‘Wednesday’ Is Netflix’s Most Popular Series. It’s So Depressing.

The Addams house might be a museum, but basically everyone in the world has come to see ’em. At least, a whole lot of people have watched Wednesday, Netflix and Tim Burton’s dark comedy inspired by The Addams Family. This week, the series became the streamer’s second most popular English language series, behind only Stranger Things Season 4. The pigtail braid enthusiast might’ve built her brand as an outcast, but now it seems she’s the belle of the ball—or, in this show’s case, “Rave’N Dance.”

Once again, it seems algorithmic thinking has paid off. Wednesday might not be the most original idea, or even the most innovative adaptation, but it has all the ingredients of a Netflix success story: a big name (Tim Burton), attached to a well known property (Addams Family), executed with a buzzy star at its center. (In this case, Jenna Ortega, fresh off her turns in this year’s Scream and Ti West’s X.)

In fact, Wednesday might be even more popular than Netflix’s ranking system indicates. As Variety notes, the platform chooses its “Most Popular” selections by tracking viewership hours during the first 28 days that programs become available. Stranger Things 4, which has a longer running time than Wednesday, has readily won by that metric. But if you measure by number of households who’ve tuned in, Variety reports, Wednesday already has those bowl cut kids beat.

It’s hard to overstate Wednesday’s influence. She’s got all the kids listening to The Cramps and dancing like they’re in a Siouxsie and the Banshees video. Replicas of her Rave’N Dance dress have flooded Etsy with black tulle. And most importantly, she’s now the third most-watched series on Netflix, with more than a billion viewing hours racked up in less than a month. Can we even call this girl an outcast anymore?

All of this is great for Wednesday, great for Jenna Ortega, and great for the fans who’ve enjoyed their trips to Nevermore Academy. Still, as our TV landscape grows more littered with headstones for small-budget, original gems, the continued dominance of big, IP-driven content feels like a death knell for the contemplative, voice-driven projects that once defined our “Golden Age of TV.”

Before Wednesday took the No. 2 spot on Netflix’s “Most Popular” list behind Stranger Things, the silver medal belonged to Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Storyan ethically questionable entry into Ryan Murphy’s ever-growing canon inspired by real-life atrocities. (As podcasts like Serial revealed and seemingly every streamer has now embraced, true-crime stories are some of America’s favorite “IP.”) Other “Most Popular” English-language series include Bridgerton (based on a romance novel series), Lucifer (based on a DC Comics character), The Witcher (originally a video game series), Inventing Anna (inspired by real-life scammer Anna Delvey), and 13 Reasons Why (an adaptation of a YA novel). For all the concerns critics might have about cynical, IP-driven programming decisions, that kind of thinking clearly pays off with viewers.

You can feel the shift in real time. Better Things and Atlanta—two meditative, voice-driven comedies that helped define FX’s “prestige” comedy heyday—both delivered their final seasons this year. Seemingly every platform is axing a staggering amount of queer content, and Warner Bros. Discovery has been purging thoughtful, groundbreaking voice-driven HBO Max series left and right.

None of this is Wednesday’s (or Wednesday’s) fault. It’s a perfectly enjoyable show with CW-but-slightly-more-expensive vibes, and Ortega is an undeniable star. It’s just hard not to wish for a world where Wednesday and a smaller, even weirder goth show (like, say, HBO Max’s recently canceled Los Espookys) could exist side by side. Instead, we have production studios measuring popularity based not on the actual number of people watching, but on how long they’re able to hold someone’s—anyone’s—attention. In the words of Wednesday herself, “What kind of dystopian hellscape is this?”

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