The untold truth of The Addams Family

Not only are they creepy, kooky, mysterious, and spooky, but Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, and Fester are also altogether ooky. They are, after all, the Addams Family. From comic strips to TV to movies to Broadway to games, there isn't much media the delightfully dark family of loving and lovable outcasts hasn't conquered. Here's a look behind the shroud.

It started off as a comic strip

In 1938, eccentric cartoonist Charles Addams started sending his work to The New Yorker—which then, as it still does, featured notable, original, and witty comic art. Addams' recurring strip featured a family of gothic spooks, seemingly trapped in the Victorian era, dressed in black and obsessed with death. From its origin until Addams' death in 1988, the strip never had a name, but the characters were noticeable enough that Addams earned a following for his weird family.

The characters didn't have names (at first)

Not only was Addams' strip unnamed, but so were the characters. When he was approached about a TV adaptation for ABC, producers left the necessary naming of the core group of characters to Addams. He came up with Morticia (a play on "mortician"), Wednesday (alluding to the old line of poetry, "Wednesday's child is full of woe"), and Gomez. For the other Addams child, he almost went with Pubert, but changed it to Pugsley because it sounded too sexual. (Pubert was ultimately used in the Addams universe, however—that's the name of the new baby in the 1993 movie Addams Family Values.)

The set was one of a kind…

The 1960s Addams Family TV show has one of the most memorable and unique sets in television history, with priceless and macabre artifacts from around the world lining the walls, and monster plants, living bearskin rugs, and other spooky things filling in the gaps. Luckily it was a decent set, because rarely did the Addams family ever leave their house, preferring to spend their days fencing, knitting, crashing trains, and playing with Kitty Cat their pet lion. These elements were underdeveloped in the cartoons; all of this was created for the TV series, but based on the actual Manhattan apartment of Addams himself. He even owned an embalming table he used as a coffee table.

…and looked very different in real life

Also created for the TV series: the color palette of the set. While the show was taped in black and white, like much of television at the time, the set itself was in color, of course. But to get just the right tones of black and gray, set decorators painted it various shades of pink and red.

The original TV series wasn't that all successful

While the Addams Family TV series is one of the most fondly remembered—and frequently run—shows of the 1960s, it didn't run for all that long. Debuting in 1964 and cancelled just two years later, only 64 episodes of The Addams Family were produced. Nor was it a massive hit, ranking in the top 30 in its first season, and falling out of that upper echelon the next year.

There have been a bunch of attempted TV revivals

Despite the TV series leaving the air after two years, the Addams brood has never been away from the small screen for long. There have been numerous revival attempts. There was a Saturday morning cartoon version that debuted in 1973, the 1977 TV-movie reunion Halloween with the New Addams Family, a reboot of the animated series in 1992 (in the wake of the success of The Addams Family film), The New Addams Family and Addams Family Reunion, another TV movie (starring Tim Curry and Daryl Hannah as Gomez and Morticia). There was even a variety show version. A pilot for The Addams Family Fun-House was made in 1973, but it didn't get picked up to series.

Ted Cassidy, superstar

Who was the breakout star of the original Addams Family TV show? Vampy, alluring Carolyn Jones, who starred as Morticia? Wisecracking and amiable John Astin, as Gomez? No, it was the hulking, 6'5", deep-voiced Ted Cassidy, who played the Addams' butler, Lurch. He rarely spoke, but when he did, it was a earthquakingly low "you rang?"—a line he improvised during his audition. It became a popular catchphrase, and Lurch grew so popular that Cassidy, as Lurch, cut a pop record. "The Lurch" was a minor hit, as was its accompanying dance craze in 1965. Cassidy even performed the song on the teen music TV series Shindig. That's not all Cassidy contributed: Thing, the Addams' pet disembodied hand who lived in a box, was also played by Cassidy (or at least by his hand, and occasionally arm).

The movies started the small screen-to-big screen fad

There were so many movies in the '90s based on old TV shows—The Flintstones, Maverick, The Beverly Hillbillies, My Favorite Martian, Leave it to Beaver, McHale's Navy, Sgt. Bilko, and lots, lots more. But the trend was started by the 1991 big-screen version of The Addams Family. Twentieth Century Fox executive Scott Rudin got the idea from, of all places, hearing a little kid sing the snap-happy theme song from The Addams Family series during a car ride. After a movie screening, Rudin was riding in a car with Fox marketing chief Tom Sherak and his young son. The kid started singing the song, and then everyone joined in. The next day, Rudin proposed to his fellow executives the idea of an Addams Family movie.

There were a few almost-Morticias

The Addams cartoons, and the TV series, were so beloved that a number of Hollywood stars campaigned to be cast in the big-screen Addams movie. Cher, who with a long face and long dark hair naturally resembles Morticia, tried to get the part but lost out to producer Scott Rudin's first choice, Anjelica Huston. While growing up on her family's estate in rural Ireland, they didn't have many books—but they did have a collection of Charles Addams' cartoons. Huston then based her portrayal not on Carolyn Jones' take from the TV series, but her interpretation of the comic strip matriarch. She was also inspired by Grey Gardens, the cult classic 1975 documentary about relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis who lived in a giant crumbling. mansion.

The cast got the movie's original ending changed

The plot of the first Addams Family movie concerns the long disappearance and sudden return of Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd)…or at least a man pretending to be Uncle Fester. The original script ended on a note of ambiguity—the audience would never know if the man really was Fester or an imposter. As rehearsals commenced and filming approached, the main cast felt increasingly uncomfortable about that bummer of an ending, and decided to do something about it: they enlisted one of the youngest and cutest cast members, Christina Ricci, to approach director Barry Sonnenfeld about their concerns. Ricci asked him to please give the movie a happy ending, and the change was made.

Its pinball machine was incredibly successful

Even into the age of video games—and home video game systems becoming so advanced that most arcades have gone out of business—pinball machines continue to be a big moneymaker. A movie tie-in pinball machine was, until recently, part of a Hollywood movie's marketing plan. In 1992, Bally Midway distributed an Addams Family pinball machine featuring images, dialogue snippets, and objects from the film. More than 20,000 Addams Family pinball machines have since been manufactured and distributed, making it the best-selling pinball machine of all time.

There was supposed to be a third movie, and directed by Tim Burton

The Addams Family and Addams Family Values were two massive hits at the box office. A third movie was tentatively planned, but cancelled when Raul Julia (Gomez) died of cancer in 1994 at age 54. But in 2010, the third movie was on again—as a stop-motion animated feature. Illumination Entertainment (the studio behind Despicable Me and Minions) acquired the film rights to Charles Addams' cartoons and hired Tim Burton to direct. He was the perfect choice, having helmed a number of spooky stop-animated movies already, such as The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride. By 2013, no progress on the movie had been made, and Illumination quietly pulled the plug and the rights passed over to MGM. Still no three-quel, though…