In 10 Words or Less
Sure, it looks like the Addams Family, but...
Loves: The original Addams Family
Likes: The idea of DVDs on Demand
Dislikes: Hannah-Barbera's C-level series
Hates: Bad licensed cartoons
I'm a big fan of the original Addams Family cartoons, and the John Astin-led live-action series from the '60s. I even enjoy the films from the '90s (to a degree.) So when it was announced that the Warner Brothers Archives would be releasing a '70s cartoon Addams series, where the characters looked like the original Charles Addams drawings, I was understandably excited, as I'd never seen or even heard of this show. Considering that I am pretty media savvy and knowledgeable of old TV, that should have been my first warning.
Ask anyone who knows the Addams what stood out about the show, would certainly rank their house right behind the wonderful characters, including Gomez, the nutty businessman, loving mother Morticia, disturbing Uncle Fester and the kids Wednesday and Pugsley, but this series eliminates the house! Instead, the Addams spend this show travelling the U.S.A. in their gadget-equipped creepy camper, driven around by their monstrous butler Lurch. Their itinerary sends them on the same silly paths taken by shows like Scooby Doo or The Brady Bunch, with stops in places like Nashville, Kentucky, New York and Hawaii, as well as two trips out West, showing how limited the concept is.
Each and every stop along the way sees the family come across some kind of thief or swindler who takes advantage of them, only to get busted in the end. These bad guys come straight out of central casting, with one being the brains, and the other the moronic sidekick. They are so generic and stereotypical that if you told me there were only three character designs and two voice actors for the villains over 16 episodes, I'd be able to offer no argument at all. It's just part of a seeming lack of effort in the series, resulting in a mish-mash of a show, from the Addams' Flintstones-like use of service animals to the effort to avoid drawing legs while characters walk. On the plus side, the painted backgrounds are actually quite nice.
If anything serves as a symbol for what's wrong with this show, it's got to be Gomez Addams, essentially the star of the series. He may not have been the first representation of Gomez, but Astin put his stamp on the character, with a confident, yet child-like and wild-eyed personality. In fact, for all of the Addamses, it was the performances of each actor that really sold the characters. And while Ted Cassidy (Lurch) and Jackie Coogan (Fester) returned for the cartoon (with a young Jodie Foster providing Pugsley's voice), the show went dramatically wrong when casting Gomez, as they ended up with a bad imitation of Jackie Gleason's performance of Ralph Kramden's bad acting on The Honeymooners. Though Gomez is certainly naive and trusting, you have to be able to believe he's also the head of the household, and with this voice, combined with the creepy pug-nosed character design, you can't picture him as Morticia's equal. Combined with the uninspired storylines, it makes for a disappointing entry in the Addams' canon.
The 16 episodes of this series are split evenly across four DVDs, which are packaged in a standard-width clear keepcase, with two dual-hubbed trays. The discs have static, full-frame menus, with a play-all option and episode selections. There are no audio options, no subtitles or closed captioning. Oddly, for a Disc on Demand release, the discs look really nice, with a flat black coloring that sets off the text.
The quality level is decent overall, though there's one moment where things go absolutely haywire for a bit, with odd pixelation and blurring, but other than that, it doesn't look bad, only a little bit dull in spots. There's dirt and damage throughout the series, but it's not nearly as bad as you might expect for such an old show that hasn't been cleaned up.
The audio is presented via Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks that are good for the most part, but oddly, later episodes suffer some drop out in the music during the opening titles. Otherwise, the audio is clean, without any issues with distortion.
Like most of the Warner Brothers Archives Disc on Demand releases, there are no extras included in this set.
The Bottom Line
Anyone looking for an experience even reminiscent of the original Addams Family series will find these DVDs to be sorely lacking, as they are very bland kiddie cartoons with a drop of Addams flavor added (and the less said about Gomez, the better.) The look and sound is decent, to be honest, and there are no extras, but releases like this are solely about making the show available on DVD, and there, it succeeded. Since you probably can't rent this anywhere, I'd have to suggest skipping it, as only the most hardcore Addams completist really needs to experience this series.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.