in Shocktober

The Addams Family – “Halloween With The Addams Family”

Season 1, Episode 7
Airdate: October 30, 1964

Welcome to the first entry in this year’s Shocktober, in which we’ll be looking back at a bunch of Halloween episodes of TV shows! It seems like it’ll be a mix of shows or specials the three of us are familiar with or ones where we have all but a vague idea of what we’re getting into. Personally, I’m just looking forward to some spooky TV hijinks to distract me from the real-life horrors of the upcoming election.

The Addams Family seemed like a great place to start for this year, since they are altogether ooky (in addition to being spooky). They also seemed like a good choice for one of these theme months we do, which tend to see us watching things that we’re not all that familiar with. Because even though I have a general idea of what The Addams Family’s deal is, I haven’t spent really any time with their ’60s TV show or their somewhat beloved movies from the ’90s. In fact, I didn’t even know that The Addams Family TV show wasn’t the origin of their long-running status as America’s most famous goth family, as they actually originated with Charles Addams New Yorker comics that started in the ’30s.

So what is The Addams Family’s deal then? I suppose it’s that they’re your typical American family, but weird. They have a taste for the macabre, and while it seems a little unclear whether they have supernatural powers or not, they don’t seem quite of this world or this time period. They live in a spooky mansion and have a strange extended family who all border on the monstrous, but again, aren’t so fantastical that they’re ever anything more than an off-kilter version of the modern American family. Also, they wear a lot of black, and there seem to be a lot of undertones of Morticia and Gomez having a very active sex life.

“Halloween with The Addams Family” starts off with Gomez Addams (played by John Astin) carving a pumpkin in the likeness of Uncle Fester (Jackie Coogan), which just ends up looking like a regular pumpkin (not the greatest gag, but whatever). As Morticia (Carolyn Jones) knits an endless scarf, their children Wednesday and Pugsly come down the stairs ready to trick or treat while dressed in their Halloween costumes — two extremely normal looking adults (a more solid gag). As Grandmama whisks the kids away to go trick or treating, we see a pair of robbers (played by Skip Homeier and Don Rickles) trying to avoid the police by hiding in the bushes of the Addams’ front yard.

Gomez notices the robbers, and always being the hospitable type, invites them in. The robbers are more than happy to have a place to hide out but soon find they’ve found about the strangest house to hide out in. Still, the fact that the Addams seem to be loaded makes it reason enough for the robbers to go along with their cooky Halloween activities. Instead of bobbing for apples, Gomez and Morticia ask them to bob for crabs, while who knows what chemical concoction they’re serving up in their punch bowl. Also, Lurch is there, being all lurchy and intimidating towards the robbers, or at least that’s how they see it.

I have to imagine most episodes of this show (which only lasted 2 seasons) are similar to this Halloween episode, in that it consists of some strangers hanging around the Addams’ home and being weirded out. However, the element of Halloween gives it just that extra amount of ghoulish glee that you’d want in a Halloween episode. Of course, the main hook of the episode is that while hiding out in the Addams’ house, the robbers assume that the Addams’ are just wearing Halloween costumes while their house is just decorated in the spirit of the season, even though that’s how it always looks. Maybe it’s a bit of an obvious plot for a Halloween episode about a spooky family, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun.

I do really like John Astin here as Gomez, but I suppose he is probably the juiciest character in the Addams Family to play, since he’s both the most energetic but also the closest to a normal person. There’s a fair amount of broad slapstick here, but Astin commits to it enough that it works. It’s also fun to see a young Don Rickles pop here while playing a character who’s a bit more nebbish than his aggressive stand-up persona. Overall, “Halloween with The Addams Family” has about as many bite-size treats as a bag of Halloween candy — so here’s to more tricks and treats in the month of October.