It’s nearly impossible to talk about the 1964 original “The Addams Family” without mentioning the other 1964 TV show that also features a family of outcasts: “The Munsters.” In their heyday, these two monster-centric sitcoms aired during the same timeslot, but on different networks, forcing viewers to choose sides. If you were Team Addams, you probably enjoyed the gruesome antics of Morticia and Gomez and their two odd children, Wednesday and Pugsley, but if you were Team Munster, you probably enjoyed your sitcom oddity with a monster a little more real.
“The Addams Family” – which is based on the cartoon “The New Yorker” created by Charles Addams – depicts a family of outcasts who love all things dark and dangerous (the family owns a pet lion named Kitty Kat, for for God’s sake), while the Munsters are real freaks – IE Frankenstein and Dracula and a werewolf son, oh my! – live a relatively normal suburban life. These differences are at the heart of the still-ongoing debate over which is the best morbid family (I’m an Addams Family sympathizer myself), and the fact that the two shows went off the air at around the same time despite positive notes only increases the speech.
But what if, alongside the endless discussion of which family home you’d rather be invited to dine at, there was another masked crusader, less scary, more goofy, to add to the conversation about the why two of horror’s most iconic households met such an early death? Well, according to John Astin who played Gomez Addams on the original show “The Addams Family”, the TV death of his beloved family (and Herman Munster) was largely due to the SLAP! CLICK! POW! arrival of Adam West’s “Batman”.
A new kind of hero in town
When “Batman” first aired on ABC in 1966, it was unlike any other attempt to bring the world of superhero comic books to television. The show was campy and fun, but it also preached important period lessons to its viewers, like “Drink your milk!” because it was the 60s and the narrative was that if you didn’t drink milk regularly back then, you would never grow taller, or something like that. According to Den of Geek, the show’s success was largely due to its ability to translate the comic world of Batman (Adam West) and his trusty sidekick Robin (Burt Ward) into a world ready for the television. It was as if the pages came to life on the screen. For this reason, the viewers were enchanted by the show and they were eager to tune in to see it.
“Batman” also aired at a time when superhero stories weren’t the norm. Although Batman was brought to the screen in the 1940s, the arrival of the new show was always exciting for people, especially since many popular shows that aired in the 1960s had a decidedly creepier turn. Shows like “I Dream of Jeannie” and “Bewitched” existed in the same vein as “The Munsters” and “The Addams Family,” and so “Batman” offered people a new kind of adventure.
The Devalued Addams Family
In an interview with the Television Academy, John Astin – who played Gomez Addams on the show – opened up about his belief that the success of “Batman” was behind the double downfall of “The Addams Family” and “ The Munsters”. Astin explained that he was “shocked” to learn that his show had taken a hit, even going so far as to say, “I think it was just a big accident.” He detailed how “Batman” started airing at the same time as “The Munsters,” and because those two shows were so different from each other, many viewers gravitated toward “Batman.” Since “Batman” offered viewers something thematically new (I mean, I’ve never seen Gomez hesitate to take down a bomb for fear of killing a few quaint ducks) that was in direct competition with “The Munsters,” the priorities began to change.
“‘Batman’ came with a great rush. It was a storm, and [it was] difficult to face,” Astin explains, and because the success of “Batman” has made things difficult for “The Munsters,” Astin explains that “some thought ‘The Addams Family’ would die out, [as well].” Astin thought it probably didn’t help that “a lot of programmers think of ‘Addams’ and ‘Munsters’ as the same kind of show”.
Regardless of whether or not “Batman” was responsible for bringing down two of the main titans of the TV monster family, one thing is absolutely certain. Lurch would absolutely destroy the caped crusader in a dance contest any day.