Last night I watched Addams Family Values. I have always liked both of the feature films, but then I have fond memories of the TV series. I was much too young to remember the original run of The Addams Family (it ran on ABC from 1964 to 1966), but I remember the syndicated reruns very well. It seems that I am not the only one. Since the show went off ABC in 1966, there has been television reunions, two animated series, two feature films, a TV movie, and a new series.
Of course, the Addams Family did not have their origins on television. They originated in the single panel cartoons of Charles Addams. The first Addams Family cartoon appeared in 1937. It featured Morticia and Lurch. Eventually, Gomez, Wednesday, Pugsley, and Grandmama would be added. In the comic strip the family was never given a name, although the general public termed them "the Addams Family" after their creator. The family did not earn first names until David Levy approached Addams about the TV series. It was then that Addams gave the characters the names we now know them by. Addams continued to draw the Addams Family cartoons until his death in 1988.
As to the appeal of both the comic strip and the subsequent TV series and movies, I think a large part of it lies in its macabre humour. The average American tends to fear death and injury. Even those who do not outright fear death and injury tend to be very uncomfortable about these subjects. The Addams Family cartoons, TV series, and movies allowed people to laugh about death and injury, thus overcoming their fear or discomfort, if only temporarily.
Another part of both the comic strip, TV series, and movies' appeal may lie in the fact that the Addamses are non-conformists. The Addams Family is a family in love with the macabre. They prefer the night to day, misery to happiness, dark colours to bright colours. In many ways, they were "Goth" long before the "Goth" movement ever began. As a family that refuses to conform to the rest of society, the Addams Family thus reinforces the idea of being oneself rather than conforming to someone else's expectations. The cartoons, the TV series, and the movies place importance on individuality over conformity.
With regards to the TV series and movies, another large part of the appeal of the Addams Family is the fact that they are a family. In a society where single parent homes are all too common, the Addams Family stick together. Indeed, it must be pointed out that not only the nuclear family lived in the Addams mansion, but the extended family as well--Morticia, Gomez, Wednesday, Pugsley, Lurch, Grandmama, and Thing all under the same roof. Furthermore, other family members did visit, some often, most notably Cousin Itt and Morticia's sister Ophelia. And while Wednesday and Pugsley occasionally make a game of trying to kill each other, the Addamses never fail to come to the aid of one of its members when he or she is in trouble. Indeed, perhaps the closeness of the Addams Family is best demonstrated by the passion exhibited by Gomez and Morticia for each other. While other TV husbands and wives might simply kiss each other on the cheek, Gomez would kiss Morticia all over her arms! At any rate, while the Addams Family may not conform to most of society's mores, they are a highly traditional family, closely knit and very devoted to each other. In fact, I think that the closeness of the Addamses may be what appeals to me the most about the TV shows and movies.
I grew up watching the Addams Family as a child and as an adult I seem to have developed an even keener appreciation of the series (a lot of the humour in the show would be lost on an 8 year old). To this days it remains one of my favourite shows of all time.