The creepy and goofy Addams Family, arguably the first family in the spooky season, has had a perennial presence in popular culture over the decades. After making their debut in Charles Addams‘1930s New York comics and their screen debut in the 1964 television series The Addams Familythey’re making their return to the small screen in November with Netflix’s supernatural teen drama Wednesday.
Rather than focusing on the family as a whole, the series instead focuses on teenage daughter Wednesday Addams, played to woeful perfection by Jenna Ortegabecause she is expelled from another school and sent by her parents Gomez (Luis Guzman) and Morticia (Catherine Zeta Jones) at Nevermore Academy, the same school where the two met and fell in love. As much as she thrives in obscurity, Wednesday bristles at the thought of having to live in the significant shadow cast by her parents, and her mother in particular, who was as much an overachiever social butterfly as it is possible to be in. a school proudly populated by outcasts.
Wednesday’s finish at Nevermore is anything but easy. She is placed in her mother’s old dorm alongside Enid (Emma Myers), a late blooming werewolf who loves bright colors as much as Wednesday loves different shades of black and gray. Although their different personalities lead to friction at first, like all good coming-of-age stories, the two begin to realize that they might be stronger together than they are separately. The two mysteries that may or may not be related, but both go back in some way to Nevermore and the surrounding city of Jericho, also make settling in somewhat difficult. The first is a case that may or may not involve someone close to Wednesday, while the other – arguably more pressing – is the matter of the horrific murders taking place in the city.
Unlike previous television incarnations, including the 1992 animated series and the 1998 live-action series The New Addams Family (a campy must-have from my own childhood), Wednesday does not follow an issue-of-the-week format, opting instead for a season-long supernatural mystery in the vein of stranger thingsWhere The Hardy Boys. Unlike those earlier incarnations as well, the series really leans into the horror-adjacent aspect that has always surrounded the Addams Family, but which earlier incarnations never fully explored. While it’s definitely a show the whole family can watch together, there’s just enough horror and gore to really earn that TV-14 rating.
Where Wednesday really thrives is in its cast. Ortega, Guzmán and Zeta-Jones, as well as isaac order, who plays Pugsley Addams, are perfect choices, resembling the Charles Addams cartoons come to life. The whole family takes these beloved characters and truly makes them their own, retaining the aspects that have made the goofy Addams so recognizable over the decades, while infusing them with an energy that breathes new life into the role. As the eccentric Uncle Fester, Fred Armisen is a source of needed comedic relief, with a cheerful, deadpan delivery that pays homage to Jackie Coogantook the role in 1964.
As for new characters, the series also features Gwendoline Christie as Principal of Nevermore Principal Weems and Ricky Lindhome as Wednesday’s court-appointed therapist, Dr. Kinbott. They, alongside Wednesday’s Nevermore classmates Bianca (joy sunday), Xavier (Percy Hynes White) and Ajax (Georgie Farmer), as good as Hunter Doohan as the sheriff’s “normie” son, Tyler, really wrap things up and make the show a cross between a supernatural mystery series and a high school drama. Because all the trappings of high school drama — school dances, crush issues, after-school clubs, and integration — are present, albeit with a dark, cobweb-covered gloss.
Of course, the real highlight of the ensemble cast – for the diehards Addams fans, anyway – is the former Wednesday Addams herself Christine Ricci, who plays Mrs. Thornhill, one of Wednesday’s Nevermore teachers. Although the two share quite a few scenes, and although there are references to the larger meta of The Addams Family throughout (except for the tragic absence of the catchy theme song), I applaud the creative team for resisting the urge to make Ricci Wednesday’s story too obvious.
Previous incarnations of The Addams Family have always emphasized the family as a whole, either dealing with its own interpersonal drama or more frequently placing it in a kind of “us versus them” situation, “them” being conventional society. This conflict is still very present in Wednesday, with the teenagers of Nevermore Academy watched with skepticism and fear by the town of Jericho. With eight episodes devoted to the mysteries that connect town and school, the series has time to delve into this divide with some nuance beyond the idea that one side is objectively “wrong.”
My greatest fear, as someone who has seen and loved every incarnation of The Addams Familywas that the undercurrent of family, love and support present in each release would be lost in Wednesday in favor of a grittier version of well-known characters. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time that decades-old characters got an unrecognizable makeover (Riverdale comes to mind). But while the Addams aren’t quite the rock-solid unit, they are in perhaps the most well-known adaptations, those from 1991. The Addams Family and 1993 Addams Family Valuesit’s very clear that they care about each other.
In the end, although it’s a darker version than usual The Addams Family, Wednesday retains all the characteristics that make stories and characters special. It does a great job of pushing the story outside of its usual genre and into something a little more adult and a little more supernatural, but never loses sight of the heart, humor and goofy horror. that have had us all cracking up for decades.
Wednesday hits Netflix on November 23, which is – fittingly – a Wednesday.