Wednesday is causing quite the uproar, as Netflix claims a record-breaking number of customers tuned into the series over Thanksgiving weekend. The Addams Family project was billed as a new leaf for the franchise, and it brought a big name with it: Tim Burton. Surprisingly, the horror icon has never touched the Addams Family, and Wednesday served as his take on it.
But was it really? Maybe Wednesday’s involvement with Tim Burton was contorting the series into something it wasn’t meant to be.
Wednesday is often billed as “Tim Burton’s Wednesday,” but that’s not entirely accurate. While Burton was involved, he served as executive producer and directed the first four episodes. He wasn’t involved in the writing, so if you had any issues with the scripts, don’t take them up with him.
The writers and co-creators for the series were actually Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, the pair behind the early 2000s CW series Smallville. In a way, Smallville was the most revolutionary series the CW ever created. It was the original Intellectual Property Teen Drama, years before Riverdale, Nancy Drew, or the Arrowverse. Burton’s contribution to Wednesday, however, largely overshadowed Gough and Millar’s work.
It’s evident from the first episode that Wednesday wants to be a teen drama, but Burton’s direction crams it into the shape of a horror series. Maybe a traditional Addams Family series would suit Burton’s aesthetic, but Wednesday has a teenage girl protagonist, and pretending it’s American Horror Story doesn’t do it any good.
Wednesday doesn’t really hit its stride until Episode 5, which happens to be the first episode Burton had nothing to do with. At that point, the story settles into the IP teen drama it was meant to be. Wednesday needs to be the new Smallville, not the new Edward Scissorhands.
In a potential Season 2, it might be wise to let Tim Burton step back from directing. He doesn’t need to bow out completely; having his name attached to the project is obviously quite the publicity boon. But maybe he should just be an executive producer, lending his wisdom and signature style to the aesthetics of the series rather than the performances.
Sometimes, the best way for a series to reach its true potential is to lower its ambition. Wednesday could be a lackluster horror series and a lackluster teen drama, or it could accept that it’s the next step in the evolution of reboot teen series, ditch the horror vibes, and become the truly fun and quirky drama it’s meant to be.
Wednesday is now streaming on Netflix.