Sunday, September 12, 2010

Freaky families -- or are they?

On a rare day off, I went channel surfing. Not that daytime TV has a lot to offer, but here's a programming combination I found irresistible and strangely thought provoking.

The afternoon schedule on WADL 38 in Detroit features classic reruns of "The Brady Bunch," "The Addams Family," and "The Munsters."

I began thinking about family dynamics and began to wonder -- who's freakier?

So much has been written and said over the years about the unrealistic, too perfect Bradys. Dad was an architect, and the family lived in a spacious home that he designed.

Mom had household help in the form of Alice, the maid, so the house was always tidy and mom Brady never had to cook. Everybody was gorgeous, rarely had health problems. And whatever family squabbles were solved amicably in 30 minutes.

Really, now how freaky is that? This is not the "norm." What goes on behind closed doors? What are the Brady's hiding? How accessible would they be? Would they be there for their neighbors in a crisis? Would you want this bunch on your block?

Then we have the anti-Bradys.


There's the Addams family. How cool is this clan? Morticia and Gomez are so madly in love that, even after two kids, he can't keep his hands off her. They have a unique extended family who share their mansion in the forms of Uncle Fester, Cousin Itt, Grandmama, and an assortment of others who drop in or pop out of the wood work.

The Addams are quintessential old money. Mrs. Addams also has household help -- Lurch, the butler, and Thing, who's always there to "lend a hand," literally.

The Addams are judged by their appearance and eccentricities.

And yet, they are kind, their children are well behaved, and I have the impression that as neighbors, you could count on them to help in a crisis.


Over at 1313 Mockingbird Lane, we have another similar family, "The Munsters."

We have the typical man of the house, Herman, who, despite his Frankenstein-like appearance, is a sweet guy.

He's extremely good natured and laughs at his own jokes.

Yet, it's evident that Herman cares about his family. His affection for them is obvious. He always kisses his wife, Lily, good-bye.

Herman works to support his brood -- albiet in a funeral parlor. But again, what's so strange about that?

Like the Addams, the Munsters have an extended family. In addition to Lily, Herman, and their son, Eddie, there's Grandpa, Lily's vampire father, and poor, unfortunate Marilyn, their niece, who looks nothing like the rest of the family.

I see Herman as the kind of neighbor who would be willing to help you with projects around the house, like building a new deck. Although, he might be a little clumsy.

Unlike the Addams, the Munsters are very much down-to-earth, working-class, regular folks who are, again, judged by their appearances and eccentricities.

Lily does her own housework -- and her style of decorating is quite different from Morticia's.

We see classic gender roles in the Munsters -- Herman, the provider; Lily, the dedicated stay-at-home wife.

Both shows ran concurrently in the mid-1960's when America was in the midst of a "monster craze."

But the question really is, what's freaky about families who care about each other, treat people kindly, and keep it real by not taking themselves or the world to seriously?

I'll take the Addams and the Munsters on my block anytime!

The Addams Family is now a musical starring Nathan Lane as Gomez and Bebe Neuwirth as Morticia. Check it out:

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