Reason: The series is a see-through supernatural mystery charting Wednesday Addams years as a student at Nevermore Academy, where she tries to master her new psychic abilities, thwart a monstrous killing spree that has terrorized the local town, and solve the murder mystery involving her parents 25 years ago—all while navigating her new and very tangled relationships at Nevermore.

Review: Back in 1991, Tim Burton reluctantly passed on the instruction The Addams Family due to production on Batman Returns. Barry Sonnenfeld took the reins, which led to the film becoming a financial success for Orion Pictures. Despite several lackluster live-action sequels, Burton was once again linked with a 2010 stop-motion animated reboot for Universal and Illumination Entertainment. MGM eventually delivered two CGI features, which received mixed to negative reviews. Now Tim Burton finally gets to lend his signature style to The Addams Family Wednesday, a dark series centered on the eldest Addams daughter. Not only is Wednesday the first small-screen series directed by Tim Burton, but it’s also one of his most subdued projects to date, taking a far less whimsical approach than the feature films, instead amping up the violence for an enjoyable but slightly macabre romp.

Wednesday opens with a scene central to the trailer with the eldest Addams child unleashing piranhas on the water polo team. Expelled from her school, Wednesday is enrolled at Nevermore Academy, the private boarding school where her parents Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Gomez (Luis Guzman) fell in love. Run by Principal Larissa Weems (Gwendoline Christie), a classmate of Morticia’s, Nevermore is home to students with all sorts of supernatural abilities. From Wednesday’s roommate Enid (Emma Myers), a werewolf, to nemesis Bianca Barclay (Joy Sunday), a siren, every kind of monster or spirit walks the halls. Reminiscent of Hogwarts, Nevermore is also home to a mysterious tablet of murders as well as a long-standing curse linking Wednesday to the school’s founder, Joseph Crackstone. Initially reluctant to join Nevermore, Wednesday slowly warms to her classmates and teachers, including Marilyn Thornhill (Christina Ricci).

While the Addams clan features heavily in the trailer, Wednesday’s family has a limited amount of screen time. Pugsley and Uncle Fester (Fred Armisen) appear in a single episode each, along with Lurch and Wednesday’s parents, but the disembodied hand Thing is a prominent character throughout the season. Much of the season is spent developing suspects and uncovering clues, while Wednesday tries to figure out why she is so important to a prophecy at the school. The season is mainly spent developing the mythology of Nevermore as well as Wednesday’s hunt for a giant monster that shares a passing resemblance to the monsters from Beetlejuice. causing her to suspect everyone from Principal Weems to students Xavier Thorpe (Percy Hynes White), “normie” and love interest Tyler Galpin (Hunter Doohan), therapist Dr. Valerie Kinbolt (Riki Lindhome) and more. The series also introduces an ability for Wednesday that allows her to have precognitive visions when she comes into contact with people or objects. Although this plot device is used to move the story along, it serves as a fun connection to Morticia and the Addams family’s legacy of witchcraft.

This series deviates quite a bit from the previous incarnations of The Addams Family by making the paranormal and supernatural the norm rather than being unique to the Addams clan. While Wednesday treating the distinction of outcasts on Nevermore as isolated from the norms of the real world, the series doesn’t do a good job of making Wednesday seem weird or strange compared to everyone around her. Jenna Ortega is far more emotional than Christina Ricci was in the feature films and makes Wednesday an intriguing character in her own right. Gwendoline Christie also stands out in another striking role that is much more than the trailers make her out to be. Christina Ricci is also quite good in a significant role that is much more than a cameo. I understand why this series spins Wednesday into its own narrative, but it still feels like it lacks a lot of the Addams charm that we only see in the few episodes with the rest of the family. At least this is my favorite version of the Thing in any of the previous ones Addams series or movies.

The eight-episode series is being heavily marketed as a Tim Burton project, despite the filmmaker having no scripts and only directing four episodes. The remaining four chapters were equally divided between directors Gandja Monteiro and James Marshall. Four of the episodes are written by Alfred Gough & Miles Millar (one episode of which they share credit with Matt Lambert), and the other half is shared between April Blair and Kayla Alpert. I don’t consider these split duties to be the primary factor in Wednesday’s shortcomings, but even with an excellent score by Danny Elfman, this series never feels nearly as cinematic as any of Burton’s feature films. As strong as the actors are here, the best are relegated to supporting roles and don’t have nearly enough screen time to make up for the disappointingly generic teen-centric melodrama that fills these hour-long episodes. Millar and Gough did a solid job of bringing Superman’s youth to life Smallvillebut this series wastes a lot of potential by wasting it on too many non-Addams sign.

Wednesday, Netflix, Jenna Ortega, Tim Burton, The Addams Family

The charm knows The Addams Family was always that they were the odd ones in a world of normal people. Wednesday surrounds the title character with supernatural beings as strange as she is, making everything feel bland and less whimsical. Even Tim Burton’s signature style feels underwhelming compared to what I expected from him, as this series has more in common with Netflix’s Sabrina’s Exciting Adventures and the latest School for better or for worse. Even with Jenna Ortega doing an admirable job of following Christina Ricci’s iconic performance, Wednesday doesn’t live up to its potential while still managing to present an intricate mystery that unfolds over the course of the eight-episode season. There’s a certain charm to this version of the iconic characters that might be worth returning to for a second season, but I’m not sure if this series is creepy or crazy enough to warrant another run.

Wednesday premiered on November 18 on Netflix.


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