It’s Creepy and It’s Kooky…But Is It Any Good?

David B Morris
7 min readMar 23, 2023

Better Late Than Never: Wednesday

Don’t be a baby. She knows what she’s doing. The show’s working on it. deadline.com

One of my fondest memories as a child is watching the film adaptation of The Addams Family and its sequel. I consider both movies hysterically funny as well as among the best examples of a film adaptation of a classic TV series. (Of that era, the only movie that matches it in my opinion, was The Fugitive.) It was triumph in every way, from its brilliant direction and designs, it’s exceptional musical score and its incredible performances. And it will also go down history for being the breakout performance of Christina Ricci as Wednesday.

Ricci has been one of my favorite actresses ever since I was introduced her in that film. Even at thirteen, she had the ability to steal every scene she was in. Her perfect deadpan delivery made every line hysterical: (My favorite exchange is when a Girl Scout offers to buy lemonade for her, asks if her lemonade is made of real lemons and says she will if she’ll buy a box of her Girl Scout Cookies. “Are they made from real Girl Scouts?”) Ricci has spent the last thirty years as one of the few child actresses to make a perfect leap to adulthood with no true sign of any trauma as a result. (The characters she plays, on the other hand…)

It was in part due to my incredible fondness of Ricci’s work that I was reluctant to initially watch Netflix’s Wednesday. I wasn’t worried about The Addams Family getting the same treatment as Riverdale as Netflix’s version of Sabrina; doing a grim reboot of The Addams Family seemed as impossible as a satire of a Wayans Brothers parody. And honestly, adaptations of old TV franchises and comic books almost never seem to see the light of day at awards show, so I figured best to put it on the back burner when I got free time. (Ha, ha.) Then Jenna Ortega and the series itself began to get nominations from other awards shows: Ortega has to date been nominated for Best Actress in a Comedy in the Golden Globes, Critics Choice and SAG awards and the show itself has been nominated for Best Comedy by the first two. I realized I had to start getting caught up.

First of all, I will be upfront. Ortega is perfect in the title role. She has all of the mannerisms that every Wednesday has down: perfect deadpan delivery of every line, and all of her lines are straight out of what we know she would say. (“My last therapist had a nervous breakdown,” she tells her new one.) Ortega is a marvel to watch every time she’s onscreen, and she’s on it almost all the time, she can generate laughs every time she says a line, even when she’s giving voiceover narration. Most of the cast I’ve seen is equally good: Catherine Zeta-Jones and Luis Guzman are superb as Morticia and Gomez, Riki Lindhome is absolutely sublime as Wednesday’s new therapist and of course, Ricci herself as the dorm mom at Wednesday’s new boarding school. The show is directed by Tim Burton, who you honestly wonder why he never directed the Addams Family movies. And Danny Elfman himself is providing the score.

All and all, Wednesday has all the makings of a masterpiece. But I can’t quite put my — well, Thing — as to what is missing from this series and why sometimes I have trouble just going with it.

Having seen the first two episodes, perhaps my problem came more with the Pilot than anything else. Watching the teaser I was in utter rapture: Wednesday admiring the sadism of high school, removing Pugsley from the locker and telling him crying makes him look weak, releasing piranhas into pool to Edith Piaf, saying “No one gets to torture my brother but me” I thought: “Splendid!” And then much of the Pilot seemed directed towards being something very close to the worst kind of things for a show involving the Addams Family: being traditional.

I don’t object in principle to Wednesday not wanting to follow the path of her parents and instantly trying to escape from her mother’s boarding school. Admittedly, I’d think that kind of rebellion would be dating the quarterback and becoming a cheerleader, but that’s the wrong kind of torture for Wednesday. The idea of a boarding school for outcasts is a funny idea in principle, as well as Wednesday’s roommate being the most cheerful werewolf imaginable — that’s a special kind of hell for her. I love the idea that she still uses a typewriter to work on her novel, and that she hates social media because it involves technology, not because she hates the effect it has on people. (Was one of the co-founders of Facebook and Addams? No, that’s just too cruel even for them.) I like the idea of a boarding school among outcasts having a caste system, vampires, werewolves, telepaths and the far too underused sirens, as well as the fact that having supernatural powers actually amplifies teenage hormones (Buffy made that joke very clear) Gwendoline Christie is delightful as the headmistress, who happened to be Morticia’s roommate when she was a student and Lindhome, who has a wonderful habit of playing relentlessly cheerful character is great as Wednesday’s new therapist. Most of the young actors are also superb: Joy Sunday is wonderful as Bianca, the siren whose more or less the queen bee of the school, Emma Meyers as the way-too-cheerful werewolf and I hope to see more of Eugene, the sole member of the beekeeping club, who already stole every scene he was in.

I guess my largest problem with the pilot was that the show tried to hard to fit Wednesday into the conventional hero mold. Considering that the writers for the series created Smallville, maybe this should have been a huge shock. The larger problem is, of course, Wednesday Addams could never be mistaken for Clark Kent and trying to fit her into the model of a conventional teenage hero of the series is an idea that doesn’t inspire me. (And seriously, trying to give Wednesday a trauma plot for her trademark unemotional behavior? I’m pretty sure traumatic childhoods are encouraged by Addams’ as a precious family heirloom.) There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with trying turn Wednesday into a teen detective and mix it with the supernatural; it just seems kind of you know -ordinary.

Many of my concerns were assuaged having seen the second episode. The show seems to have found more of a groove by putting a murder mystery at the center, which I did not think would work very well in the Pilot. It helps a lot that, for all the outcasts and bullies in the series, the writers have decided to make the heavy the town sheriff, who wants to make sure the academy is closed down, but who is utterly contemptible to his own teenage son (he practically demands that Tyler tell him what’s going on in his therapy sessions and seems relieved Tyler is talking about his late mother rather than ‘spreading stories about his old man’.) You actually hope this guy gets eaten by the monster that’s in the woods.

It also helps that the series is now begin to utilize Thing who, just as in the films and TV show, steals every scene they’re in. Wednesday clearly has a bizarre relationship with it (are there any other kind) and its actually entertaining to see Thing being used to a greater ability as a spy and how other people react to it. (Enid’s conversation about bonding with Thing ‘over mani-pedis’ was a huge laugh.) Christina Ricci’s character is also enjoyable to watch. AT first, you think like so much else in the series’, her presence is simply another Easter egg, but as always with every character she’s ever played, there’s more beneath the surface. She seems to be the only ‘normal’ person at Nevermore (which in itself is an in-joke) and there’s something both sad and funny about her in every scene. I have little doubt she’s hiding something beneath the surface but in a show like this, it was actually be more surprising (and interesting) if she was actually who she was at face value.

There are clearly signs this series could step wrong at any moment, what with the murder mysteries, the psychic flashes and the secret societies. This is, after all, the trap that so many reboots such as Nancy Drew and Riverdale fell prey to very quickly. But unlike those shows, the decision to use Ortega as a voice-over narrator is the right decision because Wednesday is taking all the overarching seriousness that these show’s take and undercutting with dry humor with every other line. I was still struggling with the idea that this series could contend for awards after the Pilot; the second episode convinced me that both Ortega and the show deserve every nomination and award they will get in the near future.

If I have any doubts about Wednesday, it is the fact there are times it takes itself too seriously when it comes to sticking to genre-tropes. Wednesday alone should take everything seriously; the show should try much hard to stay funny and light. There are more than enough scenes in the series to make me think it will stay that course, but there are always warning signs. There is clearly enough good stuff in Wednesday to make it be the next big thing for Netflix; perhaps even a worthy successor to Stranger Things when its final season airs. The Addams Family has always been eccentric, grotesque and funny, when it was at its most strange and everything else around reacted to it. Conventional would be as dirty a word as ‘normal’ to the show. Those are, to coin a phrase, the Family Values that I hope Wednesday sticks with.

My score; 4.25 stars.

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David B Morris

After years of laboring for love in my blog on TV, I have decided to expand my horizons by blogging about my great love to a new and hopefully wider field.