Over ten days, I’m pointing the finger towards television shows that have influenced my life. Today, it’s the creepy, kooky, mysterious, ooky, and altogether wonderful moving version of Charles Addams’ magnificent creation, The Addams Family.
I am a lifelong Charles Addams fan: I have all of his New Yorker cartoons, I love the movies deeply, I’ve even watched the entire run of the cartoon series. But it all started here, with this superb, brilliant, TV series. You only have to watch the awful, saccharine tripe of The Munsters to realise just how beautifully balanced The Addams Family is.
Everything good about humour, situation comedy, and narrative is in this show. Dark when light is expected, joyous when gloom should be the right response, wicked and affirming, sensual and righteous, undermining and affirming… it’s a perfect lesson in how to twist narrative, how to create lasting and memorable characters, and how to simultaneously destroy and reinforce audience expectations.
And in Caroline Jones, it boasts one of the most pitch perfect performances I’ve ever watched: there’s something utterly sexy about her Morticia, while still fulfilling all the requirements of a sitcom Mum and wife, and releasing all of the darkness of Addams’ creation with the subtlest of wrist, eyebrow, or eye movements. It’s easy to enjoy Lurch, and Gomez, and wacky Uncle Fester. But as a viewer, I fell in love with Morticia. It is, in my honest opinion, one of the greatest comic performances ever committed to television.
The Addams Family is a beast that should never have worked in the context of family entertainment. The source material is too dark, too quixotic. And yet, somehow they managed the trick of lightening it, making it palatable for the Saturday-night-after-dinner crowd, without losing any of the signature twistedness or weirdness that make Addams’ cartoons such a perfect delight. It remains one of the most individual, unique, quirky, and simply best things ever put to air.