The Addams Family – When we were young
When I was a kid, I had a thing for both Gomez and Lurch (I was a VERY weird kid!). But I really loved (and still love) this series because I could feel the labour of love by all who were involved in it. I know none of the cast personally, but after seeing numerous other performances by John Astin, Carolyn Jones and Ted Cassidy, I sense they were quite thrilled to have found their niche here. They were basically playing Bohemians with a slight taste for the morbid. But of course there was a sweetness and humour about such morbidity that has never been replicated in any other offbeat show on TV.
Apart from everything else, they were a loving family with their hearts always open (I’m sure they’d love that phrase!) to outsiders, even if they were somewhat oblivious to the fact that outsiders were the status quo and it was they who were a tad unordinary! Uncle Fester always seemed a little TV contrived to me, like he was trying for laughs while the rest of the cast were just naturally weird and funny. But the myriad of details, from the macabre objects d’art about the house, to the various hobbies and pastimes that the family enjoyed participating in, were always fascinating. And the show was not under-appreciated by those of us who knew we didn’t quite fit in with the square-molded world out there. The quietly pervasive theme of being true to one’s own nature and to always keep a bit of respect along with a great sense of humour towards the poor soulless drones of society, kept us “weirdos” sane and emotionally fulfilled. It is probably even possible that in some small way, The Addams Family was in part responsible for the hippie movement. Unlike now, where there are cliques of every kind, back then it was pretty straightforward: you were in the band or you were not. There was only one off beat that ultimately made one march to a different drummer.
The cartoon strip (by Charles Addams of The New Yorker) created the absurd characters, but it was the show that really captured the depth of their strangeness because it used the real world as a backdrop. “Normal” people could evaluate themselves in their humdrum lives through the guileless visitors to the Addams home. By the end of the show they saw how absurd they were in their normalcy and how small they were in their need to judge others negatively.
As for us “offbeats”, maybe we weren’t quite ready for most of the delicacies cooked up by grandmama in the kitchen (!), but we could see ourselves as happy in such an environment as the Addams home. Or at least for the first time, really question the environment from which we sprang. It also made us appreciate family values – though I somehow doubt that this is what Dan Quayle had in mind! Despite their weirdness, the Addams family was a solid, happy family. They were multigenerational and they all played together as a family. Even the servants. Nothing dysfunctional there! If only all families could get along so well!
I’ve not seen any of the reunions or new versions of the TV show. The pictures I’ve seen depict everyone as nauseatingly cute (and in colour – augh!) and they seem to spend more time on the ghoulish aspects rather than the subtle hints of oddity that the original series so eloquently displayed. The movie versions were entertaining, but mostly for the nostalgic references that reminded me of the original show. The original Addams Family worked not just because of the concept, but because of the particular chemistry of the cast. Something that can never be replicated.
GOMEZ ADAMS (John Astin): Dashing and debonair with a few odd traits evidently formed before birth (his baby pictures show him with the same bugged-out eyes, moustache and cigar. I assume his mother must have had smoke coming out of her navel throughout her pregnancy!). He doesn’t seem to work, but he’s financially loaded due to the dubious earnings of his ancestors (pirates, land-grabbers, and probably the odd Count or Marquis somewhere in his family line). He keeps the family in (poisoned) clover through his stock earnings, which he keeps tabs on daily. He’s good-natured, is a loving father and husband, and his hobbies are fencing, yoga and blowing up electric trains.
MORTICIA ADDAMS (Carolyn Jones): Elegant and refined, yet quite modest (to memory she owns only one dress and probably wears no shoes). She has a gentle personality, and rarely shows any anger (she has at times sounded as if she was having a fit of hysteria but that was just her singing a favourite tune). She keeps herself occupied by keeping the growth in the Conservatory at bay with a nice pair of pruning shears, and by inciting her husband with the language of amour. She’s a concerned parent (always watching to see that her children aren’t corrupted by that big good world out there), and she loves music, a good smoke (literally) and Tango dancing.
LURCH (Ted Cassidy): Not a family member biologically, but he is very much one in the hearts of the other Addams family members, and in his own heart, encrusted though it must be. Lurch seems to move as though he has cement in his veins, and it is some labour for him to smile or even talk. But he has a definite charm. He does not just motion for guests to enter the house. He carries them over the threshold. He even removes their hats (and a hair or two as well). He’s very domesticated, helping with the dusting and cleaning. And he also is a gifted musician. When playing the harpsichord, he almost comes to life!
THING (also Ted Cassidy!): No one knows just how old Thing is, or whose body he once belonged to but like Lurch, one does not question the origins. Thing is polite, intelligent, helpful, compassionate, and also quite a frugal houseguest. He requires no clothing or feeding or care of any kind, other than the occasional lotion for chapped hands and a white glove on elegant occasions. He was ill on one occasion, but that was really a psychological problem (a head doctor could not help). He is overall cheerful and romantic, and a joy to have around the house.
WEDNESDAY AND PUGSLEY (Lisa Loring and Ken Weatherwax ): Are like most healthy children. They play well together most of the time (S&M games mostly, with Wednesday in the dominator role). At times temperaments flair (as I said, their relationship is a healthy one) and there’s even a bit of teasing. Wednesday has a beautiful spirit (you can see it glow in the dark) and a sensitive nature, or is sensitive toward nature, at least to stormy weather and things that creep and slime along on their bellies. Pugsley is much more the enthusiastic child, with an ingrown interest in trying anything odd or normal (his parents set him crooked on the normal stuff).
UNCLE FESTER, COUSIN ITT AND GRANDMAMA (Jackie Coogan, Felix Silla, Blossom Rock): To put it bluntly, these are the eccentric ones in the Addams family. Fester and Grandmama pass their time immersing themselves in scientific endeavors (and in Fester’s case sometimes immersing himself onto a bed of nails). Grandmama’s endeavors lie in the way of potions and cures, and Fester, in anything his natural body electricity can make use of. Neither of them have been very successful in their endeavors, but they are a credit to patience and perseverance. Cousin Itt spends little time around the house. He is a man of the world who obviously has made the most of the newfound sixties craze for long hair. He finally fits in! No one can understand what he is saying, but that adds to his mystery too. No one could understand what most singers at that time were singing about either!