Early sitcoms have a reputation for being too sweet and wholesome, but a few stand out from the pack for their willingness to get a bit dark.
The Addams Family focuses on a gothic group that loves everything weird and macabre. The Munsters are an actual family of monsters who try to fit into society.
Both of these shows aired at the same time. They became pop culture staples that are still popular today and draw obvious comparisons.
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Charles Addams worked as a cartoonist for the New Yorker. He created a one-panel comic in 1938 that featured a vacuum cleaner salesman. He ends up at the home of a gothic woman and fur-faced creature.
That comic was meant to be a one-off gag, but it turned into Charles’ most recognizable body of work. He returned to the characters again and again in hundreds of comics. By 1942, the family grew to include 2 children, a witch, a bald weirdo, and the striped-suit-wearing Gomez.
David Levy was in charge of programming at NBC in the 60’s. He saw the cover for the Addams cartoon Collection in a window and loved it so much that he set up a meeting with Charles Addams.
He came up with the idea to make the characters a family instead of a group of creepy but unrelated faces. He let Charles come up with all the names for the characters, except for Wednesday who was named by a toy company later. David even invented Cousin Itt himself, and a lawsuit later settled the rights over him.
The Munsters were inspired by the Universal Monsters movies of the 1930s such as Dracula and Frankenstein. Looney Tunes animator Bob Clampett pitched the show to Universal in 1943.
The Universal Monster movies died out in the 50s. Supernatural sitcoms were hot in the 60s, including My Favorite Martian, I Dream of Jeannie, and Bewitched.
Gene L. Coons and Les Colodny and Rocky and Bullwinkle writers Allan Burns and Chris Hayward worked together to create THe Munsters. They pitched it as a monster version of The Donna Reed Show. They even hired Norm Liebmann and Ed Haas who wrote for that show to create the pilot. It was pitched in 1964 in color but shot in black and white.
Both shows were in production at the exact same time. It’s not clear how much they influenced each other, but the consensus is that the world wouldn’t have been able to enjoy one without the other.
Their Original Shows
The Munsters was developed by the producers of Leave It to Beaver and had more traditional plotlines. It starred Fred Gwynne as Herman Munster, Yvonne De Carlo as Lily, Al Lewis as Grandpa, Butch Patrick as Eddie, and Beverly Owen, who was later replaced by Pat Priest, as Marilyn.
Nat Perrin had previously worked with the Marks Brothers. He wasn’t afraid to make The Addams Family a bit more intense or add in satire. The original show starred Carolyn Jones as Morticia, John Astin as Gomez, Ted Cassidy as Lurch, Lisa Loring as Wednesday, Jackie Coogan as Gordon Craven, Ken Weatherwax as Pugsley, Blossom Rock as Grandma, and Felix Silla as Cousin Itt.
Both shows did well in their initial runs. The Munsters had 70 episodes, ran from September 24-May 12, 1966, reached #18 in the ratings, and got a Golden Globe nomination in 1965 for Best TV Show. The Addams Family ran from September 18, 1964-April 8, 1966, had 64 episodes, and reached the #23 spot.
There were several reasons that the shows only lasted for two seasons There were too many spooky or supernatural sitcoms at the time for them to stay relevant. They also faced stiff competition from other shows. Batman became more popular than The Munsters, and Hogan’s Heroes beat The Addams Family. They were eventually canceled, but that wasn’t the end of their story.
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Their Movies and Animated Shows
Like most successful shows, The Munsters and The Addams Family both spawned franchises once their original shows became successful. Studios were eager to capitalize on their popularity and have been revisiting the families for years.
Both of them had revival shows that actually lasted longer than the originals. The Munsters Today had 73 episodes that aired from 1988-1991. The New Addams Family had 65 episodes that ran from 1998-1999.
The Munsters only had one feature film; Munster, Go Home in 1966. The Addams Family has had two feature-length non-animated films. They were The Addams Family in 1991 and Addams Family Values in 1993.
Both families had animated specials, and both were released in 1973. The Mini-Munsters stood alone, but The Addamses in The New Scooby-Doo Movies was part of a Scooby-Doo series.
They also spawned a string of straight-to-TV movies. The Munsters had The Munsters Revenge in 1981, Here Come the Munsters in 1995, and The Munsters Scary Little Christmas in 1996. The Addams Family spawned Halloween with the New Addams Family in 1977 and Addams Family Reunion in 1998.
The Addams Family was the only one to get full-length animated movies. There were two of them; The Addams Family in 2019 and The Addams Family 2 in 2021.
They also spawned more video game adaptations than the one flop inspired by The Munsters. Their pinball cabinet is one of the rarest of all time and a highly sought-after collector’s item. The Addams Family even has a Broadway musical that ran for a year and 6 months.
Comparing the Two
John Astin, the original Gomez, said that he and the rest of the cast never enjoyed the comparisons made between The Addams Family and The Munsters. He felt that one was a satirical take on normal life using an abnormal family while the other was about a normal family who only look odd.
Even if the cast prefers that we didn’t, It is difficult not to compare the two spooky sitcoms. They had a similar premise, looked a bit alike, and aired on TV at the same time. Fans of both will realize that they differ in several ways. They have unique theme songs, characters, and plotlines.
The Addams Family has the more recognizable theme song. Everyone knows whose “house is a museum” the same way they know “who lives in a pineapple under the sea.” Vic Mizzy composed the song, and it ranked #15 on Paste Magazine’s list of top theme songs.
This isn’t to say that The Munsters didn’t have a quality theme song. It was nominated for a Grammy in 1965 and sampled in Fall Out Boy’s 2015 hit Uma Thurman. It’s well-known, but it’s also an instrumental surf-rock style product of its time. It doesn’t have the same lasting appeal and recognizability.
The Addams Family are rich, drive a 1933 Packard V-12 limo, and live in a massive, macabre mansion. The Munsters have a car that’s a Frankensteined collection of parts. They’re also affluent enough to afford a 9-room mansion, but their home isn’t as frightening and doesn’t have as much character.
The family members are also different. Herman Munster towers over Gomez Adams, but Morticia beats out Lilly in terms of intimidation. Both Uncle Fester and Grandpa Munster have exciting designs and tantalizing powers.
Wednesday Adams is both adorable and intimidating, while Marily Munster seems like an everyday little girl. The opposite is true for the sons of each family. Eddie Munster is a mischievous werewolf while Pugsley Adams is the most “normal” member of his family.
The Addams Family also has an array of unique side characters that filled out the cast. A few of the best include Thing the disembodied hand, Lurch the massive monstrous butler, and Cousin Itt the living mass of hair. The Munsters have a few standouts such as Mrs. Cribbins and Charlie, but they are no longer recognizable names.
The Addams have taken on several dangerous pets, including an octopus, a jaguar, man-eating plants, a lion, piranhas, and a spider. The Munsters have a few interesting pets as well, such as a bat, a dinosaur, a raven, a cat that roars like a lion, and even a dragon in the basement.
One major difference, as John mentioned, is how “normal” these two families attempt to appear to the outside world. The Addams Family lives apart from society and doesn’t care if anyone calls them weird. The Munsters live in the middle of town and try to fit in but fail.
These desires made the storylines different, but so did the Addams Family writers’ willingness to stray into taboo territory. John Astin and Carolyn Jones’ chemistry was obvious, and there were a few subtle nods and innuendos throughout the series.
One of the most memorable examples of this was how excited Gomez would get when his wife would speak French. He’d start kissing her up and down her arm in a way that The Munsters wouldn’t dare.
What’s your favorite spooky sitcom; The Addams Family or The Munsters? Let us know in the comments below. Like and subscribe to Facts Verse for more about the strangest sitcom families to ever appear on TV.