When we think of the Addams Family, we often think of the unnatural, the mystifying, the macabre. Still, in the early episode, “Morticia And The Psychiatrist,” Pugsley Addams (Ken Weatherwax) goes through an identity crisis. In addition to sitting in his tree house to watch the lightning, he started doing “normal” stuff, like petting puppies and joining to boy scouts. Rather than focusing so much on battle axes and torture racks, he was liking merit badges and baseball bats (and not just to beat people with, either). In fact, Pugsley even likes puppies! Feeling their boy needs help, Gomez (John Astin) and Morticia Addams (Carolyn Jones) seek a professional. They resort to psychiatrist Dr. Harold Black (George Petrie).
This episode is full of funny lines, such as this observation of that puppy: “All he’s going to grow up to be is a dog!” Dear Uncle Fester (Jackie Coogan) even says Pugsley should be punished for helping an old lady cross the street. We also see Gomez’ continued hobby of wrecking model trains, and learn that Pugsley’s favorite bedtime story is Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven (personally, I would prefer The Telltale Heart). When the psychiatrist suggests catering to Pugsley’s whims, it’s definitely ironic: He believes the Addams Family decor is stemming from Pugsley. We also get familiar with the man-eating plant, Cleopatra, as well as Pugsley’s pet octopus, Aristotle.
Why the Episode Still Works
The Addams Family has this strange ability to seem fresh, all these years later. One supposes it’s something about dark humor in general. There’s often something attractive about it, even when it’s at its silliest. In contrasting the Addams Family with normalcy, we’re (hopefully) reminded that being a little weird is kind of cool. In fact, having some freedom to be outside the mainstream is sort of what freedom’s all about.
In that sense, The Addams Family continues to mock the worst elements of boring, mainstream social conservatism. Gomez and Morticia mirror mainstream reactions to weirdos like themselves, being the opposite inverse, yet similarly reactionary. It’s like Pugsley wants to come out of the closet as relatively normal, but can he? At the same time, The Addams Family doesn’t veer too far out there. They don’t hurt the poor boy for deviating from their own norm. The family is itself mainstream enough to remain a pop culture phenomenon.
By the time the episode’s over, one gets a sense that Pugsley’s back to abnormal. However, the premise leaves room for further explanation. Why would Pugsley disappoint his family to such a degree? Also, how would the Addams Family cope with Pugsley permanently veering off in a socially conventional direction? Would they themselves be able to accept it? There’s a surprising amount of food for thought here, and it’s a bit similar to some role-reversal episodes in The Twilight Zone (some of the best episode of that series, by the way).
What are your thoughts on this Addams Family episode? Let us know in the comments!