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The Addams Family and The Munsters

Background

The 1960s was a decade known for silly sitcoms. Many of that decade’s situation comedies had a ridiculous premise. The Addams Family and The Musters may have been the pinnacle of preposterous television show plots. These shows gave ammunition to those who gave the television derogatory nick names such and the “boob tube” and “idiot box”. These shows ran from 1964-66. Their runs were short but they gave a lasting impression. They gave hours of entertainment to those who watched the shows. These sitcoms were funny and memorable.

The Addams Family

The Addams family is independently wealthy. The household consists of the father Gomez (John Astin), the mother Morticia (Carolyn Jones), preteen son Pugsley (Ken Weatherwax) and preteen daughter (Lisa Loring), Uncle Fester (Jackie Coogan), a grandmother (Marie Blake), and lurch the butler (Ted Cassidy). The family are eccentrics. As the theme song goes their house looks like a museum. Among the items in their living room is a mounted fish with a sailor’s leg sticking out of its mouth. Their arboretum has plants that eat hamburger. The have Thing, a hand that comes out of boxes. Thing does chores such as fetching the mail.

They have a life of leisure so they can spend their time pursuing hobbies such as blowing up model trains or playing odd musical instruments. In one episode there was a mention of Gomez carrying out a scientific experiment. Gomez was testing his theory if someone were to jump out of an airplane with a slightly smaller parachute each time eventually the person wouldn’t need any chute.[i] Lurch, the butler, stands 6’ 9” (206 cm). He has a deep monotone voice. His only show of emotion is a deep groan. The deep groan is always good for a laugh and also gives the impression he is the only sane person in the household.

The Addams Family, which originated from a comic strip, also spawned two animated TV shows (1973 & 1992). There was The Addams Family Fun House (1973), where the family hosted a variety show. There was a Halloween Special (1977). There was also the movie The Addams Family (1991) and its sequel Addams Family Values (1993). The opening credit sequence show the family doing two handed finger snaps to the beat of the music. The music’s tune is often played during baseball games. A scene from an episode, which is also in the opening credits, show Gomez and Morticia fencing in the house. That was parodied in a 21st century M&M commercial.

[i] The theory is ridiculous but people apply this kind of logic often. People often use a small-scale example as a reason to apply something on a grand scale.

The Munsters

The Munsters live at 1313 Mockingbird Lane. It is a gothic style house. It could be a calm day in the neighborhood but around 1313 Mockingbird Lane it is windy. The Munsters are a middle-middle class family. The household consists of Herman Munster (Fred Gwynne), his spouse Lily (Yvonne De Carlo), their son, Eddie (Butch Patrick) who is 10, their niece Marilyn (Pat Priest) who is in her 20s, and Lily’s father, Grandpa, (Al Lewis).

Herman works at the Gateman, Goodbury, and Graves Funeral Home.[i] He was made in Germany 150 years ago. He is one of Frankenstein’s monsters.[ii] His spouse and father-in-law are vampires. Lily has a gray streak associated with the Bride of Frankenstein. Eddie is a werewolf. Marilyn is normal. The Munsters believe she is so homely she scares off her would be boyfriends.

The commercial shown to promote the series before it aired showed Jack (Edward Mallory) driving Marilyn (Beverley Owen[iii]) home from a date. He is apprehensive when he sees where she lives. She invites him in to meet her family for a cup of coffee. He tells her he can walk her to the door. Marilyn forgot her keys so she uses the door knocker. There are heavy footsteps and Herman answers the door. He greets Marilyn and she tries to introduce Jack but he is running for his life. Jack climbs over the fence, scrambles into his car, and peels out. Marilyn sadly says, “Oh Uncle Herman, what’s the matter with me.”

Herman does most of the unintentional scaring. In an episode Lily gave someone a fright. They are on a train and a passenger in a sleeper car is reading a gothic tale. He is reading a scene that describes Dracula’s bride when Lily pokes into his section.

Herman doesn’t know his own strength. The unintentional damage he causes and his dimwitted behavior accounts for much of the show’s humor. A running gag is where Herman goes into a tantrum and breaks the flooring. Grandpa would open the trap door to the basement and say he is going down to talk to Herman since Herman will be there in a minute.

The television show was in black and white. The television show spawned a movie, Munster: Go Home! (1966) where Herman and the rest of the cast were in technicolor. The movie was the swansong for the series. There was a special The Munsters’ Revenge (1981). There was also a remake TV series, The Munsters Today (1987-1991), Here Come The Munsters (1995), and the Christmas Special, The Munsters’ Scary Little Christmas (1996). One of the opening sequences of The Simpsons parodied The Munsters’ opening.

[i] It’s a variation on The Three Stooges humor “Dewey, Cheatem, and Howe Attorneys at Law”.

[ii] Since The Munsters was a Universal Studios production they were able to give the Herman Munster character the classic Frankenstein Monster look.

[iii] Beverley Owen was in the first 15 episodes.

Comparisons and Observations

Their extended family excepted The Addams family could easily fit in with everyone else. It was their behavior, and how they made themselves look, that separated them from the rest of society. The Munsters were generally average folks that had many of the problems everyone else had. It was their looks that separated them from the rest of society. Neither family thought themselves strange. The Addams family considered normal behavior weird.

The Addams Family may also give a peek into how much Americans have changed. Today a couple fencing, playing Japanese musical instruments or a harpsichord is different but hardly eccentric. Pet lions are rare but people do have these and other exotic pets. Some people practice knife throwing and aren’t considered strange. Home schooling is an accepted and popular practice.

How would some of the things we do today appear to a 1964 television audience? What if a television show had:

· A son who played Dungeons and Dragons and made fighting robots.

· A daughter who was a goth and had multiple tattoos.

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· The children were homeschooled and had spiders and snakes for pets.

· The parents were involved in Renaissance Festivals, Cosplay, Paintball, Laser Tag, and reenactments of various eras?

Would the 1964 viewers consider such a show laughably weird or too crazy to consider watching?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 Robert Sacchi

Comments

Robert Sacchi (author) on January 29, 2019:

Thank you for reading and commenting. Yes, the ever helpful Thing.

RoadMonkey on January 29, 2019:

I used to love watching the Addams family. I don't recall the Munsters quite as well. Thing was a great favorite. There were children's toys sold that looked like it - usually novelty money boxes to encourage them to save.

Robert Sacchi (author) on April 03, 2018:

Thank you for reading and commenting, Television is also informative. Older shows give audiences a view of the past.

DREAM ON on April 03, 2018:

There are so many classics. Romper Room to Bozo's Big Top. The list is endless. You have picked a topic that I have spent many years of my childhood enjoying. I don't watch much t.v. now but I enjoyed it so much when I was young. I am sure so many other children did too. I love the way you do your hubs informative and enjoyable. Keep up the good work. Have a great afternoon. Even programs I didn't watch I want to watch. I always found television as a nice past time not destructive as some people want to think.

Robert Sacchi (author) on March 29, 2018:

Bonanza was a long running show. It was at a time when The Western was king.

DREAM ON on March 29, 2018:

There are so many t.v. classics. I would love a hub if you could do it on Bonanza. It was a favorite of mine. I thought what a great place to be on a ranch like the Ponderosa. Thank you for taking the time and the effort to make our past come alive. Struggling with the good and the bad. Always ending up with the family pulling together.

Robert Sacchi (author) on March 29, 2018:

Thank you for reading and commenting. I really enjoy writing and reading about movies and TV shows of yesteryear.

DREAM ON on March 29, 2018:

I couldn't stop being amazed about the sitcoms I enjoyed so much. I was laughing at all the points you mentioned in both shows. Always good for a laugh. Nobody ever insulted anyone like today. It was in the name of humor. Not at someone else's expense. Poking fun at ourselves and being silly. Thank you for the trip in my memory. You helped clear away some of the cob webs leaving still a few left behind. Have a really good night.

Robert Sacchi (author) on March 04, 2018:

Thank you for reading and commenting. Your reboot proposal seems much better than many reboot attempts.

Tamara Wilhite from Fort Worth, Texas on March 04, 2018:

If they want to reboot the Addams' family, do it with Wednesday as a grown up woman with children, her brother as the weird Uncle, Morticia and Gomez as grandparents.

Robert Sacchi (author) on March 02, 2018:

No, she wasn't. It was my cousin's wedding in 1983. Wicker chairs, often called Mamasan or Papasan chairs, were popular back then. I was going through my photo collection to see things people do that would have seemed Addams Familyesq in the mid-60s. There were a lot of silly but fun sitcoms in the 60s.

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 02, 2018:

Every time my mother sees House Speaker Paul Ryan on tv she says he looks like Eddie Munster (because of the hairline). We used to watch reruns of both shows and enjoyed them. I'm not sure which I liked best. I bet your bride wasn't going for a Mortician Adams effect with those chairs but it's funny. Enjoyed your photos as well as your writing.

Robert Sacchi (author) on December 14, 2017:

Yes Lawrence that scene you described with Gomez and Lurch is a good one. It's is also one that has been repeated since the 80s. One spouse insists on the need for a computer. The other spouse goes along with it and the only thing the spouse who "needed" the computer ever seems to do with it is play the latest computer games. I also enjoyed the Beverly Hillbillies and the opposite side of that coin Green Acres.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on December 13, 2017:

Robert

This was a nice trip down 'memory lane' to a couple of my favourite shows from when I was a kid (add in the Beverley Hillbillies and you'd have the three regulars we used to watch)

I think there are a lot of things we own that the Addams Family would enjoy, computers would be one, mobile phones another, I have a mental picture of Gomez trying to operate one, and Lurch groaning!!

Robert Sacchi (author) on November 04, 2017:

You're right. Many TV sitcoms are based on familiar characters. In the case of The Munsters it was: A school age boy who had the usual pre-teen issues. An adult single, unattached, woman. An in-law who doesn't think much of his son-in-law. An oaf of a husband and a wife who keeps everything together. That yields a great number of episode plot lines.

Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on November 04, 2017:

That really is the kind of humor that makes a show work. It means the characters are well developed and the audience is invested in the show.

Robert Sacchi (author) on November 03, 2017:

Yes, the running gag with Marilyn was every time Herman scared off a suitor the family, including Marilyn, would think she was the one who scared him off.

Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on November 02, 2017:

This brought back good memories watching these shows. I had forgotten Marilyn was a normal person. I'm sure that added some comedic material that separated them from the Adam's Family.

Robert Sacchi (author) on October 25, 2017:

Than you for reading and commenting. That is one thing I like about HubPages, chances to write about and read about memories.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on October 25, 2017:

I enjoyed both of those crazy sitcoms. Thanks for resurrecting my memories by writing about them.

Robert Sacchi (author) on October 21, 2017:

Yes, Uncle Fester was quite the character. His ability to turn on light bulbs definitely set him apart. I remember one episode where he had an issue with someone. Gomez and Morticia proposed he have a duel. Uncle Fester's retort was, "I'll shoot him in the back."

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on October 21, 2017:

I love the Addams Family. Uncle Fester is my favourite. =)

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