The new Addams Family-inspired Netflix drama, Wednesday, is set to premiere Nov. 23, 2022. Despite the Addams Family franchise being rebooted in several mediums throughout history, I don’t think Wednesday will be a good-faith adaptation of source material.
The evolution of teen drama
North American teen drama has had a long life, beginning with shows such as Beverly Hills, 90210, which aired in 1990 and Degrassi Junior High, first airing in 1987. Unlike many sitcoms, children’s programs, dramas and soap operas, these shows are targeted directly at teenagers and young adults.
The shows focus on problems relatable to teenagers at the time, often more dramatic than everyday school life. For example, in the Saved By The Bell episode, “Jessie’s Song,” character Jessie Spano becomes addicted to caffeine pills.
Gradually, teen dramas morphed into something more melodramatic, like the 1998 series Dawson’s Creek. Some veered into supernatural and sci-fi elements like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, released in 1997.
Recently teen dramas are heading in a mystery thriller direction. Many feature much different elements than the Degrassi Junior High generation.
Shows such as Gossip Girl, which aired in 2007 and Pretty Little Liars in 2010 began defining this new take on the teen genre. In the last few years, new dramas such as Riverdale and 13 Reasons Why make me believe this change in direction is here to stay.
A possible side effect of the massive success of shows like Riverdale is television executives “following the leader” with content they greenlight. I suspect this is the case with Wednesday and the show will attempt to follow fads, rather than make an effort to be a good show.
The Addams Family first aired in 1964. It’s been remade into live-action and animated television shows and films. Despite past successes, I have multiple concerns with this attempt at a reboot.
There’s something about Wednesday
Before I discuss flaws, I want to discuss the excellent casting and portrayal of Wednesday Addams by Jenna Ortega in the new teaser trailer.
Ortega’s acting in the trailers is excellent. Her deadpan delivery is classic Wednesday. Her costume is different enough to show the evolution of Wednesday’s circumstances and personality from the previous Addams Family canon.
Unfortunately, the acting and costumes throughout the rest of the trailer aren’t as good as our main protagonist. Overall the characters and scenery aren’t striking enough to grab my attention.
Despite the premise of Nevermore Academy being a school for fellow weirdos, I find the cast painfully generic. It reminds me of the 2015 era Dark Academia, a subculture and fashion trend focused on higher education, secret societies and cults. Because of this, aside from Wednesday, the cast all look like failed Harry Potter extras.
The school uniforms are a garish eyesore. Unremarkable, apart from looking like they’d been skinned from a zebra. The worst part of the costuming apart from colour and stripes is they look like any average prep school uniform. A school for weirdos and misfits with uniforms sewn to look like any other boarding school’s uniform? Boring.
When Tim Burton signs on as one of the main creators of a show, you expect a certain aesthetic and ambiance. Moreso, when a franchise has as much creative potential as The Addams Family, it’s sad to see the teenage actors look so much like a TikTok video. Forgettable amidst the tsunami of other generic TikToks summoned from the IV drip surgically attached to my hand (my phone).
An especially dire note is the school principal, Larissa Weems, played by Gwendoline Christie. She looks like a carbon copy of the many Harry Potter Professor Umbridge lookalikes I’ve seen over the years. Kate Winslet as Jeanine Matthews in Divergent comes to mind.
Overall, it seems there was no thought put into casting anything other than generically attractive tropes. For example, Emma Myers’ character Enid Sinclair doesn’t seem to have more depth than being bubbly and (this is just speculation on my part) guarding a dark secret.
Finally, I don’t have high hopes for the dialogue. In the trailer, it seems to hold no purpose other than assaulting our eardrums with Joss Whedon-type quips. A perfect example is Enid Sinclair asking Wednesday, “Wanna take a stab at being social?”, with Wednesday responding curtly, “I do like stabbing.” Bleh.
Sounding cynical, feeling cynical
I admit I sound cynical here. In theory, there’s nothing wrong with having an ensemble of bit characters around a single developed main character. But I think this style of television only works with pure comedies, such as Married with Children, where almost all secondary characters served as fodder for protagonist Al Bundy. It conflicts heavily with the mystery thriller style Wednesday seems to be going for.
I worry Wednesday will be yet another boring remake in the vein of Gossip Girl. It’s trying to survive on the name and brand recognition of a classic while appealing to whatever new, boundary-pushing teen drama is currently at the top.
I could be wrong, but I don’t have high hopes for this show.