Given my lifelong love of the Sixties Addams Family, and knowing full well this version wasn't going to follow the TV show characterizations at all, it took me a while to try it out. Since I watched Sandman and rated it as high as possible, Netflix kept poking me with a stick until I relented.
Honestly, as hilarious and wonderful as Christina Ricci's deadpan, dangerous and dark Wednesday was in the movies, I fear her performance has sealed us off from ever returning to the happy, "gusto for life" Addamses from the TV show. Ironically, it was in a group for the new Wednesday series, that I saw what I like about the old show summed up well. A post pointed out how happy and supportive the family was in the TV version and referred to their "passionate zest for life."
When I mentioned, "That 'passionate zest for life' is what I always felt the 'ooky' of the TV series meant. A lot of other versions miss the 'ooky.' "
Someone with the oddly Addamsly appropriate handle of "Soup Owens-Fowler" commented:
"I mean, 'All together ooky' could easily translate to 'an overabundance of zeal and a concentrated love of experiencing all life has to offer.' "
But back to the new version. As a fan of most of Tim Burton's spooky worlds, I tried to go in thinking it was set in the universe of Sleepy Hollow , for example, to keep the Addams Family's different tones and multiple bits of interfamily strife from clouding my views. It's Wednesday focused, but when we do get to see the rest of her family, they're straight out of the comics. Granted, the comics were all one panel gags, leaving the show a great deal of leeway for interpretation.
They did throw in a flashback that could be an explanation of the change from Lisa Loring Wednesday to the Jenna Ortega version. But the rest of the family dynamic isn't completely there, therefore it is best to avoid that path. Uncle Fester was closest to the Jackie Coogan version, bonus points for the episode he showed up in.
I started off upset about the characters being done "wrong"... there's a kindness and an wanting to bring others in to the weird stuff they like that made the TV cast appealing to me. However, the execution of the story, the acting, the way the mystery was set up and general atmosphere won me over. The "playing the cello on the balcony" scene was what sold Wednesday herself to me, and I was fully on board for the rest of the series.
The boarding school for "monsters" and other similarly "gifted" individuals has been done a ridiculous number of times before and will likely be done many more times in the future. ("Monster High" and Hogwarts were FAR from the first.) The setting worked to generate a large amount of characters while isolating the young individuals from what would be familiar settings to them.
There was dark humor, some real suspense, a couple of cool intertwined mysteries and great performances all around.
I thought they were going for the idea that whether someone was an "Outcast" or "Normie" wasn't going to matter as far as whether a person would be good or bad. It looked like the goal was the old fashioned. "there's good and bad in EVERY group." Yes, there were extenuating circumstances, and yes there were many twists and turns along the way, but it was pretty much universal that the "Outcasts" were the ones to be trusted and the "Normies" were not.
That tracks pretty well with my school experiences as well.
Something hit me a while after I finished watching, though. Wednesday's stand offishness and self focus bothered me a great deal at first for being different from the show. However, it did fit the character and the story they were telling. There was something else that I felt should have annoyed me, and I couldn't figure out why it didn't at the time. That was how many of the likeable characters at Nevermore Academy were so open and forgiving in their attempts to befriend Wednesday while she worked hard to push them away.
I figured out why this felt right after the fact.
It's because those characters wanted to share "an overabundance of zeal and a concentrated love of experiencing all life has to offer" with her.
The show did have the "ooky," but they shifted it.