Netflix has dropped the first official teaser for Wednesday on the heels of yesterday’s exclusive first-look images for the Tim Burton-directed series in Vanity Fair. All in all, it looks deliciously Burtonesque, and we’re keen to give it a chance.
As I’ve written previously, American cartoonist Charles Addams created the characters in 1938, originally as a series of single-panel cartoons published in The New Yorker. They were his satirical sendup of American “family values,” turning the entire social framework upside-down. The characters proved so popular that ABC created a 1964 live-action sitcom, The Addams Family, based on them. (Not everyone was pleased by the development. William Shawn was editor of The New Yorker at the time, and his refined sensibilities were allegedly so offended by the TV series that he actually banned Addams Family cartoons from the magazine; the characters didn’t return to its pages until he retired in 1987.)
Animated versions of the family have appeared regularly in film and TV since the 1970s, and Fox unsuccessfully attempted to revive the original TV series in 1998 with The New Addams Family. But it was two live-action feature films in 1991 and 1993, respectively, that defined their canonical representation in popular culture: The Addams Family and Addams Family Values.
Burton famously turned down the opportunity to direct the 1991 feature film. He was also originally supposed to direct a stop-motion animated film reboot. It’s unclear what happened there, but it seems 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 first made a reasonable box office showing despite mixed reviews; the second did less well and was largely panned by critics and audiences alike.
But now Burton and the Addams Family franchise have come together at last with Wednesday. Showrunners Alfred Gough and Miles Millar—best known for Smallville—expected Burton to turn them down as well when they made their pitch. He signed onto the project instead, professing interest in the opportunity to really explore the character of Wednesday without the time limitations of a feature film. That said, “The ambition of the show was to make it an eight-hour Tim Burton movie,” Millar told Vanity Fair.
Netflix first teased the series during the streaming giant’s Geeked Week in June. Christina Ricci’s scene-stealing seminal portrayal of Wednesday was easily one of the highlights of the 1990s films. We watched her approach puberty and get a sort-of boyfriend in Addams Family Values, but in the series, Wednesday is a teenager in high school. Per the official premise:
The series is a sleuthing, supernaturally infused mystery charting Wednesday Addams’ years as a student at Nevermore Academy, where she attempts to master her emerging psychic ability, thwart a monstrous killing spree that has terrorized the local town, and solve the murder mystery that embroiled her parents 25 years ago—all while navigating her new and very tangled relationships at Nevermore.
Jenna Ortega stars as Wednesday, and she certainly looks the part. Catherine Zeta-Jones and Luis Guzmán 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-undisclosed role, while Gwendoline Christie plays Larissa Weems. As for who will be playing Uncle Fester, the showrunners refused to comment, with Gough telling Vanity Fair, “Watch the show.”
The casting choices here seem solid, although Guzman’s Gomez Addams deliberately harkens back to the original cartoon character and, thus, is shorter and stouter than the late Raul Julia’s iconically suave and debonair portrayal. That was a deliberate choice, per Millar, to ensure the series didn’t feel like another remake or reboot. “It’s something that lives within the Venn Diagram of what happened before, but it’s its own thing,” he told Vanity Fair. “It’s not trying to be the movies of the ’60s TV show.”
Wednesday’s relationship with her mother will also be a prominent theme, because “How do you step out of the shadow of a mother as glamorous as Morticia?” Gough said.
The teaser wastes no time establishing that this is an older, edgier, and even darker Wednesday who—we learn via voiceover—has been expelled from eight schools in five years. In the very first scene she takes revenge on the jocks who have been tormenting Pugsley by releasing piranhas into the pool during what looks like water polo practice. This results in the altogether ooky 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 expelled was just a bonus.”)
Hence her enrollment at Nevermore Academy. Gomez assures her she will love it there: “It’s a magical place where I met your mother.” Morticia thinks she’ll find peers who actually understand her: “Maybe you’ll even make some friends.” Instead, she finds herself in a “nightmare, full of mystery, mayhem, and murder.” There will also be fencing (Wednesday does like stabbing) and a nod to the bloody prom queen prank-gone-horribly-wrong from Carrie.
There’s still no official release date, but expect Wednesday to premiere on Netflix sometime this fall.
Listing image by YouTube/Netflix