“Wednesday,” the newest streaming series on Netflix, shouldn’t be any good. After all, it’s a show based on a single-panel comic strip that first debuted not ten, not 20, not 50, but 84 years ago. It features actors that range from borderline unknown to “Oh, are they still doing movies?” It’s a franchise that consists of far, far fewer hits (the absolutely brilliant “Addams Family Values”) than misses (almost everything else on the big or small screen with the name “Addams Family” on it). It’s been produced by a company notorious for its frequently middling output. And, perhaps most crucially, it’s been spearheaded by Tim Burton, a man who, though once rightfully regarded as a visionary genius, seems to have sadly lost his mojo in the last two decades or so.

Tim Burton is back, back, back, baby!

And yet, “Wednesday” somehow works. Yes, after a string of bafflingly mediocre films, I’m happy to report that Tim Burton is back, back, back, baby! Not, thankfully, the wayward soul who directed “Planet of the Apes,” “Alice in Wonderland,” the live-action “Dumbo,” and whatever the hell “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” was supposed to be, but the quirky creative powerhouse who gave us “Beetlejuice,” “Batman,” and “Edward Scissorhands.” Every moment of this new series (at least based on its pilot) signals a welcome return of that long-lost Burton magic: the unsettling camera angles, the stark color palette, the pitch-black humor, the memorable casting, the gleeful violence, the haunting-yet-playful score (by longtime Burton collaborator and fellow artistic genius Danny Elfman) all combine to make “Wednesday” an entertaining, darkly comic, and (at times) laugh-out-loud young adult series that even grownups can enjoy.

Last seen on the big screen playing Tara Carpenter in “Scream” (the recent legacyquel— yes, I’m using that horrible word— of the smash-hit slasher film from 1996 that is also, rather confusingly, called “Scream”), Jenna Ortega is perfectly cast as the eponymous heroine. Her portrayal of Wednesday Addams is bone-dry, whip-smart, and hilariously deadpan, yet also simultaneously suffused with subtle undercurrents of genuine adolescent melancholy and rage— no easy feat in a series populated by over-the-top characters. (There are werewolves and vampires in this world, after all.) The other cast members are solid, as well: Emma Myers, for one, plays the bubbly and cheerful Enid Sinclair without defaulting into predictable “foil of heroine” character traits; while the dependable Gwendoline Christie effectively assays Principal Larissa Weems with the kind of gleefully restrained malevolence she failed to deliver in Netflix’s “The Sandman” earlier this year. Rounding out the capable cast of the pilot episode are Luis Guzman (as Gomez) and Catherine Zeta-Jones (Morticia), both clearly relishing every macabre moment of their time onscreen. (Keep your eyes peeled for an extended cameo from one of the original actors from the first two “Addams Family” entries from the 90’s, aka “the two movies in the franchise that don’t suck.”)

a promising start to a series— and I, for one, am on board.

Refreshingly, the comically morbid series, shot in— where else?—Romania, features very little in the way of backstory. Instead of spoon-feeding the viewers, Burton chooses to trust them, confident in the certainty that anyone who is unfamiliar with these characters is smart enough to eventually catch up unaided. (He’s right.) And so we begin in medias res, with Wednesday starting the day at her perfectly ordinary high school, a place where, based on the looks she gets that range from disgust to outright fear, she clearly does not belong. When she learns that some bullies have been picking on her brother Pugsley (Isaac Ordonez), she decides to take revenge in an unconventional (and frankly hilarious) way. As a consequence of her actions, her parents send her to an old, stately school in the woods, where outcasts of every stripe learn to deal with their special abilities. There, under the tutelage of a school official who seems to be harboring a secret, she encounters a convoluted mystery involving magic, monsters, psychic visions, and people who are not who they appear to be. Can she find the solution before it’s too late?

Yes, it does sound an awful lot like a Harry Potter story. But so what? Narrative tropes only exist because they have been proven, time and again, to be effective. And despite some dodgy-looking CGI and some jokes that don’t quite land, “Wednesday” is effective. Based on its pilot, the show is just unique enough, clever enough, dark enough, and funny enough to carve its own path through the world of young adult fantasy. (Though it may be a bit too gory for really young kids.) All in all, a promising start to a series— and I, for one, am on board.


5 crowns: a must-see
4 crowns: excellent
3 crowns: good but not great
2 crowns: just about watchable
1 crown: avoid at all costs

Click here for more stories like this. You may also follow and subscribe to our social media accounts: FacebookYouTubeInstagramTikTokTwitter, and Kumu.