Television series based on the ghoulish cartoons published by Charles Addams in The New Yorker magazine starting in the 1930s, produced by Filmways and broadcast on ABC from 1964 to 1966. It was one of the last network series filmed entirely in black and white, which may have been a stylistic decision given the subject matter. While not very successful in the two years of its original run, it became a cult favorite once it entered syndication.A deliberate inversion of the ideal American Nuclear Family, the Addamses are an obscenely wealthy clan of borderline supernatural beings with a taste for the grotesque and macabre, possessing opinions and preferences that are mirror images or inversions of more conventional attitudes. Although very visibly different from virtually everyone they meet, they still perceive themselves as a "perfectly normal family"; in fact, they seem somewhat incapable of even noticing that their lifestyle varies widely from that of their neighbors. Despite their tastes and the apparent trappings of pain and horror amidst which they live, though, the Addamses are clearly (well, mostly in the movies) NOT evil — they are compassionate and loving, friendly to all they meet, eager to help strangers in times of need, and tolerant to a fault. In fact, they are probably more so than most families! The end result is more delightfully eccentric and endearing than disturbing.The family is composed of:
Gomez Alonzo Addams, the clan patriarch (John Astin). Ostensibly a lawyer, though the family's vast independent wealth eliminates any need for him to actually work; when he does, though, he takes great pride in the cases he's lost.
Pugsley Addams, their son (Ken Weatherwax). A young Mad Scientist in the making who once demonstrated a home-made disintegration rifle to a visiting Soviet diplomat.
Wednesday Friday Addams, their youngest (Lisa Loring). A sweet, happy child who loves her family, her spider, and her headless doll Marie Antoinette. She is also quite sensitive and easily disturbed by strange and upsetting things like stories of vicious knights slaying innocent dragons.
Grandmama, Gomez's mother (Blossom Rock) in the series, Mortica's mother in all other continuities. More than just an old lady but not quite a witch, Grandmama takes a delight in doing a lot of the family's cooking and gladly acts as a secondary parental figure to the children.
Uncle Fester, Morticia's uncle (Jackie Coogan). Blend a Mad Scientist and his Igor together, and filter them through Curly Howard of The Three Stooges, and you get Uncle Fester. He is rewritten as Gomez's long-lost older brother in the films, probably because they played off each other too well for most to think of them merely as in-laws.
Lurch, their Frankensteinian butler (Ted Cassidy). A man(?) of few words but many groans, Lurch may be their all-purpose servant, but he is treated as one of the family, receiving care and devotion from everyone when he needs it.
Thing, their... thing. (Credited as "Itself" but usually performed by Ted Cassidy; associate producer Jack Voglin performed in scenes with Lurch.) A hand in a box — many boxes, actually, as there's at least one in every room. Fetches mail, plays charades, performs mime. Clearly both sentient and sapient, and like Lurch treated as a family member rather than a servant or pet. Got its very own romantic subplot in one episode. Became fully ambulatory in later adaptations, walking on its fingers.
Together they live in a crumbling Second Empire-style home which looks much like a stereotypical "haunted house" and which seems at times to be animate and sentient, with a playful attitude toward most visitors. Inside is a museum — or a Ripley's Odditorium: strange and bizarre decorations and furnishings fill the house to the brim, and invariably shock first-time visitors.And do they have visitors. The primary theme of The Addams Family was culture clash — that of post-war America against something profoundly and grotesquely other. All manner of ordinary folk encountered the Addamses — sometimes to their benefit, sometimes to their dismay — but never without challenging their notions of normality and reality.A secondary theme was tolerance — as strange as they are, the Addamses are the heroes, and the viewer is encouraged to understand, empathize and identify with them regardless of their macabre ways. Once the Addamses are familiar, delight comes from anticipating the reaction of the next unsuspecting mundane to cross their path. The show was so exquisitely crafted that this appeal to tolerance was never blatant, save for one memorable episode where a Rebel Without a Cause-style biker crashes into the Addams home; he is so astounded by and grateful for their casual acceptance of his unconventional ways that he holds them up as an example of a true family to his rigid, unyielding father.In short, a classic series, groundbreaking in many ways, that entertains and challenges the viewer. Among its many "firsts" was the relationship between Gomez and Morticia — one of the most singularly passionate marriages on television in that or any other era, it was perhaps the first time a married couple had been shown to be so fiercely and intensely in love with each other. In fact, it's been half-joked that the couple appear to be the only 1960s TV parents capable of having children. Interestingly, the Addamses are widely considered to be the most mentally healthy 60s Sitcom family out there, and with good reason. Once the program's cult status was well-established, it became the subject of several revivals, remakes and Animated Adaptations:
The Addamses crossed over with Scooby-Doo in the third episode of Hanna-Barbera's The New Scooby-Doo Movies, "Scooby-Doo Meets the Addams Family" in September 1972.
The Addams Family Fun-House, a musical variety special intended as a pilot for a full-blown series. It aired in ABC in 1973, but was never elevated to series status.
An animated series that ran on NBC Saturday mornings from 1972 to 1975, which featured an eight-years-old Jodie Foster as Pugsley.
A Reunion Show, Halloween With The New Addams Family, which aired on CBS in October 1977.
A 1992 pinball game released by Bally. It is based on the 1991 movie, and is the best-selling pinball game of all time.
A 1992-1995 animated series on ABC spawned by the success of the 1991 movie. Notable for John Astin reprising Gomez. Also spawned a video game, Puglsey's Scavenger Hunt.
Addams Family Values, 1993, the sequel to the 1991 feature film. Another top-down game (again starring Fester) was released for the SNES under the same name, though it hardly follows the movie at all.
Addams Family Reunion, sometimes called Addams Family 3, a 1998 direct-to-video Pilot Movie for The New Addams Family with Daryl Hannah as Morticia and Tim Curry as Gomez. Unrelated to either of the previous films, though Carel Struycken (Lurch) and Christopher Hart (Thing) did reprise their roles.
The New Addams Family on Fox Family, a 1998-1999 revival. Mostly "new" only in terms of title, cast and theme music - many of its episodes were recycled versions of scripts from the original series. That said, it was well-received, and featured recurring appearances by original Gomez John Astin as Grandpa Addams.
A 2010 Broadway musical starring Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth as Gomez and Morticia. For legal reasons, it's officially based on Charles Addams' original cartoons, not on the TV series, but they're not really fooling anybody.
Alternate Character Interpretation: In-Universe: There was an episode of the TV series in which the Addams children are sent to school and their parents feel alarmed when they discover that in the literature class the kids were read a story about a cruel knight that savagely murders an innocent dragon.
Amusing Alien: The family is both amusing (to viewers) and alien (to everyone around them).
Author Filibuster: If an episode of the cartoon series has an aseop, then Wednesday will make sure you learn it.
Beam Me Up, Scotty!: Morticia is often quoted saying, "Normal is an illusion. What's normal for the spider is chaos for the fly." However, no one is sure when exactly she said that.
She does say the line in The Musical, but it seems to be a reference to the presumed earlier quote.
Berserk Button: In the 90's animated series, grabbing Wednesday by the braids. Gomez and Morticia refer to the last person to do it in the past tense, and Pugsley even flat-out tells the perpetrator (a robber) You Do Not Want To Know what she'll do.
Blinding Bangs: Cousin Itt is a most extreme case, being covered in fur from head to toe.
Blue and Orange Morality: The defining trait of the Addamses, and a big part of their appeal, is that they have a clearly... "off"... sense of the way the world works. Finding "normal" cute animals to be ugly, being disgusted by birdsong or flowers, finding frightening creatures to be adorable, etcetera. And, from their perspective, it's the mundane people who are odd and possibly crazy. Despite this, though, they are extremely gracious, kind, generous and friendly in their own creepy way.
The Addams take on the way the world works does have shades of Bad is Good and Good is Bad, mostly in the much darker films and, especially, in the original comics.
1977's Halloween With The New Addams Family introduced two new children, Wednesday Jr. and Pugsley Jr., who were never heard from again afterwards.
Pubert, from Addams Family Values. The New Addams Family attempts to justify this:
Wednesday: There used to be a third one of us, but Pugsley ate it.
Pubert is also a Shout-Out to what was the originally-proposed name for Pugsley by Charles Addams.
Bullying a Dragon: Honestly, if you knew of a family like this, and were fully aware of what they do and how they do it, would you attempt to just be cordial, or would you antagonize them? Fortunately, most people don't try to antagonise them, instead preferring to avoid them and get away from them as fast and yet politely as possible when they get too creeped out.
Catch Phrase: Quite a lot, actually. The most famous would be Lurch's "You rang?", Gomez's "Tish! That's French!", Uncle Fester's "I'll shoot them in the back", and "Thank you, Thing", which was used by everyone, but mostly Wednesday and Morticia.
Dark Is Not Evil: Despite how dark, creepy and macabre the family is, the Addamses are all genuinely good people.
Amusingly, the Addamses aren't even aware of how strange they are. They think of themselves as a typical, normal American family and are nice enough to try not to say anything about those weirdos who play with puppies and pick flowers.
Everything Sounds Sexier in French: How many times does this come up between Gomez and Morticia? In the French translations, it becomes Everything Sounds Sexier in Spanish.
Expository Theme Tune: In a story that has to be Too Good to Be True, a group of producers & screenwriters were riding in a van one day, when at random, one of them started humming the theme tune. Another joined in, then another by whistling. Soon, the entire car was singing the theme song, and this is what convinced them to adapt the show into a movie.
Which is ironic given that director Barry Sonnenfeld wanted to distance the film from the TV series by not including the theme. Only after test audiences asked for it did he give in, and composer Marc Shaiman ended up scoring a few bars of it for the opening titles, as well as a light version for the film's end.
Mr. & Mrs. J. Evil Scientist, characters based on the original New Yorker cartoons who appeared in segments on the cartoons Snagglepuss and Snooper and Blabber several years before the Addams Family TV series.
The Gruesomes, the creepy-but-friendly family that appeared in The Flintstones, inspired by Mr. & Mrs. J. Evil Scientist. Later, the Frankenstones, who were intended to be a spoof of The Munsters but whose children are meant to parody Wednesday and Pugsley.
Both of those come from Hanna-Barbera, which produced both of the animated series.
A Fool for a Client: Gomez, as an attorney, has represented himself in the past. He usually loses. And just as usually, he couldn't care less.
Freaky Is Cool: N.J. Normanmeyer from the 90's cartoon certainly falls here. Unlike his parents, who despise the Addams, N.J. thinks the family is pretty cool, enjoys hanging at their house and is best friends with Wednesday and Pugsley. This seems to go for almost all the children of Happydale, who on several occasions join the Addams in their antics, especially in a notable episode where Morticia arranges a scavenger hunt in the Addams house.
"Halloween with the Addams Family": From Season 1 of the original series, a pair of burglars are on the run from the cops. Gomez and Morticia think them trick-or-treaters and insist they join in on their Halloween festivities.
This is remade for the New Addams Family; in addition to the above, Halloween is treated with the same pageantry and levity as Christmas morning.
"Halloween, Addams Style": From Season 2, Wednesday fears witches don't actually exist.
Halloween with the New Addams Family: The 1977 Made-for-TV Movie sees the family coming together again for a Halloween party.
"Puttergeist": From the '92 animated series, Wednesday, Pugsley and their friend NJ try to determine if the legend of the Puttergeist ghost, the spirit of a headless golfer who was struck by lightning on the Happydale golf course 40 years ago, is true or not. At first, it seems the Puttergeist was only NJ's father Norman in a costume. But then it turned out the Puttergeist was Real After All.
As part of the one-upmanship of the Dueling Shows, while Herman & Lily Munster were among the first TV couples to be seen sharing the same bed, Gomez & Morticia were the first couple to have an apparent sex life.
According to IMDb, Astin and Jones deliberately decided to give Gomez and Morticia "a grand romance" as an antidote to the virtually asexual parents then common in television shows of the era.
There's also the Normanmeyers, recurring semi-antagonists in the 90s cartoon. Despite their extreme dislike of the Addams' behavior, they're shown as a very loving couple toward each other.
Hypocritical Humor: This would often come to play whenever the Addamses criticized others for being strange and/or boasting about how normal they are.
I Am Song: "The Fester Way" from the 90s cartoon, sung by the unimitatable Rip Taylor.
Improbable Aiming Skills: All the Addamses go back and forth between having superhuman aiming skills (e.g. throwing knives into the hilts of the previous knife five or six times in a row, often without looking) to having absolutely dreadful aim depending on what's funnier.
Uncle Fester: I'll shoot 'em in the back! Turn around!
Knight of Cerebus: The New Addams Family played with this trope in the episode Death Visits the Addams Family. The Grim Reaper arrives to claim the soul of Gomez, and at first appears to be very intimidating; even his voice is menacing. However, Death eventually reveals himself to be a short and harmless-looking man. Despite this, he is still played as a serious threat because he still wants to bring Gomez to the great beyond and covets Morticia. In the end, Gomez bests Death at a few games and sends him back to the netherworld. The last thing that keeps this trope from being played completely straight is the fact that this episode was the final episode of the series.
Laugh Track: The original live action series made use of this.
Mad Scientist: Fester and Gomez, a bit. Gomez fit some of the more harmless varieties of the trope; the smallest stimulus would send his mind careening down a new path of speculation, so his attention probably wouldn't be on any one experiment long enough to cause actual harm.
Maintain The Lie: An episode was based on Lurch's aged mother coming to visit him, and his having never told her he was a butler; most of the story involved his posing as the master of the house, with Gomez acting as butler and Morticia as maid.
Marx Brothers: Just about anything that John Astin says — in both sarcastic substance and delivery style — seems to Expy Groucho, which is not surprising since series producer Nat Perrin was a former Marx Brothers gag writer.
Mysterious Middle Initial: Subverted Trope. When Thing went missing and the Addamses hired a detective to find him, they said his name was Thing T. Thing and, when asked what the middle T. stood for, they said it meant Thing.
Mythology Gag: In the 90's cartoon episode "Little Big Thing", we see a glasses shop called Coogan's, as in Jackie Coogan, the actor who played Uncle Fester in the original live-action show.
Both cartoon series use models based on Charles Addams' original panel strips as opposed to cartoon versions of the tv/movie actors.
The third Addams child Pubert from the second film was referenced in The New Addams Family remake of The Addams Family Goes to School, where Wednesday mentions that there used to be a third Addams sibling until Pugsley ate him.
The 90's cartoon portrayed Cousin Itt as a secret agent, which may be a nod to an episode of the original 60's show where Cousin Itt was looking for a job. One of Gomez's suggestions in the episode was for Cousin Itt to be a government spy.
One Head Taller: Averted - Gomez is noticeably shorter than Morticia, but clearly neither of them has a problem with that.
Only Sane Man: Subverted with Lurch. Although he often sounds exasperated and seems to be the Deadpan Snarker when dealing with the family's whims, he often is happy to oblige overall.
The Ophelia: Morticia's older sister in the TV series (established in the episode "Morticia's Romance", which deals with Gomez and Morticia meeting right before his Arranged Marriage - to Ophelia). Unsurprisingly, she's named Ophelia and has long, flowing hair.
The Other Darrin: A sort-of example from the series: the man playing Thing occasionally used his left hand just to see if anybody would notice.
Wednesday was this in the TV show. The movies made her darker and gloomier. The 90s animated series combined these portrayals somewhat.
Pet the Dog: The Normanmeyers, neighbors of the Addams Family in the 1992 animated series, hated the Addamses and frequently plotted to get rid of them, but the episode "N.J. Addams" showed that they actually cared about and loved their son N.J. (who did not inherit their hatred; instead, he was close friends with Wednesday).
Pilot Movie: Addams Family Reunion was this for The New Addams Family.
Real Life Writes the Plot: Ted "Lurch" Cassidy's brief, unexpected teen idol status became the basis for an episode where Lurch's harpsichord playing earns him a similar teenybopper following.
Reasonable Authority Figure: The Mayor of Happydale Heights and Principal Macnamara from the 90s cartoon. Neither has any personal issue with the Addams, and are only forced to interfere when they're worried that the Addams' behavior may be harmful to the other citizens. Both of them even join the Addams family dance when offered.
Remake Cameo: John Astin as Grandpa Addams, Gomez's grandfather, in The New Addams Family.
Repetitive Name: Thing T. Thing. And of course when prompted for what the T stands the answer is "Thing".
Retcon: Fester was changed from Morticia's uncle to Gomez's older brother in the 1973-75 animated series, back to Morticia's uncle in the 1977 Reunion Show, and back again to Gomez's brother for the movies. Grandmama started out as Gomez's mother then switched over to Morticia's starting with the first animated series and stayed put until The New Addams Family. The 2010 musical further confuses the issue by having Morticia and Gomez both unclear on whose mother it is.
Morticia: When your mother moved in, it was supposed to be for two weeks. The weeks turn into months. It's been 12 years now and she's still up there! Unwanted, mocked, tolerated! Smoking weed in the attic. Well, I'm not going to end up like your mother!
Gomez: My mother? I thought she was your mother!
Also, the kids' ages became less clear in the adaptations. In the 90's cartoon and movies, Wednesday seemed older than Pugsley.
The cartoon version set her as Pugsley's little sister in an episode where she keeps beating him, which is what she is in the original live action series. In The Musical, Wednesday is nearly an adult while Pugsley is still (barely?) a tween. Additionally, Wednesday gets her looks from her dad/Raul Julia.
Running Gag: The front gate, the doorbell pull, the roaring bear rug, and others.
In the animated series, whenever Morticia says something in a different language, Gomez immediately pops up by her side, exclaims "Tish! That's [insert language]" and attempts to kiss her arm before Morticia tells him now isn't an appropriate time. Gomez even did this when Fester said something in a different language, at which point he tells Gomez to "do that with your wife".
The New Addams Family had a recurring gag of Wednesday trying to kill or seriously injure Pugsley, only for Thing to save the boy's life at the last minute.
She Is All Grown Up: Wednesday has her "grownup" moments, wearing a miniature Morticia dress, in both the series and both movies.
While now 18-year-old Wednesday still wears a variation of her usual dress in The Musical, the story centers around the family reacting to her becoming independent when they meet her fiancÚ and his family.
Sometimes he uses sign language. In one of the movies he gets so frantic trying to communicate with Gomez he's shaking too much to sign properly, prompting Gomez to cry, "I hate it when you stutter!", a minor gag that was actually used once in the live-action series. Eventually he resorts to tapping out Morse code with a spoon.
Stepford Suburbia: Played with in the 90s cartoon, where Happydale Heights, the shows setting, puts a lot of weight on being "happy" and normalcy, but the majority of its residents seem to have little problem with the Addams, and only interfere when their antics spill out into the town itself. The only characters who seem to be interested in rigidly enforcing the standards are the teachers of the elementary school, and Mr and Mrs Normanmeyer.
Stock Footage: Whenever a new visitor enters the house, the same footage of its unusual furnishings is used.
Theme Tune Cameo: Often happened in the original series, with Lurch playing it on the harpsicord.
Also happened a lot in the second animated series, where the Addamses would often hum the theme song while doing certain tasks.
The New Addams Family is an interesting case. Its new theme song can be heard playing in the background, but the original theme by Vic Mizzy also appears in the episodes Grandpapa Addams Comes to Visit and Lurch and his Piano (the theme is used as Grandpapa Addams' Leitmotif in the former and Lurch plays a few bars of it near the end of the latter).
Throw It In: Ted Cassidy ad-libbed "You rang?" in the pilot, and the producers kept it — and changed Lurch from a mute to allow for it.
Took a Level in Dumbass: Pugsley Addams twice. He was a boy genius in the original television show, but was given a normal level of intelligence in the movies. The animated incarnation of the character, however, was The Ditz.
Took a Level in Kindness: Uncle Fester in The New Addams Family. Though he wasn't really a bad person anyway, this particular incarnation of Fester was portrayed as more friendly and jovial than usual. He even used his electric abilities to revive a hospital patient in the remake of Uncle Fester's Illness and went along with children that mistook him for the real Santa Claus in the remake of Christmas with the Addams Family.
Twenty Years Into The Future: The Addams were the first sitcom family with a home computer, albeit one that filled a room. Named "Whizzo" it appeared in at least two episodes, predicting horse races and an upcoming election.
Villain Protagonist: Subverted. While they appear disturbing, the Addamses are kind and decent people.
Villain Song: "The Addams Blues", by Mr Normanmeyer from the 90s cartoon, about how much he dislikes living next door to the Addams and how he wants to get rid of them.
Vitriolic Best Buds: A weird example with Mr Normanmeyer and Uncle Fester from the 90s cartoon. Normanmeyer despises Fester and does everything he can to treat him like crap. Fester, being an Addams and Too Kinky to Torture, loves it and interprets Norman's abuse as signs of friendly affection.
You Look Familiar: Nathan Lane, who previously had a bit part as a police officer in Addams Family Values, went on to play Gomez in the Broadway adaptation.
Tropes specific to the 2010 musical:
All Musicals Are Adaptations: Radio ads for the musical didn't even have to mention the show's name. It consisted of the famous theme song with an announcer saying "They're coming to Broadway" and giving the info to order advanced tickets.
Audience Participation: Reportedly when the play opens with the famous TV theme song, no one in the audience needs prompting to snap their fingers in time with the cast.
Black Comedy Rape: The father of Wednesday's fiance is sexually assaulted by a squid; it is played for laughs.