cassidy's improvised voice which they would keep through the show.

The Addams Family ran for a total of 64 episodes which lasted through 2 seasons from September 1964 to April 1966.

During these 64 episodes the Addams Family went through all kinds of adventures.

Most episodes starting with the visit of some of the extanded family or the disturbance they would cause to the neighbors.

Each time revealing more of the eccentricities of the Addams. Like how the kids kept a pet jaguar, Fester's infamous Cousin Creep.

Scaring regular folks like their plumber with whatever they got around the house, like their pet piranhas.

One episode we find out how Gomez was already born with a mustache. Another Uncle Fester loses his useful natural electrical charges. One time Gomez lost his memory and became "normal", the horror! The Family goes to the court (and we finally find out Gomez' job). Fester tries to get a job. Puglsey or Wednesday have some trouble at school. Cousin Itt is having love problems. A burglar in the neighborhood finds himself inside the Addams' mansion, good luck guy!

Often breaking the fourth wall or exploring their twisted sense of moral.

The show featured various popular guest stars at the time.

The Addams Family was great with black comedy and morbid humor. But it always was funny, approachable.

The characters were perfect. Such simple on the surface, but they all were relatable in their own quirky way.

The show was coming of a different era, the 1960s America was just discovering itself following the harder times of war before. Not everyone living in the US shared the same beliefs, the population was not homogeneous. Which is why the Addams Family quickly found an audience and remains relevant to this day.

From their point of view, they're perfectly normal. And most times they're really the ones in the right compared to our society. They're not close-minded like the older 1950s generation. Often open to anything really and always supporting to each other. Always warm towards anyone that comes into their home.

For them being non-conventional is their normal behavior. And who are we to say the contrary, really?

If anything, The Addams Family is one of the better adaptations out there. From the beginning, they always got the tone right.

Most of the work was done by series producer Nat Perrin, who was a close friend of Groucho Marx and had written several of the Marx Brothers films. In fact, some elements from the Marx Bros. would even find a way into the Addams' world, such as Gomez always picking up a cigar already lit from his pocket.

The show relied a lot on slapstick humor, its sarcastic dialogues and even some satire. Mocking our society and behavior.

But also a great heart and a perfect cast.

People often tend to compare this series with the similar (but original creation) The Munsters. But as much I admit I always enjoyed both, the Addams felt more relatable and "real" if you will. More like actual people. And the Munsters often tried way too much to adhere to your typical sitcom clichés, while the Addams featured slightly superior comedy and could keep a joke ten minutes straights for better punchline.

The Addams Family is a timeless classic.

I mean, the opening credits are part of our pop culture to this day!

The opening theme was composed by Vic Mizzy. It's catchy and as memorable as the show itself. With those memorable "snap" sounds punctuated by the voice of actor Ted Cassidy himself, aka "Lurch". It even made the top of the charts at the time and warrant its own single release! 

The franchise would keep reusing variations of this theme song through the various iterations of the Addams Family through the later cartoons and films.

They never watered down their humor. They didn't care for political correctness. And that's why we love 'em!

Overall, The Addams Family is a fantastic TV show, an all-time classic! That's why it's always been one of my all-time favorite TV shows of all time

Hands down to it sole creator Charles Addams' great imagination and the great people involved with the television series.

It's always been such a fun series, highly rewatchable and a Must Watch! One of the better examples of a stellar adaptation, any medium and any genre. They were able to adapt the source material faithfully and make the show its own propriety. 

In fact it's still in syndication to this very day! Which says something. It was an intelligent and creative series, featuring a great cast. Always nice to revisit at this time of the year.

The series would be followed by a 1977 reunion TV film where most of the original cast would reprise their roles - Halloween with the New Addams Family! Although I admit I never seen this film and it's never been issued on home video/DVD/Bluray to this day...

The first new incarnation of the Addams following the success of this original black & white show first was the Hanna-Barbera cartoon The Addams Family from 1973. The characters were first used as guest appearances on the New Scooby-Doo! movies, which makes this first animated series a spinoff of sorts.

Finally in 1991 the Addams Family was brought back to much prominence thanks to the fantastic success of the 1991 Barry Sonnenfeld film. A new cartoon would bring the Addams back to TV in 1992, with a character design mostly based on the original Chas Addams comic strips.

I give it:
3 / 3 Things!

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