The Ten Best THE ADDAMS FAMILY Episodes of Season Two

Welcome to a new Sitcom Tuesday… on a Wednesday, where we’re finishing the best of The Addams Family (1964-1966, ABC), which is currently available in full on DVD and Amazon.

The Addams Family stars JOHN ASTIN, CAROLYN JONES, JACKIE COOGAN, TED CASSIDY, BLOSSOM ROCK, LISA LORING, KEN WEATHERWAX, and FELIX SILLA.

The series goes into its final year with both an elevated awareness of its identity as a domestic comedy about a strange family who subverts the genre’s expectations and, thanks to Season One’s success, an enhanced ability to use its characters to satisfy this understanding. Accordingly, despite a high-concept structure that’s premise-led with supernatural decorations, Addams has become even more character-driven, or at least character-rooted, for now, with a stronger association between the regulars and the thesis, the show’s sophomore year turns away from its “a stranger comes to the house and encounters the Addamses’ ookiness” template, which we saw a lot last year, and instead focuses more on interpersonal stories between members of the family, furthering their development. Once again, there are tales about Fester and Lurch and Itt, but the spotlight goes principally to Gomez and Morticia, whose cultivated dynamic has emerged as the series’ defining emotional bedrock. In fact, their bond gains notable dimension here, aided by the introduction of new peripheral players — Morticia’s sister Ophelia and their mother, Granny Frump — who debut in a classic flashback (featured below) that shows us how the couple first met. This supplied history is something Munsters, for instance, never would have built an episode around, and it indicates Addams’ more pronounced desire to use its leads to further its overall goals… That said, with less of the outside, or “normal” world, in weekly narratives, sometimes the calibration of strangeness is off, yielding plots either too typical for this atypical show (see: the Christmas entry), or, like most ’60s efforts, more concerned with their episodic notions instead of anything truly in support of the characters or the premise. The feature films of the ’90s — this franchise’s most visible reboot — would correct these issues by emphasizing stylistic peculiarities while magnifying each of the leads’ comic depictions, ensuring that strangeness was obvious in the characters. However, the original series is the foundation for every screen adaptation that follows, revealing the premise’s domestic origins and the normalcy that it usually rejects, but — like all of these supernatural family shows — doesn’t abandon completely. It’s a perfect encapsulation of its era, and with all this in mind, I have picked ten episodes that I think exemplify Season Two’s finest.

 

01) Episode 36: “Morticia’s Romance (I)” (Aired: 09/24/65)

Gomez and Morticia tell the kids how they first met.

Written by Hannibal Coons & Harry Winkler | Directed by Sidney Lanfield

This is the aforementioned flashback show, where the series lets us see how Morticia and Gomez first met — a narrative that both helps further the emotional foundation of their relationship for future application in story and solidifies going forward that the characters, and theirs specifically, are the fulcrum for the strangeness feeding the series’ premise. As a result, this is my pick for the year’s Most Valuable Episode (MVE), for this two-parter legitimizes the show’s developed understanding of its primary focus while simultaneously making it easier for Season Two to utilize it thereafter. Also, this is a terrific showcase for the series’ trademark oddness, and it’s only abetted by the introduction of both Ophelia, a wispy blonde creature who’s nevertheless just as absurd as her sister Morticia and simultaneously played by Carolyn Jones (an underrated comic performer), and their mother, portrayed in a brilliant bit of casting by the iconic Wicked Witch of the West, Margaret Hamilton, whose presence is great for Addams’ projection of its identity. Both of these new characters come back later in the season and, in addition to helping develop the Morticia/Gomez history and reaffirming the premise, they also spark story, making everything about their inclusion, and these two offerings, fruitful for the series. There’s nothing else on this list as smart or well-conceived.

02) Episode 37: “Morticia’s Romance (II)” (Aired: 10/01/65)

The story continues as Gomez almost marries Morticia’s sister.

Written by Hannibal Coons & Harry Winkler | Directed by Sidney Lanfield

The second half of this excellent two-parter maybe has a little more plot than its predecessor, as it has to build to the wedding of Gomez and Ophelia, so it doesn’t quite have the fun or novelty of the main duo’s initial meeting. But it better features the other regulars, like Fester and Itt, who are more integrated into the action when Morticia calls upon them for help in stopping her beloved’s pending nuptials. Otherwise, this outing works for all the same reasons that the above does — the cast, the story, the premise — and the flashback device, while a gimmick, is really a mechanism for exploring the characters, and its deployment is akin to how it was used on The Dick Van Dyke Show, one of the most intelligent and best written shows of the era. Obviously, Addams isn’t up to that standard, but the domestic affiliation and these character-based interests make it worth mentioning, and again, this is in contrast to The Munsters, which never thought to do anything similar. As with Part I, don’t miss Part II!

03) Episode 41: “Halloween — Addams Style” (Aired: 10/29/65)

A neighbor tells Wednesday that there’s no such thing as witches.

Written by Hannibal Coons & Harry Winkler | Directed by Sidney Lanfield

The Addams Family’s second Halloween offering is less ostentatiously memorable than its first year’s “mistaking crooks for trick-or-treaters” plot, but it successfully reiterates the show’s satire of TV domesticity with a story about how the Addamses spring into action when their children are told that witches don’t exist. This is a lampoon of the “there’s no such thing as Santa” cliché, which the year shockingly does engage in its Christmas show — referenced above as an example of improperly calibrated strangeness, for it’s far too normal, and, heck, something this entry explicitly mocks, as Halloween is much more suited to their macabre values.

04) Episode 42: “Morticia, The Writer” (Aired: 11/05/65)

Morticia decides to write children’s books more aligned with her own tastes.

Written by Hannibal Coons & Harry Winkler | Directed by Sidney Lanfield

There are a handful of solid outings this season about Morticia’s self-expression — like “Morticia, The Sculptress” and “Morticia, The Decorator” (mentioned below) — which affably encourage a display of her dark sensibilities and bolster the series’ projection of its premise. But I’ve chosen to highlight this one because it’s the best, with a comic narrative about Morticia writing children’s books where ghosts and goblins aren’t treated as evil. It also boasts the most direct use of the Gomez/Morticia relationship, as the wife’s new career makes her husband jealous… a typical domestic notion enlivened by specifics. Also, Peter Bonerz guests.

05) Episode 44: “Gomez, The Reluctant Lover” (Aired: 11/19/65)

Pugsley’s teacher thinks Gomez has sent her a love letter.

Teleplay by Charles Marion & Leo Rifkin | Story by Charles Marion | Directed by Sidney Lanfield

Once again, there are several offerings that make use of the same basic idea: a love triangle construct that develops with Gomez and Morticia and someone else. However, because of the passionate repartee between the two leads and the genuine dynamic that the series has since labored to add in support, these stories usually work well for their characters. To wit, what I like about this installment, as opposed to say “Morticia’s Dilemma,” in which another woman also makes Morticia jealous, is that it simultaneously prioritizes the show of affection between Gomez and Morticia while benefiting from a guest who can carry her own comedic weight — Jill Andre, who’s very funny as Pugsley’s buttoned-up school teacher.

06) Episode 45: “Feud In The Addams Family” (Aired: 11/26/65)

Social climbers mistake Wednesday Addams for Abigail Adams.

Teleplay by Rick Richards & Jerry Gottler | Story by Rick Richards | Directed by Sidney Lanfield

Fred Clark and Virginia Gregg play the parents of one of Wednesday’s classmates, on whom she has a crush, in this amiable excursion that gets big laughs by keeping us ahead of the characters, courtesy of a narrative in which a family believes that Wednesday is actually Abigail Quincy Adams, a descendant of John Adams and therefore one of the most prominent young ladies in the country. Obviously, we know that’s not the case — they’re just cousins — and the joke of these social climbers enduring all of the Addamses’ kookiness but passing it off as merely wealthy eccentricity plays well, highlighting the characters’ premised strangeness.

07) Episode 47: “Portrait Of Gomez” (Aired: 12/10/65)

Gomez seeks a photographer who can capture him at his most flattering.

Teleplay by Bill Lutz & Leo Salkin & Henry Sharp | Story by Bill Lutz & Leo Salkin | Directed by Sidney Salkow

I haven’t given enough praise here to the triumph of the series’ stars, particularly the hilarious John Astin, who brings so much zest and vitality to Gomez that he goes from being a figure to an actual character — indeed, he’s probably more responsible than anyone else for developing the Gomez/Morticia relationship into the impassioned fire/ice attraction that we know today. This installment is laudable because it proves Astin’s worth, showcasing Gomez and all his quirks, as he needs a picture for a magazine and ends up having to learn how to drive because the photographer he likes works at the DMV. Tom D’Andrea appears.

08) Episode 59: “Addams Cum Laude” (Aired: 03/04/66)

Gomez and Morticia take over managing a private school.

Written by Sloan Nibley & Bill Lutz | Directed by Sidney Lanfield

One of the few shows where the Addamses actually leave their own little bubble and venture out into the world, “Addams Cum Laude” claims the memorable suggestion of the family taking over a private school and implementing all of their bizarre changes, like switching the curriculum from Math and English to Advanced Headshrinking and Freshman Dynamite. As you can guess, there are a lot of identity-based jokes here, all of them stemming from our understanding of the family’s strangeness, which is on full blast in both the story and the script’s depiction of character. Also of note, Allyn Joslyn’s Mr. Hilliard, from the pilot, is back.

09) Episode 60: “Cat Addams” (Aired: 03/11/66)

A doctor pays a house call on Kitty Cat and meets the rest of the family.

Written by Paul Tuckahoe | Directed by Stanley Z. Cherry

John Astin reunites with his former I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster costar Marty Ingels in this amusing episode that takes a comic idea employed last year on a small scale with Uncle Fester, who needed a doctor after he lost his electric charge, and doubles down on the absurdity by having a vet pay a house call to examine all of the family’s critters, starting with Kitty Cat (who’s a lion), and continuing with Cousin Itt, Cleopatra, Uncle Fester, and Thing. It’s a lot of fun — Ingels maximizes the comedy — and the series’ self-contained “outsider trapped on the inside” template is rendered in one of its funniest, and most thesis-affirming, narratives.

10) Episode 64: “Ophelia’s Career” (Aired: 04/08/66)

The family tries to help Ophelia find something she can do.

Written by Hannibal Coons & Harry Winkler | Directed by Sidney Lanfield

Carolyn Jones is back doing double duty as Morticia’s offbeat sister, Ophelia, who makes her third of three post-flashback appearances in this offering, the series finale, which is her strongest entry because of two hysterical comic centerpieces in which she takes up singing after some lessons from Cousin Itt — whose instruction is evident — and then has her voice ruined by one of Fester’s throat tonics. Even more than Astin, Jones doesn’t get enough credit for her comic agility, and this segment conclusively proves why that’s unfortunate. Additionally, there’s some choice character beats here, both with Ophelia and the rest of the ensemble.

 

Other notable entries include: “The Addams Policy,” which is a generally solid show of the family’s quirks, “Morticia, The Decorator,” an above-referenced example of how Morticia’s characterization is explored in plot, and “Happy Birthday, Grandma Frump,” where Margaret Hamilton shines in her return as Morticia’s mother. Of more Honorable Mention quality are “My Fair Cousin Itt,” in which Itt becomes an actor, “Uncle Fester, Tycoon,” the best Uncle Fester show of the season, and “Morticia And Gomez Vs. Fester And Grandmama,” which I cite for being something of a “too typical” episode — more suited to the domestic-adhering Munsters, which actually did do this storyline (but made it funnier). Lastly, “Morticia Meets Royalty” is interesting as one of the series’ most bonkers offerings.

 

*** The MVE Award for the Best Episode from Season Two of The Addams Family goes to…

“Morticia’s Romance (I)”

 

 

Come back next week for the start of I Dream Of Jeannie!

26 thoughts on “The Ten Best THE ADDAMS FAMILY Episodes of Season Two

  1. My favorite episode didn’t make your top ten (weep, whimper, and sob) but at least you mentioned it: “Happy Birthday, Grandma Frump.” Margaret Hamilton is absolutely delightful in this one.

    • Hi, Mark! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I agree — it’s a showcase for Hamilton and her casting is a subtextual affirmation of the series’ thesis. I just wish the plot extended beyond typical sitcom conventions and enabled more of the characters’ trademark strangeness, which is always the most satisfying comic engine.

      • Nobody is a bigger Oz or Margaret Hamilton fan than me but I agree that’s not a great episode. She’s not as -ooky- as I want her to be. They could’ve done so much more. She’s the wicked witch of the west fer crying out loud!!!

        I love Ophelia though because she is a total kookoo. The one where she sings is priceless & one of my faves. I laugh every time because Carolyn Jones is so darn good there. I wish Yvonne deCarlo had been given something like that to do on her show. Do you think she could have pulled it off?

        Thanks for covering this series! Looking forward to IDOJ!! I’m a Bewitched girl first and foremost but IDOJ can be mindless fun.

        • Hi, Elaine! Thanks for reading and commenting.

          I share your concerns about “Happy Birthday, Grandma Frump.” Fundamentally, the way Granny behaves is “normal” (by typical sitcom logic) and doesn’t allow for the same kind of expectation-subverting nuance that propels the series’ other characterizations. Hamilton is very funny (as usual) and she’s a credit to the cast (as before), but the show doesn’t maximize her inclusion to better fulfill its primary objective like it could. It’s therefore not a great sample of the series.

          Meanwhile, I agree that the underrated Jones is dynamite in “Ophelia’s Career,” making for one of the funniest scenes of the series. As for whether De Carlo could have handled a similar comedic centerpiece on THE MUNSTERS, I’m not sure because that show never afforded her the opportunity to prove it. I am skeptical that she would have felt comfortable going as broad as Jones did; De Carlo was great with a quip and an attitude — she was Lily Munster — but I wouldn’t say she ever did anything really physical or comedically bold.

          Stay tuned next week for my thoughts on I DREAM OF JEANNIE!

  2. I dont recall you mentioning Grandmama Blossom Rock anywhere? Was she a negligible presence? Would you possibly have any thoughts on the 1977 reunion of the Addams or the 1981 Munsters reunion (specifically how the main actors fared with their characterizations years later)? And Margaret Hamilton is a wonderful presence as mother Frump. I read she declined to reprise the role for the reunion film and was replaced by Elvia Allman. Thanks!

    • Hi, Matt! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Yes, I think Grandmama is one of the least-defined members of the regular cast, and she’s not integral to any episode that I found worth mentioning.

      Also, I’m not interested in addenda to any of these ‘60s series. They tell us nothing about the initial properties and are almost always inferior, often because they’re written by men who are new to the franchise and fail to capture the spirit of the original. These two “reunions” are no exception.

  3. I also liked “Happy Birthday, Grandma Frump”. Margaret Hamilton presence was enough for me. I thought it was a funny episode. Not complaining though. Enjoyed your picks. Looking forward to Jeannie. Happy Thanksgiving.

    • Hi, Smitty! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      “Happy Birthday, Grandma Frump” is an ideal Honorable Mention because it has something (Hamilton) worth mentioning, but it’s not a great sample of THE ADDAMS FAMILY; she and the story are not strange enough and do not service the other regulars enough. I totally understand why you enjoy it though — I enjoy it too.

      Stay tuned next week for my thoughts on I DREAM OF JEANNIE!

  4. My favorite episode is between “Portrait of Gomez” and “Gomez the Reluctant Lover”. Thanks for picking them. John Astin is hilarious in everything he does.

    I wish the Granny Frump episode was better. I love Margaret Hamilton but I watch for Gomez and Morticia and they do not do enough there.

    I also do not like the Ophelia ones for the same reason but Carolyn Jones is great in them and I agree that her singing is hilarious. Definitely a great epsiode.

    Forgive me if this has been asked before but what is your favorite 1960’s sitcom? I like Bewitched and That Girl.

  5. I had never seen the “Morticia’s Romance” eps. Interesting that Fester is Morticia’s uncle in the series but changed to Gomez’s brother in the films.

    • Hi, bobster427! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      “Morticia’s Romance” is a must-see — the series is prioritizing its central couple by exploring their backstory, while at the same time building out the peripheral ensemble. Smart moves in every direction!

      Funnily, the Addamses’ family tree has been switched around a lot throughout the years — in the stage musical, they do a whole bit about not knowing whose mother Grandmama actually is!

  6. It’s such fun to watch these again; Jones and Astin were so underrated. I didn’t remember at all that in the series Fester was her uncle and not his brother like in the film. And it’s fun to think this was the first show with “dupe” sisters/cousins!

    • I agree; Jones and Astin don’t often get their due as classic ‘60s sitcom stars — at least, not in the same way that we rightly celebrate Gwynne and Lewis for their work on THE MUNSTERS.

      Incidentally, THE PATTY DUKE SHOW predates this season by two years and featured “identical cousins” played by the same actress every week! I believe that is the first regular use of the device — outside of episodic one-offs (and not counting “the star dresses up as an elderly relative” bit, as seen on, for instance, THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW).

  7. Great overview! While I watched episodes of the show back in the day they’ve long since vanished from Irish screens so it is intriguing to see them analysed like this – as with many people born years after the original airings I am perhaps more familiar with the characters via the movies (though I have fond memories of seeing John Astin on ‘Eerie Indiana’ as a kid.)

    One reading I’ve come across is that the Addams are symbolically American aristocracy like the Astors or the Vanderbilts and that so many of their trappings – inhherited wealth, eccentricity, unique family lore – are just slightly tweaked tropes of American ‘Old Money’ and this patrician state is part of their difference from conventional middle class ways. The contrast is with lower middle class and ethnic Munsters who represent second or third generation emigres. You’ve studied both shows, any thoughts on that?

    • Hi, Ross! Thanks for reading and commenting. Your thought-provoking question has prompted an essay…

      I think a racial or class-conscious reading of these series is rooted in valid observations, but is maybe so removed from the premise of both that it fails to understand what they are.

      For starters, you’re right: THE MUNSTERS’ middle-class sensibilities are central to its premise, for the entire joke of the series is that these strange people — movie monsters — are, in fact, “normal,” because they adhere to the domestic sitcom’s established tropes of generic relatability. That is, there’s a reason the first season’s opening credits are a direct parody of THE DONNA REED SHOW’s — it’s lampooning a tired subgenre, as many ‘60s sitcoms aimed to do. Also, with the comic idea being “no, really — they’re just like us,” I would say that a civil rights-era message about diversity and acceptance can be derived from certain stories, particularly when Herman is treated like an outsider by the rest of the world, even though he’s basically no different than anybody else. What’s more, most of the characters are physically green or blue — so they literally are another color that’s clearly not white, and with Connelly and Mosher having previously written for AMOS ‘N’ ANDY, the most prominent “Black” sitcom of the pre-JULIA era, it’s not totally ridiculous to look at Herman Munster’s depiction and see an evolved form of blackface.

      However, it’s not fair to link the family’s ill-fittingness in suburbia — its conflict — to a tension about race or ethnicity, because the objective here is to spoof the domestic format; there’s little comedy without it. And although this spoof is absolutely possible using movie monsters — their being “normal” by embracing conventions inevitably mocks the conventions because it’s so absurd — non-whites/Americans conforming to a mainly “white” or American worldview, as this ethnic reading posits, would not have been seen in the 1960s as surprising enough for intended parody. Actually, it was anticipated that folks called “other” would try to fit in with a majority — they had no choice — and Black people “acting white” (for lack of a better term) wouldn’t have mocked the conventions; it would have reinforced them (see: JULIA). This is then not funny because the challenge to the subgenere is symbolic, not actual, and in this regard, “DONNA REED but Black” would have been new for TV in 1964, but it wouldn’t have been a spoof, which means it also wouldn’t have been THE MUNSTERS. The racial element doesn’t allow for this type of intended satire.

      Meanwhile, intended satire is dependent on having conventions to mock, and if the Munsters are slightly more working class (or lower middle class) than most of their predecessors — and, I would agree that most of the 1950s suburban sitcoms suggest more financial comfort — we’re never supposed to let this characterization obstruct our recognition that they are still meant to observe and honor every domestic middle-class cliché. In other words, even though they’re movie monsters who don’t “belong” in suburbia, this is not because of their income, but because they’re movie monsters, and nobody runs from Herman Munster for not being rich enough. So, while these racial/class-based categorizations of the Munsters’ identity are accurate, they are tangential to what’s actually being mined for comedy, and, in my opinion, any perceived symbolism therein fights the premise instead of supporting it, so it’s best not to overindulge this kind of analysis.

      As for THE ADDAMS FAMILY, I definitely agree that there’s an obvious class distinction between the characters on this show and those on THE MUNSTERS — Gomez and Morticia are wealthier and live in a more extravagant mansion. I would also say that their affluence helps inform the design — if neither lead has to go to work, then this helps justify the decision to seldom leave the home. And with regard to being aristocratic, hey, they are indeed related to the politically prominent Adams family… However, the series is built as a domestic comedy and can’t escape the context that recognizes its adherence, like THE MUNSTERS, to the ‘60s trend of pairing high-concept decorations with an otherwise familiar structure. The familiar structure is the extended nuclear family unit, so where are these high-concept decorations? Well, having leads of wealth bordering on aristocracy may be uncommon for entries in this category — which are more squarely middle class — but that’s not what makes them unique on a weekly basis. No, THE ADDAMS FAMILY tells us up front what makes them fundamentally different: they’re “ooky.” Accordingly, while THE MUNSTERS needs to hit its family’s surprising normalcy to land its joke, ADDAMS has to be surprisingly abnormal.

      As such, situating the family’s quirks within our perception of the eccentricities associated with wealth wouldn’t actually be surprising — we expect people with a lot of money to not be normal because, well, they aren’t. Yet, since this comic turnaround requires an expectation of normalcy — of sanity before the insane — we need to believe that, unlike the Munsters, the Addamses are like us… until we’re reminded, “oh wait, my body doesn’t smoke on command.” To wit, no matter how aristocratic Gomez and Morticia may be, the qualities that make them unique must (and do) extend beyond caricatures of an economic/social strata — that’s not enough of a deviation from the expected to satisfy everything that the series endeavors to be. Nobody runs from the Addams house because the people inside are too wealthy, and even calling their possible elitism a launching pad for strangeness is dubiously warranted; it’s not unanticipated enough. To that point, we’re never supposed to consider their potential social status an important correlation that can explain or justify why they’re so strange.

      For example, look at “Feud In The Addams Family,” which contrives a specific scenario where another couple mistakes the family’s peculiarities for class-driven eccentricity — a presumption that has to be well-motivated by plot because we, the audience, are not primed to consider it a viable justification for “ookiness” throughout the rest of the run, no matter how rich or connected they are. But no wonder; the central joke of the series is merely that they’re bizarre — anything that provides an explanation for their bizarreness would make that less true, so there should be no explanation. Because of all this, I think it’s fair to say that Gomez and Morticia are affluent, but it’s not fair to say that their affluence fuels their characterizations enough to explain and/or satisfy the premise. So, while this class-based categorization of the Addamses’ identity is accurate, it is tangential to what’s actually being mined for comedy, and, in my opinion, any perceived symbolism therein fights the premise instead of supporting it, so it’s best not to overindulge this kind of analysis.

      Thanks again for the great question!

      • Wow, thanks for such an in-depth reply! That really makes a lot of sense. I suppose watching a lot of British sitcoms (which tend to be hyperfocused on class issues regardless of their actual politics) tends to make me see it everywhere even if it is perhaps a less appropriate lens to view many American shows.

        As always wonderful work! :)

        • No worries — thanks again for the great question.

          Although I think THE MUNSTERS and THE ADDAMS FAMILY are premised more simply (for all the reasons expressed above), I think there are shows where a social comment is more fundamental to the concept and therefore worth noting — BEWITCHED is a great example — so it’s smart to be on the lookout for this kind of subtext. Stay tuned…

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