Best TV Shows of the 1950s and 1960s: Part V, The Addams Family




For my next installment in this series, I will talk about a show that I find fascinating on many levels: The Addams Family. Seemingly a sit-com about a group of misfits, based loosely on figures from horror films, whose adventures are fodder for laughter, it was actually a demonstration of a completely loving and functional family.



This unusual family, given to behavior that was not indicative of the so-called normal American clan, has had numerous incarnations since the late 1930s. Created by cartoonist Charles Addams, this family first was seen in The New Yorker and continued appearing there for several decades. Then, from 1964-1966, the family was featured in the sit-com on Television, complete with the catchy finger-snapping tune that so many people know. Several feature movies and a musical followed, so the characters continue on in new variations to this day.



As a child, I loved the silliness of the show as well as the Gothic atmosphere. I loved the classic horror films of the 1930s and 1940s (which will become a later blog series I will write), and this show was evocative of those movies.



Today, I see a series with a far deeper meaning that what I perceived when I was very young. This family is not one of which people should be frightened. Rather, they could be held as an exemplar of a loving and in love couple, who after many years of marriage, still carry great chemistry in their relationship. They love their children and their extended family.



Additionally, this show interrogates the need that America seems to have for normalcy. We are taught that everyone should behave according to set standards, or we are somehow wrong. Certainly the members of the Addams clan do not abide by such behavioral proscriptions. They are able to define their own lives and live decently without harming other people. But they are different from others.



This point clearly speaks to the issue of bigotry and tolerance. While it does so metaphorically, it still make the necessary and vital stand that we, as a society, must embrace other people, no matter their differences: of gender, sexuality, race, class, religion, nationality, neuro-diversity, intelligence, and many other so-called divisions that are often applied to humanity. While always funny, The Addams Family is ultimately a show about understanding and inclusion, a theme that should resonate today.



36 thoughts on “Best TV Shows of the 1950s and 1960s: Part V, The Addams Family

  1. I love your take on this show. I saw several episodes of it at some point in time and loved it. But I was not “awake” enough to understand the what they were teaching. I just liked how they were. Not like my family. It would be fun to see the whole series and see it with different eyes. Fascinating.

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  2. DearProf. French,

    I was born in 1946 and did not watch The Addams family. I watched My Little Margie, Father knows best, Dr Kildare, Eight is enough. I like family oriented shows. My husband and his family did not have a TV until he was able to work and buy one with money earned by selling ice cream at the beach,so he read a lot. my parents were very proud that they had the last antenna on the roof of our apt. Building. barbara

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  3. I didn’t truly appreciate this show when I was younger. Being a kid I fell in love with the more flashy counterpart of the time, The Munsters. But, in the years since its original airings, I have come to appreciate many of the same virtues you mentioned here, Charles. That despite being different, or behaving differently from what is considered acceptable behavior (or normal), The Addams Family showcased a beautiful underlying theme of love for one another. Good fun, but also they expressed a tolerance sadly lacking in society today. They welcomed everyone as a friend, even if they regarded them as odd. Whereas we the audience, saw them as the ones as being odd, they never let that affect they’re accepting someone else. And I especially love John Astin’s portrayal of, Gomez Addams, as being a generous and unfailingly forgiving man who always noticed the good in others, even when they may have had more sinister motives. I’m enjoying your look back at these shows, Charles. Keep em coming. :O)

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  4. I remember when The Addams Family and The Munsters launched the same week. I loved Addams from the start and was annoyed that the broader, dumber Munsters beat it in the ratings (though I do think Fred Gwynne was a wonderful character actor). Great analysis and tribute, Charles!

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  5. Jim

    Exactly! They were more normal behaving than the people running out of their house every week, lol! They were always so welcoming to strangers, oblivious to sometimes bad intentioned ones. ( the episode featuring Don Tickles as a bumbling burglar comes to mind ) I’d rather visit the Addams family and blow up toy trains than visit the Cleavers or the Douglas’s!

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  6. I loved the Addams Family when I was a kid!! I hadn’t given the characters or the story line much thought but your synopsis brings up some valid points. Looking back now, it appears as if the show creator knowingly or unknowingly presented a template for us as a multicultural society to follow. This was very good Charles, thank you.


  7. Bravo to you and this excellent post. The show is perhaps the first of true diversity and acceptance that all people liked AND accepted. That in itself is a great thing! Even if children just enjoyed the comedy, they still got a big dose of liking one another. Can you still sing the song and snap your fingers? I can. Thank you for this post!


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