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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Best TV Shows of the 1950s and 1960s Part Four: The Outer Limits

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“There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to… The Outer Limits.” (http://www.tv.com/shows/the-outer-limits-1963)

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For this next installment of this series about what I consider to be the best television shows of the 1950s and 1960s, I will discuss The Outer Limits. This show, and I am not referring to its reboot in the 1990s, ran from 1963-1965. It was a series that was science fiction, horror, fantasy, and morality lessons rolled into one.

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One episode was “The Zanti Misfits,” in which a group of aliens from another planet, having difficulty knowing what to do with their criminals, decide that the best option is to send them to the planet with the species most noted for killing: earth and human beings. This society of aliens will not execute their own beings, but they see no moral issue with shipping them to another place to have the terrible work performed. It raises numerous issues with the question of capital punishment and, through the lens of science-fiction, makes the viewers confront the moral questions surrounding this kind of judicial punishment.

The show also parallels the issue of social irresponsibility with that of personal moral negligence in the form or a bank robber and his girlfriend who wander into the battle with the Zanti criminals.  Not only is the larger society examined but also the actions of individuals.  If you watch this episode, you might recognize a very young Bruce Dern.

I was a child when I saw this episode, and it was scared me badly. Today, I see the fairly unsophisticated special effects, but I also recognize the importance of the message of the script. And this is what gave this series such power: it combined the ability to frighten viewers with the capacity to explore and teach important lessons about life and our world.

Please give this series a try if you have not seen it.

A Little About Helen Murray

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I have been giving tidbits of backstory about the three retired gentlemen who are the focus of my horror novel Maledicus: Investigative Paranormal Society Book I. In the next few posts about characters in the novel, I will write a little about a few of the secondary, but important characters, of the book.

Helen Murray was a high school history teacher, the kind of teacher who caught her students’ attention and engaged them in the lessons. She understood that for many teenagers, history began the day there were born, and that it required a great effort to engage her charges’ minds.

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She would often wear clothing or costumes of the time period when teaching about the Civil War or the Victorian era for example. Many of her fellow teachers looked at her as an eccentric, but she didn’t care, because her pupils had learned to be interested in history. Reaching her students, and instilling in them an interest in history was far more important to her than what others thought about her.

Her life had been an ordered one, but that changed with a series of terrible incidents, including the deaths of her sister and brother-in-law. As a result of a terrible car crash, Helen became the guardian of her very young niece, Helena, who was named for her.

I don’t want to reveal too much about the plot of the book, but I will say that Helen showed herself to have the heart of a tiger and to be a warrior.

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