SARAH VINE's My TV WEEK: My family were just like these ODDBALLS

SARAH VINE’s My TV WEEK: My family were just like these ODDBALLS

WEDNESDAY

NETFLIX  

Rating:

The 1960s black-and-white Addams Family is one of my all-time favourite TV shows. Along with Little House On The Prairie, Happy Days and Star Trek, it was a staple of my childhood growing up in Italy, the only thing, really, worth watching on Italian TV. 

One of the reasons I loved The Addams Family so much was that it mirrored my own. My mother had more than a whiff of Morticia about her: beautiful, elegant, mysterious, aloof. 

She looked good in a column dress. My father was very Gomezlike: prone to extravagant, slightly sweaty behaviour and entirely besotted with her. 

The 1960s black-and-white Addams Family is one of Sarah Vine’s all-time favourite TV shows – and now Netflix have released a new spin-off about the family called Wednesday 

I was a dead ringer for Wednesday, an antisocial, introverted child with black hair, pale skin and a strong dislike of the outdoors. And, being foreigners, we were thought of as rather peculiar, which in many ways we were. 

I remember discussing this a few years ago with the director Tim Burton, who also comes from a very odd family, and who also grew up watching old TV shows. 

Now here he is, with his very own version of that wonderfully dysfunctional family, Wednesday. And it’s deliciously wicked. 

Burton has always been a director who celebrates the more peculiar side of the human spirit, and Wednesday is the perfect vehicle for his darkly skewed vision. Wednesday – played by Jenna Ortega, who bears more than a passing resemblance to a young Helena Bonham Carter, Burton’s ex-wife – is expelled for chucking piranhas into a swimming pool containing the school bullies who beat up her brother. 

Sarah (pictured) said she identified with the character Wednesday

She’s packed off to the Nevermore Academy, a scholastic institution for misfits. It’s a place that holds fond memories for her amorous parents, who met there – but it also has a whole lot of dark history of its own, not to mention a terrible reputation among the local townsfolk. 

The casting is superb: Gwendoline Christie (aka Brienne of Tarth in Game Of Thrones) plays the school’s mysterious headmistress, with Christina Ricci as Miss Thornhill (speciality: carnivorous plants) and Catherine Zeta-Jones as Morticia – somewhat bustier than the original, but excellent, nonetheless. 

There are elements of Harry Potter/Twilight to the school setting, with the different monster tribes – werewolves, sirens, vampires, gorgons and so on – competing for supremacy. 

There is more than a nod to teen girl sagas such as Heathers and Mean Girls (Joy Sunday is great as Wednesday’s nemesis, Bianca), as well as plenty of coming-of-age stuff, including the tantalising prospect of our heroine falling in love with a ‘normy’, the son of the local sheriff.

The UK-based journalist believes that the characters mirrored her own family, comparing her mother to Morticia and her father to Gomez

It’s a lot, but the superb production values, snappy dialogue and pacy plot more than carry it, and it is – as with all Burton’s work – a visual feast. It also has just the right amount of camp to avoid taking itself too seriously; and it’s the kind of show that can be watched by all ages. 

The soundtrack is great too: there’s a particularly good spooky orchestral version of The Rolling Stones’s Paint It Black. I suspect Burton will have worried about doing the original justice in such a glitzy spin-off. No worries on that front. 

IT’S HARD TO CARE ABOUT CORDEN’S SMUG DRAMA

MAMMALS

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Sarah Vine is not a fan of James Corden’s (second from left) new film Mammals. She calls it ‘pretentious’ and ‘a bit weird’ 

I must confess I find James Corden intensely smug and irritating in his incarnation as American TV supremo. So this review comes with that caveat, and I apologise in advance for my prejudice. 

But the truth is, Mammals is objectively terrible, the sort of thing you might expect from a man who lives in a Hollywood bubble of his own perceived fabulosity. 

Where to start. It’s pretentious and a bit weird (there’s a strange conceit about a whale which I didn’t really get), and the characters are hard to like, being self-indulgent, smug metropolitan elite types with massive entitlement complexes. In terms of the writing, it wants to be deep and meaningful but often ends up just being trite. 

Also, having been trailed as Corden’s big return to acting, as far as I can see he’s just playing himself – an overindulged, insecure, over-hyped giant man-baby completely blind to his own privilege – thinly disguised as an acclaimed, Michelin-starred chef. 

This is further underlined by the fact that his character is married to someone as stunningly beautiful as Melia Kreiling, a feat that would clearly be impossible in the real world. 

The net effect of all this is that we don’t really care that his wife is an adulterer, or that his sister is going slowly mad. They’re all just as bad as each other.

  • Whatever you think about the decision to have Qatar host the FIFA World Cup, must it be everywhere on the TV? Do we really need to see Ulan Bator play Liechtenstein, or whatever it is? Next time they should just commandeer BBC4 for the duration – and leave the rest of us to enjoy the schedules as normal. 

LUCY, QUEEN OF MYSTERY 

Lucy Worsley (pictured) stars in a new factual series on Agatha Christie, Mystery Queen on BBC2

In many ways Lucy Worsley is the perfect TV historian, and the perfect host of Mystery Queen (Friday, BBC2), a new factual series on Agatha Christie. Lucy is rather odd-looking (the eyebrows always mesmerise me), but attractive nonetheless, and has a quirky, slightly retro dress sense that makes you think she probably collects peculiar hats. 

Her voice is rather odd too, with a funny, breathless lisp that acts as a barometer to her level of excitement, and she narrates as though she were reading bedtime stories to naughty children after lights out. 

There’s a conspiratorial air to almost everything she says, which works rather well in the context of Agatha Christie, being as she is the queen of detective novelists. No huge revelations here, but a lot of fun in an Antiques Roadshow sort of way. 

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