Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Freaky Family Feud: The Munsters vs. The Addams Family

Karen: It's been asked many times before, and could probably be the basis of a personality test: of these two TV icons, who do you like better: the Addams Family, or the Munsters? Please give us some details for your preference.


Fred W. Hill said...

I really liked both shows but I'll have to give the favorite edge to The Munsters, mainly because it was just more fun to watch as the Addams Family seemed more well-heeled and were cooler but the Munsters were working class -- Herman had to earn a living and I remember a sense of him trying to fit in with more ordinary people while also remaining true to himself while doing what he felt was right for his family, with often comedic results, of course.

redartz said...

Have to go with the Addams Family. I enjoy both shows, but the Munsters was played pretty much straight comedy. The Addams Family, while also quite comedic, had an edginess to it; a hint of rebelliousness (think of the sheer glee with which Gomez destroyed his toy trains). This element of attitude appealed (and still does) to my own demented self.

And the performances; all the actors were obviously relishing their roles. In particular, John Astin's Gomez was outstanding; at times he seemed to be channeling Groucho Marx...

david_b said...

It's a toughie because the comparison is slightly skewed for me. I grew up with nothing but Munster reruns each day, barely ever got to watch Adams Family unless I spent a weekend with my Grandma in Milwaukee ~ Sunday mornings had ALL the cool shows, wrestling, female rollerderby, Lost In Space, Batman, Adams Family.., stuff I never saw growing up in rural Wisconsin.

Hoooh boy.

So if both shows are on at the same time, I'd lean towards Adams Family. Morticia was such a cooler character than Lilly, probably much hotter if you're into goth.

Actually, Carolyn Jones really knows how to shimmy here, with thanks to the Ramones..:

Any one remember Ted Cassidy's hit, 'The Lurch'..?

Ah, those crazy Silver Age years of television. May they always keep our childhood memories warm.

david_b said...

Agreeing with redartz.., the Adams seemed to really revel in their eccentricities, making it much more cooler than the comparatively more straight-forward Munsters.

Despite the visual trappings and, of course, Al Lewis, the Munsters was more or less an old fashion working-class sitcom. By comparison, the Adams were weirdness glorified, which reminds me, I REALLY need to someday sit down and watch the goofy '90s remake movies.

Anonymous said...

I've heard the suggestion that the two shows could be used like a Rorschach test. Supposedly, people who prefer the Addams Family tend to see themselves as progressive, free-spirited, and intellectual. I guess the populist/anti-elitist in me prefers the working class Munsters to the idle rich Addams family. I remember Herman with his hard hat and lunch box, on his way to his job, while I remember Gomez leering at the ticker tape while making a killing in the stock market. And the Munsters usually seemed to eventually win over the people that they met, while the Addams family often seemed to freak people out with their genuinely creepy behavior. I suppose both shows reflected some sort of backlash against the ultra-wholesome sitcoms of that time, like "Leave It to Beaver" and "Ozzie and Harriet." Something similar happened in the 1980's; "Married With Children" was nicknamed "Not the Cosbys."

Karen said...

I never even saw the Addams Family until I was in my twenties. The Los Angeles stations only carried the Munsters when I was a kid, so I had no comparison. I enjoy both shows, but for sentimental reasons lean towards the Munsters. I think I like their theme song a bit more, and of course, the Herman make-up is based on the classic Jack Pierce designs for Boris Karloff's Frankenstein Monster. So it gets an edge for me. But honestly, when I watch the show now, it just elicits a few chuckles.

Doug said...

I like both shows. I'm sure I saw the Munsters first, so they are my preference. However, I do like the Addams clan, and especially like Uncle Fester and Lurch. For a guy who as a youngster could be scared of monster movies, these prograjavascript:void(0)ms went a long way toward bringing me enjoyment of that film genre as it played out in the 1930s-1960s.

And I still think it's weird when I see Fred Gwynne in another role.


Doug said...

For a guy who as a youngster could be scared of monster movies, these prograjavascript:void(0)ms went a long way toward bringing me enjoyment of that film genre as it played out in the 1930s-1960s.

Not sure what happened there! The goofy-looking word was supposed to be "programs".


Anonymous said...

I hated and refused to watch the Munsters as a kid, and mocked anyone who like it better than the Addams Family. It was just really corny to me. Like others have pointed out, it was basically your typical family sitcom with dumb monster trappings, while the Addams Family was weird and subversive.

I never considered the class angle when I was young, but looking back I think it is a shame that the working-class struggles of the Munsters could not be written to also whole-heartedly embrace the strangeness as the Addams Family did.

Plus the Addams Family has its origins in a comic (even if Scott McCloud says that a single panel cartoon can't be a comic, he's WRONG), so I kind of have to like it better.

Edo Bosnar said...

I like the Munsters, and especially Fred Gwynne in it, but for me it's no contest: the Addams Family all the way. As others noted, the Munsters was a fairly typical early '60s family sitcom but with monsters in it. The Addams Family, on the other hand, was much more deeply and richly satirical across the board, with a hint of subversiveness (perhaps even hinting that all filthy rich families are assemblages of ghouls and sociopaths? There's a nice working class message for you).
And as redartz noted, the entire cast of Addams Family just did a bang-up job.

Edo Bosnar said...

Looks like Osvaldo posted while I was still writing my comment, but he mentioned something I forgot: the original comic (yes, it is indeed a comic!) by Charles Addams. I only saw those when I was in college, and immediately fell in love with them. And that probably cemented my preference for all things Addams.

david_b said...

Ahhhhh, I JUST noticed my misspelling of the Addams Family name.

Never really noticed that before, oddly, but I seldom if ever had any cause to write the name out in my life before today.

Apologies, everyone.

William Preston said...

I liked both, and the Munsters had a tone and a child I could relate to more. Nevertheless, I responded much more to the Addams Family, but, I think, for reasons other that those people have mentioned.

The look and feel of the sets and the filming itself had a huge effect on my response. You couldn't breathe in those Munsters sets; everything was run down, dusty, and too tight--very stagy. The Addams Family sets had an openness (and, yes, I do see how this is related to the class issue; unlike working class folks, the members of the Addams Family weren't living on top of each other. Architectural spaces intrigued me from a young age: I wanted to know what was in the other rooms of Wayne Manor and the Enterprise. Growing up in a tiny house, the notion of room upon room and great variety of space appealed to me. In addition to the great sets on the Addams Family, the scenes were lit better--again, a clear contrast with the down-in-the-mouth surroundings of the Munsters.

Lastly, I think the Addams Family felt simultaneously strange and credible; they inhabited an intact world. The Munsters were like a cartoon, disconnected from lived experience and just plain flimsy, a joke but not a story.

Fred W. Hill said...

Hmm, looks like I'm the only that favored The Munsters. Well, gotta stick with my fellow Fred(Mr. Gwynne!) in this instance! Maybe it's touch of empathy I could feel for the troubles Herman had to routinely endure. But I also loved The Addams Family for all of its creepy humor and oddities. I really associate watching them with the few months my family lived with my Aunt, Uncle and cousin in 1971 in Mineola, Texas, in what seemed to me to be a strange old house in that small town. They still had a black & white tv but most of the shows I remember watching there were b&w classics from the late '50s & early '60s, others including The Rifleman and Perry Mason. I was actually rather disappointed when we visited them again in 1976 for my cousin's wedding and discovered they moved out of the old house and were living in a more modern and boring new house. I could almost imagine Lurch might hang out in that old house but no way in the new one.

Humanbelly said...

WNDU, Channel 16, out of South Bend was our after-school re-run station for. . . well. . . for the entirety of my childhood and adolescence! Cartoons at 4:00; Gilligan's Island at 5; I Love Lucy at 5:30. That 4:30 slot was the only thing that had any rotation at all (again from, like, 1968 through 1980 or so), and both The Munsters and The Addams Family saw high traffic. Munsters definitely had the edge-- probably two times through their catalogue for every one of AF's. I really loved both- but I know that as a kid I prefered The Munsters. As several above have observed, they were surprisingly different in tone and content despite the seeming obvious similarities. As an adult, I do recognize that Addams Family was the superior piece of television art (as it were)-- much more original, risk-taking, and even kind of subversive-- but that didn't carry as much weight when I was a youngster. Although The Munsters was an absurdly forced one-joke concept, it succeeded in creating an empathetic response to some degree. These folks who look like movie monsters quickly prove to be delightfully recognizable, "real" sit-com folks, operating on the same level as the Honeymooners or Life of Riley, say. We can relate to that Everyman quality, as mentioned above. With the Addams Family, we were largely observers of this fascinating, macabre family, and found them amusing and fun-- but that sympathetic, emotional investment with them was always lacking. We watched their antics, but we didn't jump right in for the ride. There wasn't a central figure in that family for us to attach ourselves to-- Gomez never really seemed to need us as much, y'know?

All that aside-- the casting of both shows was simply exemplary; a solid 90% of iconic portrayals between the two. And honestly, even as a kid, I thought both Carolyn Jones and Yvonne DeCarlo were impossibly lovely in their goth/macabre ways. . .!


Doug said...

I love mass media posts like today's for the large geographic net our readers cast with their memories. It's neat to hear about when and where you saw these shows, heard those songs, etc. I especially like when you mention specific towns in which you lived and the TV or radio stations you enjoyed.

And HB, a personal "love it!" to you for the background in show biz that you bring to these sorts of topics. I always feel like your opinion has the weight of experience behind it.

Thanks to all -- you make my day!


Anonymous said...

Both great shows, but Uncle Fester clinched it for me. Perhaps I had a premonition I would one day grow up to be quite him...

Rip Jagger said...

I have to give the nod to The Munsters. The way they evoke the classic Universal monsters is just too appealing. The humor is cliche, but the look of the show is outstanding!

The utter weirdness of the Addams Family is compelling and Gomez makes me laugh often. Lurch is a one of the great TV characters, iconic!

Rip Off

J.A. Morris said...

I've always enjoyed both series, I agree with Rip on the Universal Monsters homage.

But I'll go with The Addams Family here. Astin and Jones brought (can't think of a better word)an energy that pushes that series over The Munsters for me. Plus, some of the Addams humor is edgy, even today. My wife & I recently reviewed an Addams Halloween episode:

Wednesday gets a funny line about playing "autopsy" in that episode. Try getting THAT past the tv censors today!

But what makes both series good is that most of the roles were played by very good actors who had nice careers before & after the shows.

Humanbelly said...

Oh golly, thanks so much for the kind words, Doug. I'll tell ya, this blog is just about the only place in the world where one can make thoughtful observations about things like Munsters vs. Addams Family and not have to worry about folks quietly edging away while avoiding direct eye-contact. . .

(. . . hmmm- where'd everybody go. . .?)


Karen said...

"The Munsters were like a cartoon, disconnected from lived experience and just plain flimsy, a joke but not a story."

Geez William, what are you, a writer or something? ;)

Nice...really nice.

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