The Woeful Perfection of "Wednesday"
How are they going to follow this up?!? It was so good!
TL;DR: Wednesday is a solid, enjoyable show that is perfect for fans of any of the previous incarnations of Charles Addams' cartoons. People who aren't fans will be surprised at how much fun they have watching this show.
What I think works with Wednesday. (spoiler-free)
Damn near everything! I was legit shocked that so much of it was done right. (I grew up on sci-fi, but also Twilight Zone and the original Addams Family TV series. So, I may be biased!)
The casting was not just perfect, it was inspired. While there were a few awkward choices (it's hard to nail the exact tone that the Addams Family of characters inhabit, so I'm not holding against anyone) for the vast majority of the first season, they managed to find that level of ironic nihilism and almost subconscious sarcasm that those characters exist on. The best part of the acting was that none of the actors on the show were afraid to "go there."
I have to take a moment to say that I feel like Jenna Ortega, the actor who truly brings the title character to life, likely has a long and impressive career ahead of her. There were such brilliant moments of subtlety from her in this show of extremes.
The sets and locations were really amazing. Wednesday's dorm room, alone, was just so well designed and conceived. If that boarding school is a real place, they should turn it into an apartment building ASAP. I want to live there!
The music comes from Danny Elfman and Chris Bacon and it is as classic as a fan of Tim Burton's work would expect while still being contemporary.
What I think doesn't work with Wednesday (spoiler-free)
This is a weird thing to have a problem with--but I just don't believe that Tim Burton directed the first half of season one. There is a lot of "YA" stuff that is going on--the show takes place in a boarding school for teenage "outcasts" who don't fit in at other schools, it only makes sense that most of the characters are going to be distracted/obsessed with their crushes. I personally like sci-fi/fantasy YA shows, movies, and books, because all of the big sci-fi/fantasy plot points are metaphors representing all the new crap that we all deal with when we enter our teen years. So, I kind of know the tone of YA shows and this show nailed that tone. Maybe Tim had help?
The bigger issue I had didn't ruin anything for me, but I do wish the show's writers had been a little more clever. I'll get into that in the spoiler section.
What I think worked with Wednesday (spoilers!)
The appearances of our favorite Adams Family characters works very well. This show belongs to Wednesday, but Gomez, Morticia, Pugsley, and Lurch all show up at perfect moments and none of them feel shoehorned in. Gomez and Morticia even have a whole plot line that focuses on them for a bit which was really fun. Puglsey's relationship with his sister is weird and wonderful and a little too lacking in disfunctionality. How do they get along better than most "normal" siblings? Thing is basically Wednesday's sidekick--like Robin to her Batman. Such a fun dynamic! My favorite surprise was Uncle Fester, played brilliantly by Fred Armisen. Sadly, we never see my personal childhood favorite character, Cousin Itt in the furry flesh. Gramama is the only other classic character we don't see in the show.
The relationship between the dark, brooding, nihilistic Wednesday and her roommate, the bright, cheery, if a bit neurotic, Enid, was chef's kiss perfection. I found myself really really wanting action figure versions of them on my desk just so I could be look at them and be reminded of their perfectly mixed swirl of dark and light wackiness! (Come on, Hasbro! Make it happen!)
What I think didn't work with Wednesday (spoilers!)
While I don't hesitate to describe Wednesday as a clever show, I guess all the cleverness we see on screen left me spoiled and wanting more. Sadly, it's with part of the main premise of the show. The other students at the boarding school for outcasts are real life mythical creatures. Vampires, werewolves, merpeople, and others. These more traditional, even cliché, monsters seem out of place in a show that seems so very close to our actual reality except for the Addams Family. I think the choice to make them familiar potential antagonists was an easy choice, but I get it--nailing the "Addams" aspects of this show are hard enough to do and it makes sense to make the rest of the kids at her school easier to write.
There was also a good bit of selling the jokes in the first few episodes. A funny moment would happen and then a character would just explain how it was funny or awkward. Thus making it unfunny and even more awkward. Thankfully, that seemed to stop once we got deeper into the season.
"How I'd" have written Wednesday
To be blunt, I wouldn't have--like I said, it's hard to capture that Addams Family dark magic. That said, if Tim Burton put a gun to my head and paycheck in my bank account, I'd want to write a show about Wednesday as an adult in her twenties--finding her way in the "real" world, on her own. Imagine Wednesday Addams as a character in Girls. I think that would be really fun.
If I had to write the premise of this Wednesday Addams show, I think the only thing I'd have done differently would be the cliché mythical creatures as fellow students and go with more abstract types of people, akin to the emotional vampire from the American-made What We Do in the Shadows show. Conceptual monsters, rather than obviously real monsters.
The obvious choice would be to have The Karens--a clique of people who know the rules and never let you forget them (even when some aren't actually rules). Then there could be that one guy we all know who constantly contradicts himself--after telling you how you're doing something wrong, he goes and does it the same way (AKA a future office manager). The people who can talk and talk but somehow never have anything substantive to say, would be another clique at the school. We all know at least one person in our life who just never fit in. Sometimes, we're them!
I feel like metaphorical monsters can be much more fun and interesting than actual monsters.
Is Wednesday a great show? Definitely! I can't wait for season 2! (Come on Netflix! Don't make us wait until 2024!). Would it have better if they had done it my way? I think it would have been more interesting, at least! Regardless, you should still watch it if you like clever, cartoonishly dark YA storylines (assuming you haven't watched it already).