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Adult Wednesday Addams: 7 Facts About The YouTube Series That Are Anything But Morbid

It's unlikely that, when "The Addams Family" originally appeared as an inauspicious single-panel comic strip in a 1938 issue of "The New Yorker," anyone realized how unforgettable the feature would prove. Now, 80-plus years later, it's been the subject of TV shows, films, animated series, and musicals, and that's just to name a few. Though each of the Addams Family members has their own charm, Wednesday may very well be the most immediately recognizable. Her iconic look and morbid sense of humor combined to make her not just a fan favorite, but one of the more influential characters of the last century, particularly after her reimagining with "The Addams Family" films of the early 1990s.

Fast forward several years to September 2013, and creator Melissa Hunter's idea to reintroduce Wednesday as an adult in a comedic series available online takes off. For a web series with only two very short seasons behind it, "Adult Wednesday Addams" has had impressive staying power in the public consciousness, still inspiring internet searches in 2023, nearly a decade after it debuted. Running only briefly but wielding long-lasting creative influence over the years, this is an example of a seemingly innocuous idea that became a cultural phenomenon. The story of the why, where, and how of it all might seem a little bit longer than the series itself, but one thing that can't be denied is that "Adult Wednesday Addams" has more than earned its place in Addams Family legend.

It plays on the previous incarnations of Wednesday

As noted, Wednesday Addams has been kicking around in one form or another since the late '30s, but she hasn't exactly been stagnant. While the comic strip by creator Charles Addams was fairly grim in its humor, the 1964 TV series portrayed Wednesday (Lisa Loring) as a comparatively cheery kid who just happens to have a pet spider as a best friend and a doll of Marie Antoinette. While the movies "Addams Family" and "Addams Family Values" portrayed her brother Pugsley as a more or less well-adjusted child surrounded by creepy crawlies, Wednesday took on a comparatively sadistic demeanor, paired with a deadpan tone, as portrayed by the young Christina Ricci. This would influence all future takes on the character to date, including "Adult Wednesday Addams."

Every actor that takes the role of Wednesday brings her own specific charm, from the early days of Lisa Loring to the most recent Jenny Ortega portrayal in "Wednesday." Above all, Melissa Hunter's spin on Wednesday was born out of genuine love of the character, as she expressed an in-depth understanding Wednesday's overarching philosophies throughout the series. The Addams have always had a deeply embedded ethical code that harkens back to everything from family tradition to a passing interest in esoterica. Likewise, while not particularly continuity-bound, the web series sticks to that theme. The sense that Wednesday is out here not necessarily to punish but to help balance the scales of justice every now and again carries through "Adult Wednesday Addams."

Creator Melissa Hunter is prolific

Though plenty of people will recognize creator Melissa Hunter primarily through her turn as Wednesday, she has had a wildly prolific career since the creation of the series. After getting her start through live comedy at venues like Upright Citzens' Brigade and iO West, she managed to spin her web series fame into a successful career. She wrote and starred in an NBC digital pilot available to watch online, "Wolfgirl," in which she portrays a feral child who is captured and then kept in a mental institution for two decades, only to be unceremoniously released out into the world in adulthood. She is also a writer and supervising producer of "Home Economics" on ABC, which stars "That '70s Show" alum Topher Grace and follows the lives of three siblings in vastly different financial situations.

That's pretty much just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Hunter's work. She worked on Netflix's humorous nod to California zombies, "Santa Clarita Diet," as well as "Close Enough" on HBO and the short-lived but underrated sketch comedy series, "Maya and Marty," which featured plenty of "SNL" stalwarts besides its stars Maya Rudolph and Martin Short. She both wrote and acted in the recent Jennifer Lopez rom-com "Shotgun Wedding." Finally, she worked on a little series through Marvel called "She-Hulk: Attorney At Law," not just serving as producer but also penning the fourth episode, "Is This Not Real Magic?" She's kept herself busy in the days since "Adult Wednesday Addams" wrapped.

It was crowdfunded

Crowdfunding has truly been a boon to independent creatives, and without it, we may never have gotten a second season of "Adult Wednesday Addams." With a flexible goal of $5,000, the IndieGoGo campaign for the web series pulled in more than three times that amount, clocking in with $15,610 before it was all said and done. With endearing and slightly terrifying incentives like "Wednesday Vows Not To Kill You," in which Hunter as Wednesday offered up short videos in which she explicitly promised never to murder the recipient, and "Social Media Threat/Shout Out," in which Hunter obscured the lines between threats and thanks, it's little wonder this turned out to be a massively successful drive.

Perhaps the most important thing the still-standing donation page offers us today is posterity, and a glimpse of the work that went into the series. Though humorous, "Adult Wednesday Addams" was always a highly professional affair, with solid settings and actors as well as active if sparse camera work. The page also offers a look at Hunter's genuine love for the character. Looking back on the six-episode first season, Hunter was moved by the impact of the series: "I'm struck by what an important female hero Wednesday is and how much we need a character like her represented in entertainment. She is an outsider who isn't trying to fit in," she explained.

It dealt with contemporary topics

"Adult Wednesday Addams" is a comedy first, but that isn't to say that there isn't an element of social commentary to the series. Indeed, much of the poignant observations on gender inequality that would pop up in Hunter's later work, such as "She-Hulk," was already well on its way in the web series. Though Wednesday is not necessarily outwardly political, there is a sense of righteousness to her methods as she threatens everyone from rude dog owners to bizarrely aggressive interviewers with ominous, unspoken horrors. Calling attention to minor social ills allows for a larger view of Wednesday's place in the world, not-so-gently encouraging others to fly right or suffer the consequences.

Perhaps Wednesday's shining moment is the second season episode in which she takes on a group of rowdy catcallers. Noting that this is reflective of her everyday existence in L.A., Hunter flips the script and intimidates a pair of catcallers until they fearfully retreat. Street harassment remains a major concern, but in 2015 the conversation was very much in the public consciousness (per New York magazine). Even today, "Wednesday vs. Catcallers" remains among the most widely referenced episodes of the series, and at the time it led to the series receiving write-ups everywhere from Polygon to MTV and beyond. As Hunter told People in a 2015 interview, "She is self-possessed and unflinching in the face of antagonists." 

Adult Wednesday Addams was a hit

With episodes that usually clocked in at under 15 minutes and tended to run on short comedic premises, "Adult Wednesday Addams" never outstayed its welcome, and that could be a major reason why people ate the series up as much as they did. Even today, episodes are streamed online, with viewership continuing to grow long after the show came to a close. Melissa Hunter's website guesses viewership to be in the neighborhood of 20 million views, which is a wild turnout for a humble production that was gone before its time. Still, watching the series today, it's easy to see the appeal, particularly when compared to other massively successful takes on the character.

Still, the humor of the series holds up, and it remains one of the most iconic takes on a character that, we can surmise in hindsight, audiences desperately wanted more of. Beyond the praise the series garnered for "Wednesday vs. Catcallers," the show was featured on CBS News as one of its top moments of the week in 2015, saw coverage in online publications like The Mary Sue and L.A. Weekly, and received a write-up at Bust for its episode in which Wednesday visits a Planned Parenthood facility and shuts down an anti-choice protester. There is no selling Melissa Hunter short for tapping into the zeitgeist to give the people what they wanted with "Adult Wednesday Addams."

Cease and desist

To all good things an end, and the end of "Adult Wednesday Addams" was a bit more abrupt than most. The first season of the series was pulled from YouTube after a copyright dispute, though the second season remains available through Melissa Hunter's website. As with many copyright cases, it all came down to neither having the resources nor the inclination to fight the decision, and the series came to an end. However, Hunter's interest in the character wasn't over. She stated on Twitter in 2021, "After my show got pulled, I tried to get the rights to make it a TV series. I was told it was impossible. I'm still sad the gatekeepers never gave me a shot."

In an interview with Buzzfeed, Hunter elaborated a bit more on how the series came to a close. "I received a letter from the Tee and Charles Addams Foundation asking me to remove the videos," she said, adding, "I was always under the impression that this was protected under fair use. But it's really up to the copyright holder whether to enforce it or not." Still, even with all the legal water under the bridge, Hunter's love for the character wasn't diminished. "I'm such a fan, and that's why I made this series in the first place, because I think Wednesday Addams is such a fun, vibrant hero, especially for women. But as of now, the series is unfortunately done," she concluded.

It sure looks familiar

Though "Adult Wednesday Addams" was destined to end before its time, that doesn't mean that Wednesday herself is finished. Years after the web series concluded, director Tim Burton teamed with Netflix to launch "Wednesday" in 2022. This comedy series follows the title character as she attends Nevermore Academy, while simultaneously attempting to understand her psychic powers and solve a decades-old murder mystery while she's at it. Though it takes the Gothic, otherworldly feel of prior adaptations to new heights through its elaborate sets, Wednesday's biting sarcasm and veiled threats to classmates are still right at the top of the list when it comes to reasons to watch the series.

Netflix's "Wednesday" has smashed records in viewership for the streaming platform, and that is in no small part due to the star power behind the series. Jenny Ortega steals the show but is fully supported by a larger cast that works overtime to offset her dry humor, while adding their own flourishes to characters both new and old. Still, with Hunter stating in no uncertain terms that she would have loved to have been involved with the series, it's hard not to wonder what might have been. Since the love for Wednesday is very much mutual, as evidenced by the casting of "Addams Family" veteran Christina Ricci as Marilyn Thornhill in the new series, it's easy to feel this was a missed opportunity to bring the Wednesdays together under one big black umbrella.