What I’m Watching: Wednesday

I dunno why I only watched E01 when it came out, catching up now. And mostly it’s fine. Sometimes excellent, but suffers from Netflix Wants Eight Episodes Syndrome, where it could be a good 90-120 minute movie instead.

It’s very very blatantly Harry Potterage. The spooky old castle school Nevermore, with secret passages, four cliques (Fangs, Claws, Scales, and Stoners, but also shapeshifters & psychics like Weds). The “Normie” (ruder but less obscure than Muggle) town where they sneak off for forbidden beverages (coffee instead of butterbeer), tho you rarely see them drink. There’s places it’s shot-for-shot ripping off Chris Columbus, but to be fair Columbus ripped off Tim Burton.

Like HP, you never see the supposed students in class, except rarely in Herbology, er, “Care of Carnivorous Plants”. Which is Morticia’s thing, it’s odd to see it as a whole course here.

Composer Danny Elfman & producer Tim Burton are somewhat more restrained than usual, it’s gothy but not goofy like his later stuff. I’m disappointed and surprised the episode in a circus (inexplicably present decades after touring circuses ended) didn’t get all surreal and have chases thru halls of mirrors and dark rides while camera tricks simulate hallucination! THIS IS YOUR MOMENT, and you just miss it entirely.

Writing & direction are all over the place. Some eps are gothic mystery, very Poe-like. Some have gruesome action scenes, very nice. Others are wacky school hijinks like discovering the secret clubhouse. The psychiatrist visits are ’60s sitcom trash, with a few wisecracks by Wednesday. In the last 4 eps, repeatedly: Wednesday barges into a room, makes accusations or demands, they turn out to be false or stupid, proven in the next scene or so. Sometimes she’s assaulted with no fighting back. I expect more caution, forethought, and actual violence (not just threats) from an Addams.

Wednesday (Jenna Ortega) is 20 playing 16, and she’s fine at it, very cute. Fits her ancestry by way of Gomez. She’s maybe a little too stiff, classic Weds was sweet like arsenic, not bitter like cyanide. But awkward teenage serial killer years. Gotta love ’em.

Thing is fantastic. He’s clearly the best actor on the show, and the real hero. They give good long closeups of his scars and stitches. He’s never looked so alive. Just perfect.

I’m shocked to see myself write this, but Fred Armison as Uncle Fester was actually good. I loathe Fred, he’s a black hole where humor goes to be sucked out of the Universe, he’s grating, whiny, and hideously ugly in a way only a truly rotten Human monster could ever be… And the Fester makeup and writing, and his delivery, were… Not Jackie Coogan good, but acceptable. How. What dark rituals were enacted to make Fred act, for once in his fucking miserable object lesson of a life‽

Some actor casting…

Would-be boyfriend Tyler (Hunter Doohan) is 28 playing, uh, 30? He’s creepy in the way Matthew Lillard was in Scream, and this (and his ability to never be useful in an emergency) is why I pegged him early as the monster.

Enid & Xavier (ludicrously pronounced “Eks-ave-ee-er” rather than “havv-iyeh” or “szav-iyeh” like cultured people do) are played by young-looking 21-ish kids, but many other “students” are in late-20s and it shows.

Luis Guzman is adequate at the romance with Morticia, clearly dotes on Weds, but he’s ugly, unsuave, physically unfit to be sword-duelling Gomez Addams, and is 20 years older than Catherine Zeta-Jones even tho supposedly they were students together. John Astin & Raul Julia were the ideal any Gomez should aspire to. There’s a million Mexican telenovela actors who could do this role better.

★★★½☆ So uneven I don’t respect it, but I watched and so should you.