WEDNESDAY (a Netflix limited series)
(**1/2)-VITO CARLI

"...hum drum and ordinary, with similar plotlines having been done better on-other shows"

Wednesday is Neither Creepy Nor Kooky Enough

(122922)  Wednesday is a visually alluring, genre bending high school dramady with some horror and mystery elements thrown in. It is centered around an extremely memorable character, Wednesday, wonderfully well-played by of Jenna Ortega of X, who has grown older since the Adams Family show and movies and is now a teen. The miniseries received two Golden Globe nominations for best TV Series Musical or Comedy which it does not warrant, and Jenna Ortega got a nom for best actress in a musical comedy which was deserved.

Wednesday has been an enormous success. It passed up the hit series Stranger Things (which probably has a similar target demographic) with the biggest week for any English language streaming show on Netflix, clocking in with 341.2 million hours streamed worldwide, and after that the ratings got even better.

The guiding light of the miniseries is Tim Burton who is known for funny, macabre projects such as Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands, and this show uses Christine Ricci who was the female lead in Sleepy Hollow as well as Wednesday in the Adams Family films. Also, like Burton’s Sleepy Hollow (which also featured Ricci), the show is also very anticlerical, and most of the devout characters are hypocritical, narrow-minded fools or just evil. Some of the worse characters who set the evil in motion here are Puritans.

With its phenomenally talented main actress and appealingly stylized visual look, Wednesday could have been one of the freshest shows on TV, but as it turns out it is just another undistinguished formula school show where the young people are full of wisdom and the adults are all either evil or incompetent. Buffy come back! We miss you! and all is forgiven!

Adams family film fans will probably get a kick out of seeing Ricci who played Wednesday before and who is here playing a seemingly sympathetic guidance counselor. Seeing her interaction with Ortega was one of the things that drew me to the show. It's rare that you see two actresses interact with one another in this manner after each successfully authored the same character.

The rest of the family is played by Catherine Zeta Jones, who looks fabulous and is not bad as Morticia although we don’t get to see her much, and Luis Guzman who the terribly miscast and is not nearly suave, handsome or romantic enough to portray Gomez.

Although the series has some imaginative individual scenes and fine episodes, surprisingly the ones directed by Burton are not necessarily the best. Ultimately the cumulative effect is both underwhelming and slightly disappointing. The series takes a lead character with near unlimited potential, and basically puts her into plotlines that seemed like they could have been left over from Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. When Jenna Ortega’s Wednesday quips and sarcastically responds to the far less intelligent normal characters (she calls them “normies”) those scenes are gold. I could listen to her deliver droll, sarcastic zingers like, "I find social media to be a soul sucking void of meaningless affirmation“ forever.

But the film makes the monumental mistake of putting Wednesday in an environment, Neverwhere Academy (named after a phrase from Poe) where everyone is weird or a misfit. When the roommate is a werewolf and all of her classmates are sirens, serial killers, vampires or sorcerers, or what the film calls “hydes (basically a variation on the werewolf idea”) a sarcastic Goth girl with some psychic powers is not that unique. Most of the charm of the original Charles Addams strips and the show was seeing her and her family interact with normal people but the show almost completely sidesteps this.

The first episode has Wednesday attending a normal school but when her hapless brother Pugsley is tormented by his classmates. She overreacts by releasing piranhas in a pool when results in the maiming of some of the bullies. This over-the-top sequence is both shocking and sadistically funny, but the series rarely rises to that level again. Still, I can recommend the opening episode whole heartedly without reservation.

Wednesday gets expelled ( a small penalty for attempted homicide) and ends up in, Nevermore, her parents’ old school, an institution for "outcasts, freaks, and monsters " (no it is not the White House.) Her roommate Enid (Emma Myers in a fresh performance) is a lycanthrope who is a pariah in her all-werewolf family because she has not as yet fully transformed.

Despite her curse, Enid is peppy blonde who wears bright cloths and is Wednesday’s opposite in many respects (early on we learn that Wednesday is allergic to color so she always wears black). There are even slight hints that there is some romantic chemistry between the two. Ortega herself even said: ”Everyone knows that super sunny, happy person and that super dark, depressing person. When they get together, there's something really relatable and beautiful about it."

The only character from the original series who follows her to the school is Thing, a dissevered hand with more personality than Steven Seagal. At first Wednesday is insulted that he was sent to spy on her, but eventually he becomes her confidant and accomplice and is used in some of the film’s best sight gags.

There is a series of gruesome murders that take place on campus. To avert suspicion from herself (the sheriff does not like her and suspects her) Wednesday decides to investigate. Then in one of the most shocking scenes Wednesday begins to torture a boy who has a crush on her because she thinks he might be the murderer or at least know info about the murders. This scene would never have appeared in a comedy 25 years ago and my theory is that we are seeing more torture scenes in movies because of the war on terror and the Patriot Act. Since the photos of Guantanamo Bay came out, this has “normalized” torture and we have been subject to torture-based horror films such as House and Hostel, as well as more torture scenes even in superhero films and even comedies. These kinds of scenes were plentiful in 60s Euro horror films but they never treated as an everyday part of life in US films until fairly recently.

There is an episode that films in some of Wednesday’s dad’s past. When Gomez shows up at his former school. it turns out that he was implicated in a past murder and Wednesday tries to learn the truth about what happened. While we suspect he is innocent, he appears to be covering up for someone or hiding something.

But the mystery is hum drum and ordinary, with similar plotlines having been done better on countless shows. I wish the show had the courage to rely upon character interactions instead of dumb, recycled murder mysteries that could have been on Riverdale or Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys. I know I am dating myself.

Now for the good stuff. There have been many classic solo female dance sequences in film such as Nastassja Kinksi’s unforgettable dance in Exposed (the only thing I remember from the film), Christine Ricci’s dance to King Crimson’s Moonchild in Buffalo 66, and Sharon Stone’s seductive dace in Basic Instinct. But this show contains a dance sequence which may top them all, and the dance has been constantly on social media. One of the best scenes in Wednesday happens in episode 4. During a school dance, Wednesday does a highly alluring and mesmerizing dance to the Cramp's shock-abilly classic (beloved by Goths) ,Goo Goo Muck. The actress who choreographed the scene herself said she actually had covid while the scene was shot and she borrowed some moves from Siouxsie Siouxsie, the Rich Man's Frug from Sweet Charity, and the quirky Romanian/British new wave singer, Lene Lovich as well as the original TV Wednesday plus real dancers she saw in archival footage from goth clubs from the 80s. The dance is so well done that I was tempted to give the show a thumb’s up for just that one sequence. Wednesday’s dance is also important in the narrative because it impresses the other haughty students so much, they actually begin to like her.

It might be worth giving the series another shot to see if it improves in Season Two, but the writing needs to get a whole lot sharper for me to make me stick with it. Although, Wednesday has some very bright spots and many in the shrinking Goth crowd may like it, this is too much a mixed bag for me to fully recommend it. The show only occasionally rises to the level of inspired viewing.

Series Directed by:   Tim Burton, James Marshall, Gandja Monteiro
Series Written by:    Alfred Gough, Milles Millar, April Blair and Matt
 Lambert. Based on the characters created by
 Charles Addams
Starring:    Jenna Ortega, Gwendolyn Christie, Jaimie
Released:    Series released 112322
Length:    Eight episodes, approximately 46-57 minutes each
Rating:    TV-14 for language and violence
Available On:    Netflix

For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to and His latest book "Tape Worm Salad with Olive Oil for Extra Flavor" is also available.

WEDNESDAY  © 2022 Netflix
All Rights Reserved

Review © 2023 Alternate Reality, Inc.


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