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Archive for July 13th, 2017

by Sam Juliano

This towering mute has been shambling around the house forever…He is not a very good butler but a faithful one…One eye is opaque, the scanty hair is damply clinging to his narrow flat head…generally the family regards him as something of a joke.

-Charles Adams, describing Addams Family butler Lurch

A darling octopus named Aristotle.  A pet tarantula called Homer and Lucifer, a domesticated salamander with a hankering to slither around one’s neck.  A cuddly feline known as Kitty Kat, a full-grown African lion prone to roaming the house without restrictions.  An alligator residing in the basement and a piranha that was the aquatic creature of choice that swam in the living room fish tank.  And then there was Zelda, a vulture that was invariably perched in a corner in said den.  In such a unique household one could hardly be surprised some of the culinary delights served with abandon included “henbane soup”,  “baked iguana,” “casserole of yak,” “baked eye of newt”, “casserole of spleen” (with a pinch of hemlock), “fricassee of toad,” “souffle of aardvark” and for desert some delectable “yak fudge” and “a cup of hot sea sludge.”  The favored beverage is “pinecone nectar.” Of course with such wildlife and daily menus one can’t be too surprised that the the female host is dressed in a manner that would have Count Dracula proud, and that she offers her a guest a choice of salt, pepper or cyanide.

But of course these unseemly revelations are only the tip of the iceberg or in the lingo of this decidedly macabre brood the gizzard of a lizard.  Only the most cloistered of souls by now won’t have any kind of a clue as to the identity of such a creatively dysfunctional band of house dwellers, though on the other hand there is an “either or”  condition attached to the anticipated response.  During the 60’s Golden Age of television sitcoms warring networks unearthed their own brand of ghoulish guffawing by way of shows that exhibited remarkable kinship that went far more than just their comparable launchings, duration and common mise en scene.  CBS had The Munsters, a family, whose patriarch was patterned after the Frankenstein monster, and whose wife was nothing if not a reincarnation of Dracula’s daughter.  Her father, an aging Count, a son seemed doomed to lycanthropy, and a beautiful older nice, who is as normal as they come, but to the family an unfortunate (think Planet of the Apes) young lady with physical abnormalities.  Over at at ABC, a similar study in gruesome domestication -the subject of this essay- invaded the tube with the same formula.  The Addams Family, unlike their network siblings and online rivals were a sophisticated and cultured lot, even if they shared the same basic laugh premise with their 1313 Mockingbird Lane cousins with the ongoing running gag of the families, while decidedly odd, consider themselves fairly typical working-class people of the era.  Yet, fans of both shows have come to know that there are many substantial differences in the shows, and those who promote and appreciate the art in television will usually choose The Addams Family as the legitimate representative of this irreverent type of sitcom humor.   (more…)

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