It’s almost impossible to talk about the original 1964 “The Addams Family” without mentioning the other 1964 television show that also features a family of outcasts: “The Munsters.” During their heyday, both of these monster-centric sitcoms famously aired during the same time slot, but on different networks, forcing viewers to pick a side. If you were Team Addams, you most likely loved the macabre antics of Morticia and Gomez and their two odd children, Wednesday and Pugsley, but if you were Team Munster, you probably enjoyed your sitcom quirk with a little more actual monster to it.
“The Addams Family” — which is based on “The New Yorker” cartoon 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 God’s sake), whereas the Munsters are actual monsters —I.E. Frankenstein and Dracula and a werewolf son, oh my! — living relatively normal, suburban lives. These differences are at the heart of the always-ongoing debate over which morbid family is better (I’m an Addams family sympathizer, myself), and the fact that both shows went off the air after around the same time despite positive ratings only heightens the discourse.
But what if, along with the never-ending discussion over which family’s house you would rather get invited to for dinner, there was another, less spooky, more kooky, masked crusader to add to the conversation over why two of horror’s most iconic households met such an early demise? Well, according to John Astin who played Gomez Addams on the original “The Addams Family” show, the TV death of his (and Herman Munster’s) beloved family was due in large part to the SLAP! BANG! 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 at bringing the world of superhero comics to television. The show was campy and fun, but it also preached important-to-the-time-period lessons to its viewers like, “Drink your milk!” because this was the ’60s and the narrative was that if you didn’t drink milk on the regular back then, you’d apparently never grow, or something. According to Den of Geek, the show’s success was due in large part to the fact that it was extremely successful at translating the comic world of Batman (Adam West) and his faithful sidekick Robin (Burt Ward) into a world ready for TV. It was as if the pages had come to life on screen. Because of this, viewers were enchanted by the show, and they were eager to tune in to see it.
“Batman” also came on air during a time period when superhero stories were not the norm. Though Batman had been translated to the screen in the ’40s, the arrival of the new show was still exciting to people, especially since many of the popular shows on the air in the ’60s had a decidedly more spooky bend to them. Shows like “I Dream of Jeannie” and “Bewitched” existed in the same vein as “The Munsters” and “The Addams Family,” and so “Batman” provided people with a new kind of adventure.
The Addams Family de-valued
In an interview for the Television Academy, John Astin — who played Gomez Addams on the show — opened up about his belief that the success of “Batman” is what caused the double downfall of “The Addams Family” and “The Munsters.” Astin explained that he was “shocked” to find out his show was getting the boot, even going so far as to say, “I think it was just a big accident.” He detailed how “Batman” began airing at the same time as “The Munsters,” and because these two shows were so tonally different from one another, many viewers gravitated to “Batman.” Since “Batman” offered viewers something thematically new (I mean, I never saw Gomez hesitate to dismantle a bomb out of fear of killing a few, quaint ducks) that was in direct competition with “The Munsters,” priorities started to change.
“‘Batman’ came on with a big rush. It was a storm, and [it was] tough to go up against,” explains Astin, and because the success of “Batman” made things hard for “The Munsters,” Astin explains that “There was some thinking that “The Addams Family” would go away, [as well].” Astin thought it probably didn’t help that “a lot of the programming people thought about “Addams” and “Munsters” as the same kind of show.”
Regardless of whether or not “Batman” is responsible for taking down two of TV’s major monster family titans, one thing is absolutely certain, though. Lurch would absolutely destroy the caped crusader in a dance contest any day.