For our Family Feud feature for Unconventional Families Week, every day The A.V. Club will select two families from a similar category. One of our writers will make the case for each side, and our fearless Editorial Director Josh Modell will make the call on the final victor. Whether you agree with Josh’s decision or not, be sure to add your vote to our online poll.
Yesterday, the vintage ’70s charm of The Brady Bunch defeated the ’90s wiseacres in the Step By Step clan. Today, a matchup long-overdue, and from the pictures above, fairly redundant. The Addams Family and The Munsters both debuted in 1964 and even lasted the same number of seasons. Both of these monster-themed families reached further generations through the magic of syndication. Both had creepy houses, a devoted patriarch, a matriarch with long black hair, and disturbing offspring. But which family was creepier? A.V. Club editor-in-chief John Teti and staff writer Katie Rife battle it out below to decide. Let’s play the Feud!
The Addams Family (1964-66)
First of all, the “creepy” is right there in the first line of The Addams Family theme song. The Munsters theme song didn’t even have lyrics until Eddie Munster made some up in the ’80s, and they were… not great. Then there’s the fact that The Munsters was produced by the same people who made Leave It To Beaver, the squarest, most boring, grandma-and-apple-pie sitcom imaginable. Not to mention that the Munsters were basically the Flintstones, with a monster-movie schtick instead of a Stone Age one: Herman Munster is a typical working-class sitcom lug and Lily a supportive housewife, while Gomez and Morticia Addams are both eccentric sophisticates of European origin.
The Munsters are into drag racing; the Addams, torture. The Munsters had a cat named Kitty; the Addams, a lion named Kitty Kat. Visiting the Addams family mansion drove visitors to madness, while the Munsters interacted with their community on a regular basis. Finally, there’s the episode where the Munsters are determined to be “the average American family” by a computer algorithm, and Lily Munster is excited about it. Morticia would have been insulted. [Katie Rife]
The Munsters (1964-66)
The Addams are definitely the more menacing of these two spooky families, but in terms of creepiness, I’ll give the nod to the Munsters, mostly for one reason: Grandpa Munster. Look, Herman Munster is a lovable lug, his wife Lily is an elegant beauty, and their kid, Eddie, is a bright little scamp—the three of them put together would be lucky to elicit a case of the willies, let alone the creeps. But few characters have benefited more from the toothless trappings of a mid-century sitcom than the family’s resident Dracula fetishist, Grandpa Munster.
Don’t get me wrong, Al Lewis’ performance as Grandpa is a kitsch classic, but without a laugh track, this cape-wearing, basement-lab-having senior citizen would be a total creeper. Time after time, his response to a minor crisis is to drug a member of his family. When Lily has trouble falling asleep, he feeds her a potion that essentially puts her in a hilarious coma. Eddie receives an unsolicited growth-spurt potion from Grandpa so he can tower over the kids at school who are teasing him. In another episode the young Munster boy, struggling with his trumpet lessons, becomes a short-term virtuoso by way of yet another concoction whipped up by his suburban vampire grandfather.
Even Marilyn, the “normal” niece who lives with the family, isn’t safe from Grandpa’s chemical improvisations. To help her with her love life—because who doesn’t want an undead coffin-sniffer to assist in matters of the heart?—Grandpa tries to slip a love potion into her morning oatmeal. (The potion ends up sliding down the wrong gullets, as furtively secreted elixirs are wont to do.) This last adventure in mystic pharmaceuticals played out in the second episode of The Munsters, “My Fair Munster,” which is presented below in German. I believe that German-language Grandpa rests my case. [John Teti]
Creepier: Both of these arguments are solid, and when it comes down to it, you probably wouldn’t want to visit the real-life Munsters or Addamses. But John’s argument hangs almost solely on the creepiness of Grandpa Munster, who I will admit should probably not be allowed within 200 feet of any school. But the Addams Family features so many creepers outside the main familial unit that there’s really no choice here: Uncle Fester would likely kill then molest you, Lurch would accidentally smash you flat, Thing is a goddamn disembodied hand, and Cousin Itt speaks the kind of gibberish that might be funny on TV but would probably be horrifying in real life. Advantage: Addams. [Josh Modell]