“Wednesday” replaces the creepy, kooky Addams Family with clumsy clichés



“Wednesday” is an amalgamation of cliche teenage TV plots, all wrapped in a gothic bow.

Premiering on Nov. 23, “Wednesday” falls short of recreating the macabre charm of the “Addams Family” movies and series of the 90s. The series focuses on the teenage Wednesday Addams as she navigates a new school, Nevermore Academy, while attempting to solve some grisly murders. As a spin-off of a beloved show, the eight-episode Netflix series had plenty of potential, but its messy plot and underdeveloped characters make it a painful watch — and not the good kind of pain, as Wednesday might say.

As the eerie Addams family and their traditions formed the core of the original, it was predictable that the promises of seeing them in “Wednesday” captured the public interest. But for excited fans, the portrayal of the Addams family in “Wednesday” is a disappointing cliche. For viewers new to the Addams family, no background is needed to watch “Wednesday,” which just goes to show how small a role Wednesday’s family actually plays in her show.

The show’s biggest mistake is evident from the start, as Wednesday’s parents, Morticia and Gomez Addams (Catherine Zeta Jones and Luis Gúzman), send her away to a boarding school. This relegates the Addams family to be nothing but background characters who hardly make a major appearance after the first episode. Both the previous series and movie versions of “The Addams Family” were defined by the creepy-but-lovable family and the interactions they had with each other in the middle of a mundane world. When Wednesday was able to interact more with her family, she was able to maintain a sense of genuine quirkiness that didn’t border on embarrassment. But by plucking Wednesday out of that setting and placing her into a glorified high school, she appears to the audience as yet another sulky teenager. When we do get moments of the other Addamses, however, their quirks are the highlight of the show.

Nevermore, Wednesday’s new school, is a haven for “outcasts” like werewolves, vampires and sirens. Though the students of Nevermore are set up to be very different from the “normies” around them, exaggerated cliquishness emerges almost immediately, turning Wednesday herself into an outcast among them.

The show focuses too heavily on shallow teenage melodrama, such as school dances, mean girl encounters and an incredibly unnecessary love triangle involving Wednesday and two equally-bland love interests.

This points to a second issue that runs throughout the show: it’s laughably evident that the series’ creators are trying too hard to appeal to a younger audience. The show focuses too heavily on shallow teenage melodrama, such as school dances, mean girl encounters and an incredibly unnecessary love triangle involving Wednesday and two equally-bland love interests. These moments, along with plenty more, demote “Wednesday” to the status of yet another banal high-school series.

And oh, the mystery — or lack of it, to be precise. Rather than the intriguing murder mystery plotline we had been promised, the show heads off in a completely different direction. The peculiar murders are committed by none other than a bug-eyed monster (characterized by tacky CGI), revealed almost immediately. But as Wednesday hunts it down, a number of seemingly random plot devices are constantly thrown at her. She comes across a secret society, sees her long-dead ancestor in visions and uncovers murder allegations against her father — none of which seem at all necessary to the central story. All subtlety is thrown out by the end of the show, which culminates in a fight sequence with a resurrected pilgrim — it’s bewildering to consider how the plot ended up there.

The dialogue is middling at best, and often feels like a caricature of how one would expect Gen Z to speak. If there’s one thing we thought we could count on, it was Wednesday’s sardonic, endearingly morbid one-liners. Unfortunately, even they end up falling flat with overuse. “I haven’t always been against birthdays. Each one reminds me I’m a year closer to death’s cold embrace,” she says, and quotes like these were certainly what gave charm to the young Wednesday of the ‘90s. But for high-school-aged Wednesday, it just doesn’t work. Combined with her tendency to look down on nearly everything around her, the jokes quickly start to sound like the nonstop complaints of a grumpy teenager. These shortcomings lead Wednesday — both the series and the character — to feel unfortunately one-note.

Though “Wednesday” thoroughly underutilizes several of its best actors, the performances of a few cast members still shine through. As Wednesday Addams, Jenna Ortega is thoroughly dedicated to her role. For her, it’s all in the details: her Kubrick stare never falters, her deadpan is immaculate and throughout the show, not once will you catch her blinking. Wednesday’s dance scene during Nevermore’s winter ball is completely self-choreographed by Ortega, which is another kind of dedication altogether. Catherine Zeta Jones makes the perfect Morticia Addams, striking a perfect balance between her imposing exterior and kindhearted interior, and Fred Armisen’s take on Wednesday’s favorite Uncle Fester is perfectly absurd and comedic. Still, the best acting is buried under a mountain of casting mistakes, poor dialogue and juvenile storylines.

The lack of visual flair also made the show a letdown. For a viewer watching “Wednesday” for the first time with no knowledge of the production team, they would probably never guess that it was directed by Tim Burton. Yes, the same Tim Burton who produced creative masterpieces like “Edward Scissorhands,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Burton is known for his horror-themed movies, but “Wednesday” reflects none of that. The show contains an abundance of gloom and rain, and absent are the unique costumes we had expected to see. The only true visible trademarks of Tim Burton that appear on the show are the effort put into the backgrounds and sceneries. The characters themselves lacked flavor, but the settings they were in almost swallowed them whole with detail. From the perfect layout of a suburban town to the dark, dusty half of Wednesday’s dorm, the sets were a large part of what made the show bearable.

 Though “Wednesday” was set up for success as a spin-off of the longtime favorite “Addams Family,” it seems as though all that potential was squandered. The show persistently feels like its creators were trying too hard to appeal to a Gen Z audience while simultaneously trying to build excitement using the Addams family. Their failure to stitch all the different concepts together is detrimental to the overall execution of the show, and by pushing the Addams family to the side, all personality is quickly lost. 

On the whole, “Wednesday” is dreadfully unoriginal and does a disservice to the kooky, creepy Addams family.