The late Charles Addams’ macabre drawings for the New Yorker magazine, beginning in 1932, helped establish the magazine’s reputation for the most sophisticated and imaginative cartoons in America. His drawings were bizarre, but never cruel or cynical. His dark, ink wash drawing displayed an innocent glee that heightened the humor and kept it from seeming morbid.
His most famous creation was an eerie clan in a crumbling Victorian manor whose antics offered a crazed reflection of everyday family life. Their daughter, Wednesday, threw a tantrum when she was put on the honor role at school and Lurch, the butler, sometimes forgot the eye of newt at the grocery store. Morticia and Gomez’s idea of “quality time” with their children was building a stretching rack or decorating the family Christmas tree with ghosts, skeletons and toy Iron Maidens.
They became known as “The Addams Family” through a television series developed by producer David Levy. Addams had turned down previous TV offers, but he and Levy hit it off when they met in 1962.
TV insiders were skeptical that the sophisticated humor of the New Yorker could appeal to a mass audience, but Levy made a deal for the show with Filmways, the studio that turned out “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Petticoat Junction” and “Mr. Ed.” The series, starring John Astin as Gomez, Carolyn Jones as Morticia, Jackie Coogan as Uncle Fester and Ted Cassidy as Lurch, premiered on ABC in the fall of 1964. It ran for two years, but its ratings trailed the somewhat broader “The Munsters,” which ran concurrently on CBS.
Addams, who died in 1988, said he rarely watched the series--"It’s on at an awkward time for me"--but he praised Jones’ Morticia as “enchanting.”