Netflix released the first official teaser for Wednesday in the wake of yesterday exclusive preview images for the series directed by Tim Burton in Vanity Fair. Overall, it looks delightfully Burtonesque, and we’re keen to give it a chance.
As I wrote earlier, American cartoonist Charles Addams created the characters in 1938, originally as a series of single-panel cartoons published in the new yorker. It was his satirical dispatch of American “family values”, turning the whole social framework upside down. The characters proved so popular that ABC created a 1964 live sitcom, The Addams Family, based on them. (Not everyone was happy with the development. William Shawn was editor of the new yorker at the time, and his refined sensibilities were said to have been so offended by the TV series that he actually banned the Addams Family cartoons from the magazine; the characters did not return to its pages until its retirement in 1987.)
Animated versions of the family have appeared regularly in film and television since the 1970s, and Fox unsuccessfully attempted to revive the original television series in 1998 with The New Addams Family. But it was two live-action feature films from 1991 and 1993, respectively, that defined their canonical representation in popular culture: The Addams Family and Addams Family Values.
Burton turned down the opportunity to direct the 1991 feature film. He was also originally supposed to direct a reboot of a stop-motion animated film. It’s unclear what happened there, but it looks like MGM acquired the rights to the original series from Universal Pictures and opted to go in a different direction with 3D computer animation. The result was The Addams Family (2019) and The Addams Family 2, released last year. The former made a reasonable box office despite mixed reviews; the second was less successful and was widely panned by critics and audiences.
But now Burton and the Addams Family franchise have finally reunited with Wednesday. Showrunners Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, best known for Smallville– expected Burton to turn them down as well when they made their presentation. He instead signed on to the project, stating his interest in the opportunity to truly explore Wednesday’s character without the time limitations of a feature film. That said, “The ambition of the series was to make it an eight-hour Tim Burton film”, Millar told Vanity Fair.
Netflix first unveiled the series during the streaming giant’s Geeked Week in June. Wednesday’s stage-stealing Christina Ricci’s seminal portrayal was easily one of the highlights of 1990s films. We saw her approach puberty and find some sort of boyfriend. Addams Family Values, but in the series, Wednesday is a teenager in high school. According to the official premise:
The series is an insidious, supernatural mystery retracing Wednesday Addams’ years as a student at Nevermore Academy, where she attempts to harness her emerging psychic ability, thwart a monstrous killing spree that has terrorized the local town, and solve the mystery. of the murder that embroiled her parents 25 years ago, while navigating her highly tangled new relationships in Nevermore.
Jenna Ortega stars as Wednesday, and she certainly looks the part. Catherine Zeta Jones and Luis Guzman will portray Morticia and Gomez Addams; Isaac Ordonez plays Pugsley; George Burcea plays Lurch; and Victor Dorobantu (or at least his hand) plays Thing. Ricci will appear in an as yet unknown role, while Gwendoline Christie will play Larissa Weems. As for who will play Uncle Fester, the showrunners declined to comment, with Gough tell Vanity Fair, “Watch the show.”
The casting choices here seem solid, though Guzman’s Gomez Addams is deliberately reminiscent of the original cartoon character and, as a result, is shorter and sturdier than the late Raul Julia’s iconically suave and debonair portrayal. It was a deliberate choice, according to Millar, to ensure the series didn’t feel like another remake or reboot. “It’s something that lives in the Venn diagram of what’s happened before, but it’s its own thing,” he told Vanity Fair. “It’s not trying to be the movies of the 60s TV series.”
Wednesday’s relationship with her mother will also be an important theme, as “How do you step out of the shadow of a mother as glamorous as Morticia?” said Gough.
The teaser wastes no time establishing that it’s an older, bolder, and even darker Wednesday who, we learn through voiceovers, has been expelled from eight schools in five years. In the very first scene, she gets revenge on the jocks who torment Pugsley by dropping piranhas into the pool during what looks like water polo practice. This results in the utterly senseless castration of one of the boys. But Wednesday has no regrets. (“I did the world a favor. People like Dalton shouldn’t be allowed to procreate. Getting kicked out was just a bonus.”)
Hence his enrollment at the Nevermore Academy. Gomez assures her that she will love this place: “It’s a magical place where I met your mother.” Morticia thinks she’ll find peers who understand her: “Maybe you’ll even make some friends.” Instead, she finds herself in a “nightmare, full of mystery, chaos and murder”. There will also be fencing (Wednesday likes to stab) and a nod to the prom queen’s fucking prank that went horribly wrong from Carrie.
There is still no official release date, but expect Wednesday premiering on Netflix this fall.
Listing image by YouTube/Netflix