Wednesday, March 30, 2011
The Addams Family (TV series) 1964-1966 - Starring John Astin
The Addams Family is an American television series based on the characters in Charles Addams' New Yorker cartoons. The 30-minute series was shot in black-and-white and aired for two seasons in 64 installments on ABC from September 18, 1964 to April 8, 1966. It is often compared to its working-class rival, The Munsters, which ran for the same two seasons and achieved somewhat higher Nielsen ratings. The Addams Family ranked 23rd in its first season, with a 23.9 rating. The show is the first adaptation of the characters to feature The Addams Family Theme.
It was originally produced by Filmways, Inc. at General Service Studios in Hollywood, California. Successor company MGM Television (via The Program Exchange for broadcast syndication, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment for home video/DVD) owns the rights to the show. At one point, distribution rights were licensed to Worldvision Enterprises.
The Addamses are a close-knit extended family with decidedly macabre interests. They are humans with supernatural abilities. No explanation for their powers is explicitly given in the series.
The very wealthy, endlessly enthusiastic Gomez Addams is madly in love with his refined wife Morticia. Along with their two children, Wednesday and Pugsley, Uncle Fester and Grandmama, they reside in an ornate, gloomy, Second Empire style mansion, attended by their servants, Lurch, the towering butler, and Thing, a hand that usually appears out of a small wooden box. Occasionally, episodes would feature relatives or other members of their weird subculture, such as Cousin Itt or Morticia's older sister, Ophelia.
Much of the humor derives from their culture clash with the rest of the world. They invariably treat normal visitors with great warmth and courtesy, even though their guests often have evil intentions. They are puzzled by the horrified reactions to their (to them) good natured and normal behavior since they are under the impression that their tastes are shared by most of society. Accordingly they view "conventional" tastes with generally tolerant suspicion. For example, Fester once cites a neighboring family's meticulously maintained petunia patches as evidence that they are "nothing but riff-raff." Ironically, many of the things that the Addams family was in favor of that seemed laughable in the mid-1960s have become mainsteam. Homeschooling, protection of swamps (now Federally protected as wetlands), banning of toy guns, and banning of classic fairy tales in schools were all plotlines in the show that were comic fodder at the time. A recurring theme in the epilogue of many episodes was the Addamses getting an update on the most recent visitor to their home, either via something in the newspaper or a phone call. Invariably, as a result of their visit to the Addamses, the visitor would be institutionalized, change professions, move out of the country, or have some other negative life-changing event. The Addamses would always misinterpret the update and see it as good news for that most recent visitor.
The tone was set by series producer Nat Perrin, close friend of Groucho Marx and writer of several Marx Brothers films. Perrin created story ideas, directed one episode, and rewrote every script. Much of the dialog is his (albeit uncredited). As a result, Gomez, with his sardonic remarks, backwards logic, and ever-present cigar (pulled from his breast pocket already lit), has been frequently compared to Groucho Marx. In addition, the series often employed the same type of zany satire and screwball humor seen in the Marx Brothers films. It lampooned politics ("Gomez, The Politician" and "Gomez, The People's Choice"), the legal system ("The Addams Family in Court"), Beatlemania ("Lurch, The Teenage Idol"), and Hollywood ("My Fair Cousin Itt").
Gomez Addams (John Astin) - Gomez is passionately in love with his wife, often referring to her as "Cara Mia." His ardor is greatly intensified when she speaks French (a quirk that first appears in the eleventh episode, "The Addams Family Meet the V.I.P.s"). Before that his ardor was aroused when she called him "Bubele" a German-Bavarian, and Yiddish  word meaning "darling" or "sweetie." Gomez is very wealthy, due to owning numerous companies and stocks. He doesn't seem to regard money itself as a priority and squanders money cavalierly while remaining wealthy. Gomez spends a great deal of time with his family and does not go out to work. He refers to Spain as his "ancestral home" with his family background referenced as "Castilian," and he occasionally uses Spanish words and phrases. He can perform rapid and complicated calculations in his head. He is remarkably acrobatic and can easily dismount from a hanging position upon a chandelier.
Uncle Fester (Jackie Coogan) - Uncle Fester is Morticia's exuberant, kind, and electric uncle. He frequently places a lightbulb in his mouth, where it lights up. When angered by outsiders, he may grab for a blunderbuss and announce that he will shoot the offender in the back.
Lurch (Ted Cassidy) - Lurch is the household butler. Morticia and Gomez summon him by means of a bell pull in the form of a hangman's noose, which rings the massive bell located in the mansion's bell tower; the resulting gong shakes the entire house when the noose is pulled. When Lurch appears (usually immediately thereafter), he responds with a baritone "You rang?" According to IMDb, Lurch was intended to be a non-speaking part, as the Charles Addams cartoon character was silent. However, Cassidy improvised the line during his audition, and it was well received and incorporated into the show. When questions are posed to Lurch his primary response is a deep annoyed grunt, from which the family glean complex meanings. He is superhumanly strong and often plays the harpsichord (the music is actually played by The Addams Family composer Vic Mizzy). Lurch is very high-minded about visitors; when a plainclothes policeman (played by George Neise) visited the family, Lurch patted him down and regarded him suspiciously when he found his gun. Neise showed Lurch his badge, whereupon Lurch returned the gun. Lurch occasionally regards his employers' activities with some dubiousness much like a servant expressing disdain for the idle rich. Ted Cassidy made a cameo appearance as Lurch on an episode of the "Batman" TV series.
Grandmama Addams (Blossom Rock) - Mother of Gomez (who occasionally calls her "Mamacita"). She is a witch who conjures up potions, spells and hexes. She also dabbles in fortune-telling, though it is obvious that, in this respect at least, she is a charlatan. Her given name is never revealed in the series.
Wednesday Friday Addams (Lisa Loring) - Gomez and Morticia's daughter. She is the youngest member (six years old) of the family, she is a strange yet sweet-natured little girl who pursues such hobbies as raising spiders, beheading dolls (called "Marie Antoinette," "Mary Queen of Scots," and "Little Red Riding Hood"), and practicing ballet in a black tutu. Her favorite pet is a black widow spider named Homer, although she also has a lizard named Lucifer. She is strong enough to bring her father to his knees in a judo hold.
Pugsley Addams (Ken Weatherwax) - Gomez and Morticia' son and Wednesday's older brother. Kind-hearted and smart, occasionally conforming to "conventional" standards contrary to his family, he nevertheless shares a close bond with his parents and sister, the latter whom he often plays with. He also enjoys engineering various machines (sometimes with Gomez), playing with blasting caps, and his pet octopus Aristotle. Despite his pudginess, Pugsley is, like his father, exceptionally agile, able to out-climb a gorilla and hang from branches by his teeth.
Thing T. Thing - A disembodied hand that appears out of boxes and other conveniently placed containers. Thing apparently has the ability to teleport from container to container, almost instantly: Thing sometimes appears from different containers at opposite ends of the room within seconds of each other. Though Ted Cassidy would often portray Thing, assistant director Jack Voglin would often portray Thing in scenes where Lurch and Thing appear together.
Cousin Itt (Felix Silla in most episodes, Roger Arroyo for two episodes) - Gomez's cousin, a short entity completely hidden by his almost head-to-floor-long hair. He speaks in rapid unintelligible gibberish which the family has no difficulty understanding (according to Felix Silla's commentary on the DVD release, the voice for Cousin Itt was recorded by a member of the crew in post-production). Gomez once asks him what is under it all; Itt answers, "Roots." In one episode, Itt is said to have "the eye of an eagle...plus a few of his own." Nevertheless, he wears conventional sunglasses, supposedly so people will not pester him for autographs.
Ophelia - Morticia's sister. Gomez was originally engaged to her in an arranged marriage, but when he saw 22-year old Morticia (dressed in a grown-up version of Wednesday's clothing), he was smitten and fell in love with her; when she spoke French, he claimed that for the first time in his life, his sinuses were cleared and his bronchitis was gone. Ophelia was played by Carolyn Jones in a blonde wig (a staple of 1960's sitcom twins). One quirk of Ophelia's is that the flower growing in her hair had roots that travelled down into her foot; another is her love of judo, with which she can hurl men (usually Gomez) several feet.
Grandma Hester Frump (Margaret Hamilton) - The mother of Morticia and Ophelia.
Mayor Arthur J. Hansen (Peter Baer) - The mayor of the town that the Addams Family live in.
A reunion film, Halloween with the New Addams Family , aired on NBC in October 1977 and starred most of the original cast, except for Blossom Rock (Grandmama), who was very ill at the time and was replaced by Phyllis actress Jane Rose. The picture also featured extended family members who were created specifically for the production and never appeared in the television series, such as Gomez's brother, Pancho (played by Henry Darrow) and two additional children, Wednesday Junior and Pugsley Junior. It was originally intended for a pilot for a sequel, but no other episodes were ordered.
The interior set of the Addams mansion had previously been used for the 1972 film Ben.
As of May 2009, the show can be purchased on iTunes, and can be streamed for free in the US on IMDB, YouTube, Hulu, and Minisodes are available on Crackle You can also watch all the series vol.1-3 on netflix.
MGM Home Entertainment has released The Addams Family on DVD in Region 1, 2 and 4 in three volume sets.
1.^ "David Levy; Producer Created 'Addams Family'". LA Times. January 31, 2000.
2.^ "The 'Addams Family' Tree". LA Times. June 9, 1991.
3.^ Yiddish Expressions
4.^ Reminiscing 'Bout Bubba and others
5.^ IMDb.com – Halloween with the New Addams Family
6.^ The Addams Family DVD news: Volume 3 date and details | TVShowsOnDVD.com
7.^ The Addams Family DVD news: *Snap* *Snap* Complete Series Announced | TVShowsOnDVD.com