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I know Irish Times readers, and many of you think you have a supernaturally gifted teen. You do not – The Irish Times


Pitch for a streamer: Gargamel! Paul Mescal plays young Steve Gargamel, a wizard and alchemist who runs a detective agency with his best friend John “Papa” Smurf. Papa Smurf is played by the beloved child labourer Timothée Chalamet. Mescal wears a long black sack dress and little red boots, but he makes it work like he always does. (It’s like those GAA shorts all over again).

Papa Smurf/Chalamet is painted blue and wears a red Phrygian cap. He uses his surname as a verb as the whim takes him (“Smurf”, not “Chalamet”, though in the real world he probably uses “Chalamet” as a verb). Because this is a gritty prequel for a mature audience, in the first episode he’ll probably say something like, “Smurf you, you mothersmurfer,” to a local drug dealer who has really smurfed up. Then Gargamel will try to use his name as a verb too, and Papa Smurf will say, “It doesn’t work, too many syllables,” and they will laugh, but Gargamel/Mescal will laugh a little resentfully while playing with Connell’s chain.

Each week this mismatched duo solve forest crimes, but they slowly start to grow apart due to their differing world views. It’s a story as old as time. Papa Smurf/Chalamet discovers a passion for leading cults of people who look exactly like him except that they’re named after their jobs or temperaments, and Gargamel/Mescal discovers he can make gold by using Chalamet as an ingredient. Both of these positions are, for all we know, highly relatable to Generation Z. There’s no way of knowing for sure. We can’t ask them. We’re not on any of their apps.

You might read this pitch and think, There is no need for this. But think of all the things you have said these words about in the past that have led to the worst people you know making $$$ and moving to space stations while you sit there in your bathrobe reviewing television in a normal house like a loser. What do you expect people to do – invent new characters and stories that reflect our times? Pshaw. We’ve had enough new ideas. We can just recycle the old ones: superheroes, star skirmishes, pyramid schemes, nuclear-war anxiety, fascism, television’s Alf. Everyone is going to love Gargamel!

Like Gargamel!, Netflix’s Wednesday, which debuted on Wednesday, is completely unnecessary but is happening anyway. It takes the Addams Family character (played by Jenna Ortega), ages her up, gives her powers and throws her into a kooky school filled with supernaturally gifted teens. I know Irish Times readers, and many of you think you already have a supernaturally gifted teen. You do not. Wednesday’s school is filled with vampires, werewolves, telekinetics and sirens. Your perfectly average child just shows a mild aptitude for programming and read some books once.

The great thing about the Addams Family – the original Charles Addams cartoons, the TV show, the fantastic films – is that the characters are beautifully odd, amoral and uncanny – a femme fatale and her hot-blooded paramour, a disembodied hand, a man made entirely of hair, a homicidal daughter, a thuggish son, a baby with a pallid complexion and a pencil moustache, a weird, leering, bald guy. It’s straightforwardly weird.

In contrast Wednesday is weirdly straightforward. It’s a high-school-set adventure, in which everyone is a hipster goth with a secretly good heart. There’s also some self-referential stunt casting involving the excellent Christina Ricci, who played Wednesday in the 1990s. It’s not the stuff of Charles Addams. It’s the stuff of the Netflix algorithm (credited here as the writers Alfred Gough and Miles Miller) and possibly the Tim Burton algorithm (which replaced the real Tim Burton shortly after The Nightmare Before Christmas).

Look, it doesn’t really feel like The Addams Family, but it’s a perfectly serviceable teen supernatural drama in which the now superpowered Wednesday learns the importance of friendship and, also, elite schools. Charles Addams is no doubt spinning wherever they left his corpse. Knowing Addams, it was probably on a child’s roundabout, so it’s not so bad. And neither is Wednesday.

I prefer it to the Michael Mann-directed Tokyo Vice (Wednesday, BBC One) a name redolent of his 1980s hit TV show, Miami Vice, but which features more realism (this means long, boring scenes with people eating) and, sadly, less Phil Collins. I generally feel warmly towards Michael Mann, largely because, like Paddington Bear or Mickey Mouse or Papa Smurf, his species is also his surname, and that appeals to my sense of aesthetic symmetry. But there’s a touch of Emily in Tokyo about this show as our hero barrels around that city starting conversations in English (though, in fairness, he does also speak Japanese) and trying to change how his Japanese colleagues do journalism.

There’s a whole genre of stuff that’s basically a far-flung city and the question, “But, also, what if there was an American?” In this instance the answer is: “The Yakuza, that’s what!” Yes, television is a wonderful window on other cultures but mainly just how they do crimes. The answer in this instance is: gruesomely, but also very slowly over many episodes.

Speaking of things happening very slowly, Love in the Flesh (Wednesday, Virgin Media Two) takes a bunch of lovelorn hunks who have previously only communicated with each other online and puts them in an exotic beach house in exotic beachwear in order to see how they all get along “in the flesh”. From that point on it’s basically just Love Island, but they call their “villa” “the beach house” and they call their “Laura Whitmore” “Zara McDermott”.

The main difference between Love in the Flesh and Love Island, however, is how bored, dour and downbeat everyone seems. It may be how they’re edited. Or it may be because Love Island gets all the cheerful hunks. It may even be because this show doesn’t have the wacky ramblings of Love Island’s narrator, Iain Sterling, adding momentum. But these are hunks with the line delivery of vox-popped shoppers on the one o’clock news.

At one point I became convinced this is one of those Aardman animated ads in which the bored voices of the public are synced up to claymation zoo animals. Is there scope for a programme called Voxpopuli Claymation Hunks, a show in which the canvassed opinions of the man and woman on the street are expressed via the heads of languid hunks sitting around a swimming pool? I think there is. Oh, you may laugh now, but you probably also laughed at my Gargamel! idea. Since you read those paragraphs I have sold Gargamel! for many $$$s. So who’s laughing now? Me. That’s who.

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