Emotion Equals Weakness – Wednesday (2022) Season 1

Tim Burton finally tackles The Addams Family. That pairing feels like it was inevitable. (I bet he’d also like to do The Munsters if Rob Zombie hadn’t just sullied it.) Sadly, his new Netflix series Wednesday proves to be a case of many missed opportunities.

The show has a good cast, an appealing performance from lead Jenny Ortega, and excellent production values with some signature Tim Burton flair. However, it also feels far too by-the-numbers, another phoned-in effort from a filmmaker so rarely invested in his material anymore, beyond its value at extending his brand.

Wednesday (2022) - Catherine Zeta-Jones & Luis Guzman as Morticia & Gomez Addams
Number of Episodes:8
Release Date: Nov. 23, 2022
Watched On: Netflix

As per the title, Wednesday is an Addams Family reboot centered on daughter Wednesday Addams, famously played by Christina Ricci in a pair of hit movies back in the 1990s. Ricci turns up in this show too, which ironically works to its detriment. As much as new star Jenny Ortega tries to make the role her own, she’s hampered by constant reminders that Ricci already gave the definitive performance as the character and anyone else must struggle to compete.

Also, while I think Ortega is pretty good in the series, her entire performance is based on Aubrey Plaza’s in Parks and Recreation. I almost hate to point this out, because it’s the sort of thing that, once you notice it, you can’t ever unsee. In 100% of scenes, Ortega is playing April Ludgate. It just so happens that April Ludgate is a fair substitute for a teenage Wednesday Addams.

Backing her up are Catherine Zeta-Jones and Luis Guzmán as parents Morticia and Gomez Addams. They look great in the wardrobe. If anything, Guzmán is actually a much closer physical match to cartoonist Charles Addams’ original depiction of Gomez than any prior actor. Unfortunately, both he and Zeta-Jones are given very little to do in the show’s first season, and in their limited screen time don’t manage to conjure the same sparks that Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston did in the older movies – nor even that John Astin and Carolyn Jones did in the 1960s TV sitcom.

Really missing the mark is Fred Armisen, who turns up as Uncle Fester late in the season. He’s awful, behaving as though he were in a lame SNL parody of The Addams Family rather than the real thing. To that end, he plays Fester as a massive, insufferable asshole. How Wednesday could stand to be around him is inexplicable. Thankfully, he’s one of the rare casting misfires in the series.

The show really ought to be called Wednesday Addams Goes to Hogwarts, because that’s basically what the premise boils down to. After a naughty prank gets her expelled from her original school, Wednesday is shipped off Nevermore Academy, a boarding school for various “outcasts,” including vampires, gorgons, sirens, and the like. Her roommate is a perky werewolf (Emma Myers) whose sunny disposition couldn’t be more diametrically opposed to Wednesday’s own, yet they manage to get along. The headmaster (Gwendoline Christie from Game of Thrones) has a grudge against the Addams parents that isn’t explained until later in the season. Ricci plays Professor Thornhill, one of the school’s few “normie” teachers with no supernatural abilities.

Tim Burton directed the first half of the eight-episode season, but the effort feels like he’s on autopilot. The series has many of his hallmarks all over it (the Gothic production design, the Danny Elfman theme music, etc.), but little sense of passion for the material. The scripting, primarily by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar (creators of the long-running Smallville), is full of high school drama clichés and heavy-handed messages about tolerance and acceptance for social misfits and outsiders.

By far the weakest aspect of the show is its season-long mystery, about a goofy-looking CGI monster terrorizing the school and nearby town. As episodes grow increasingly reliant on Wednesday investigating this case, the series gets less and less interesting. The big plot twist revelation held back until the finale is depressingly obvious from early in the season, and a climactic monster fight is cheesy as hell.

Wednesday comes frustratingly close to working. It has a lot of the right pieces to make a good TV show, but never puts them together. I’d almost rather that it were terrible across the board so I could write it off and move on with my life. As it is, I’m inclined to give it another try when the next season comes, hoping for some improvement that I’m skeptical will actually happen.

Wednesday (2022) - Christian Ricci as Prof. Thornhill

Video Streaming

Netflix streams Wednesday in 4K HDR and Dolby Atmos. As much as the show let me down in other ways, it makes stunning home theater eye candy. The 1.85:1 image is exceptionally sharp, with genuine 4K detail throughout. It also has very rich colors and contrast, with a terrific application of HDR that carefully distinguishes the many subtle layers of black. For as dark and gloomy as the show may be stylistically, video quality never looks dim or underlit the way some other recent series (such as HBO’s House of the Dragon, or Netflix’s own 1899) have struggled with.

The Atmos soundtrack has only moderate surround usage. Across the entire season, I can only think of a couple instances of notable overhead effects, one of which involved fireworks. However, the opening theme music (on episodes that play the whole thing) has nice dynamic range, and Episode 6 in particular features some intense bass during the action.


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