The Addams Family refused to be compared to The Munsters

John Astin: "None of us enjoy being compared with the Munsters."

The Everett Collection

In The Addams Family episode "Cousin Itt and the Vocational Counselor," something unusual happens, but unless you’re a huge fan of the show, you most certainly missed it.

Actor Richard Deacon appears in the episode as a career counselor to Cousin Itt named Mortimer Phelps, and his appearance on The Addams Family is decidedly out of place for a very particular reason.

This was an unusual casting choice on The Addams Family because the previous year, Deacon had appeared on The Munsters as a city official, and the shows — locked in rating wars and constantly compared — had fallen into a practice of practically never hiring the same guest stars.

The Addams needed every casting decision they made to help them appear distinct from The Munsters.

That’s why you won’t see actors like Ellen Corby or Parley Baer or Margaret Hamilton cross the line in the sand and appear on The Munsters. They are firmly on team Addams.

This rivalry started in 1964, when both The Addams Family and The Munsters premiered, the newest fantasy-comedies on the block. And as the offbeat sitcoms would run for almost exactly the same amount of time, often there were comparisons drawn between the two shows.

Most put off by these comparisons was The Addams Family star John Astin, who told The Capital Times in 1965 how much he hated seeing the two shows lumped in the same category.

The way that Astin saw it, The Addams Family had the upper hand as must-watch TV, and if you look back through reviews, most critics do seem to agree with the Gomez actor and side with The Addams Family as the superior show.

"You see, The Munsters are monsters on the outside, but perfectly normal people in every other respect," Astin said. "The Addams Family, on the other hand, are not monsters at all, but terribly daffy in almost every respect. Like the Addams cartoons, our show is an attack on the cliches of life, a reverse joke."

Astin’s loud protests against comparisons to The Munsters didn’t stop most casual viewers from considering the shows the same.

In 1966, The Family Circus cartoonist Bil Keane even drew a comic of a middle-aged couple squinting at a TV set with the caption: "It looks like we’ve tuned in to either The Munsters, The Addams Family or Phyllis Diller."

Clearly, Keane’s joke was meant to poke fun at Diller’s wild style, but his punchline depends on audiences being very familiar with thinking of The Munsters and The Addams Family as interchangeable.

Astin can attest that he wasn’t the only one on the cast who didn’t enjoy these ceaseless, and in The Addams Family’s opinion, baseless comparisons.

"None of us enjoy being compared with the Munsters," Astin said.

But Deacon isn’t the only one who made the rare crossover to appear on both fantasy shows. Actor Vito Scotti appeared four times on The Addams Family and also provided voice acting on The Munsters, and Don Rickles did an episode of each.

How many guest stars can you think of who appeared on both shows?

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StrayCat 3 months ago
I recall once reading Lisa Loring at her young age when asked about the comparison replied with an analogy: The Addams Family comedy is like the Marx Brothers where the Munster's comedy is like the three Stooges.
BillF 3 months ago
Both shows depended on families that saw themselves not as oddballs but as mainstream families. Humor in the Munsters depended largely on Herman's stupidity. The Addams Family's humor operated at a higher level. For example:

Morticia: "My husband is responsible for putting more criminals behind bars than any attorney in this county."

Other person (to Gomez): "You?? A prosecuting attorney?"

Gomez: "Attorney for the defense!"

This humor doesn't work on a kid's level.

The Addams Family was NOT a kid's show for other reasons, as well. There was a great deal of flirty, even suggestive, dialogue in the Addams Family. It reflected a true sense of passion in Morticia's and Gomez' relationship. Carolyn Jones was devastatingly sexy as Morticia, but it was not an image appropriate for kids.

Having said all that, I DO respect Yvonne De Carlo for taking on the role of Lily Munster. She took the role because her husband was injured doing a stunt in "How the West Was Won" and could no longer work. (He falls off a log car on a moving train. The scene was left in the movie). I was also glad that Fred Gwynne was able to escape Herman Munster by his role in "My Cousin Vinny". Regrettably, he died not long after.

Both shows worked in their respective niches, but they were not really comparable beyond the off-beat families at their centers.
NYRY11 5 months ago
No comparison. Munsters>Addams Family. Addams family is not even that funny. Oh goody goody!
Wud 5 months ago
They were both eccentric families living in creepy old mansions and were ostracized by the community. While I liked both I much prefer the Addams Family.
Jimparker 5 months ago
Addams Family sucked! Munsters RULE!
rstuv Jimparker 5 months ago
Thanks for your deep analysis.
SalIanni 5 months ago
I think that comparisons of that nature between two similar and beloved shows where you can't help but think of one while watching the other tends to go with the territory. It may be a pain for the actors but it's fun for the fans and the ongoing debates make for lively discussions that keep the fun going and make you want to watch and compare them again. Just for fun, I would love it if Me-TV or Antenna or Decades can do a documentary special and call it "TV's Greatest Rivalries" which would look deeper into the many similarities and differences between two like-minded series and why it's hard to decide on a clear winner. The segments would include the following: 1. The Addams Family vs The Munsters 2. Bewitched vs I Dream Of Jeannie 3. The Brady Bunch vs The Partridge Family 4. Bonanza vs Gunsmoke 5. Laugh-In vs The Smothers Brothers. Any further episodes can be decided on by the Me-TV crew in case there are others that I forgot to mention.
HalCromwell SalIanni 5 months ago
How about Rawhide and Wagon Train
EricBierman SalIanni 4 months ago
Addams Family was better and funnier than the Munsters. The Munsters was too silly. Bewitched was better then I dream of Jeannie. Well. Samantha was smarter. Jeannie was better looking. 3. The Brady Bunch was overall the more entertaining show. The Partridge Family had the better music though.4. Gunsmoke is the better western show. And Laugh in was better than The Smothers Brothers.
I Dream of Jeannie was WAY funnier than Bewitched! I've tried to watch Bewitched and the most I could muster was an occasional chuckle. Meanwhile Jeannie had BARBARA EDEN, LARRY HAGMAN and BILL DALY, all 3 versatile actors capable of evoking a variety of emotions, especially humor! The only way Jeannie could lose was for the producers to sabotage the show by having The Nelsons get married in the MIDDLE of the 5th season and finally become a clone of the older show, this time more in reality than accusation! Seeing the Darren and Tony "Shrink" episodes back to back convinced me of which was the "superior" show....IMO, of course. I've done the same with The Addams and The Munsters!
PortelaJ 5 months ago
Liked them both but I lean toward the Addams Family. Morticia (yum) is a fine heffer. How ‘bout Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie comparisons huh? Happy Holiday MeTV gang 🎄
Zip PortelaJ 5 months ago
I don't know if I would compliment someone by calling them a "heifer", but to each his own.
TomLawrence PortelaJ 5 months ago
It’s spelled “heifer” and used to describe a young cow, not a beautiful, talented woman. Unless you’re a pig.
RedjacArbez PortelaJ 5 months ago
Heffer is the correct spelling. It is a derogatory term for a large woman.
Richie123 PortelaJ 5 months ago
Morticia Addams was super gorgeous. 🥰
KirwoodDerby 5 months ago
This May already have been stated but here’s my thought on the difference between the two shows. The Munsters despite their hideous appearance wanted you to believe that they were just an average American family with a few quirks. The Addams Family had no desire to be average, in fact, they rebelled against it and often showed lots of pride and pleasure in celebrating their macabre ancestry. The Munsters could never figure out why others saw them as different.
RichLorn 5 months ago
In the opening sequence, the shot of Gomez Addams grinning while sharpening the iron fence points with a file makes me quietly chuckle every time.
Mirramanee 5 months ago
I agree that the Addams Family was the superior show. The Munsters were just a typical funny sitcom with all the usual 1960's family sitcom situations, always handled with over the top and somewhat childish humor. The Addams Family was much more of an "adult" show. Much of their humor was more subtle and definitely a statement on society (of that period, anyway). There was often a "wink wink" slyness to most of their stories/scripts. The Addams Family in general was clever while the Munsters were just outright silly.
TlorDagama 5 months ago
My Mom liked Fred Gwynne and Yvonne DeCarlo, they played a typical American sitcomso that pretty much summed up what we watched most of the time. I liked Morticia, Gomez was creepy.
Hpsnape1957 5 months ago
I've watched both shows since they first came on. Always liked the Addams Family better and the show, to me, gets even funnier through the years. I grew up wishing I was a member of the Addams Family. Mom watched both shows, too, but preferred the Addams Family because they had a clean house vs. the dirty Munsters place, lol. Another plus is the Addams Family had Thing, who has always been my favorite character.
MarthaWashington 5 months ago
I'm partial to the Munsters.. Love Hermans interaction with just about everything. Goofy entertainment. Adams family to me is more serious and a lot tends to rest on Gomez's everything can be solved with money, and his overly amorous intentions to Morticia
Peter_Falk_Fan 5 months ago
Apparently, Butch Patrick didn't care about comparisons. He played Pugsley in the 1973 variety special "The Addams Family Fun-House". It was an unsold pilot. Felix Silla (as Cousin Itt) was the only actor from the original series. It has Jim Nabors as Jim Nabors, Moriyah.
AnnaRentzVandenhazel 5 months ago
In my earlier years, my mom encouraged us to watch The Munsters, but made us shut off the TV when The Addams Family came on and said it was "trash". I didn't even know AF were "weirdoes" because the local ABC affiliate had such bad reception on our rural antenna. Perhaps mom didn't like the fact that Gomez and Morticia were "snobby" rich people and didn't want me and my brother acting like that, lol! Anyway, when the Addams Family cartoon came out in the 70s, Mom never objected to our watching it, perhaps because it was more kid-friendly in her eyes. I didn't realize how "horrible" the drawings were until years later when my husband found an old clip of the cartoon online (and by then I'd seen the original AF series in reruns).
Runeshaper 5 months ago
I'll admit that I do lump both shows in the same category. I never really thought about it before, but after reading this article, I totally do LOL Both were GREAT shows too!
denny 5 months ago
If you could only watch one of these shows, which would it be?

The Munsters

I find The Munsters funnier today than when I was a kid.

I do like The Addams Family too.
WordsmithWorks 5 months ago
"The Munsters were monsters on the outside, but perfectly normal on the inside." And the Addams Family were basically the reverse (except for Lurch and their home decor". That about sums it up.
Barry22 5 months ago
Munsters was a better show. Herman vs. Lurch in a steel cage. lights out Texas death match.
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