Wednesday beats a record audience on Netflix: how to explain the success of the series?

Steph Deschamps / December 3, 2022

The series "Wednesday", directed by Tim Burton, is a huge success on Netflix. The drama about the eldest of the Addams Family has broken Stranger Things' audience record by becoming the most viewed English-language series in its first week of broadcast.
Wednesday" recorded no less than 341.23 million hours of viewing between November 21 and 27, and is thus positioned at the top of the streaming platform's Top 10 in 83 countries, including Belgium. However, the series is still far from the best start of any language on Netflix, a record still held by "Squid Game" with its 571 million hours viewed.
But what explains the success of this series? According to Dick Tomasovic, professor of film theory and practice at the University of Liege, the series ticks "all the boxes of a winning project": "The series is carried by a double trademark. On the one hand, that of Tim Burton and on the other, his encounter with a universe that was made for him, that of the Addams Family. This allows us to draw attention to the existence of this series among an increasingly plethoric offer ».
Wednesday" benefits from the success of "The Addams Family", as Sarah Sépulchre, professor at UCLouvain, explains: "Spin-offs, like remakes, benefit from past successes. There is a nostalgia effect and a comforting effect. You know what you're going to watch. It's a universe that we loved and that we're happy to return to. A formula that works and explains why spin-offs, prequels and reboots are always more numerous on our screens: "The engine of these reboots is to capitalize on a universe that is already known and that has proven itself," adds Dick Tomasovic.
However, just because the formula works doesn't mean it will be a success: "Fans of a universe are very demanding about the quality of the adaptation. This is both a strength and a weakness for the writers. It's a double-edged sword," says Sarah Sepulchre. Once the first episode is watched, the viewer must still be kept in suspense throughout the series: "The series must be well written, focused on interesting characters, well filmed... The series 'The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power' on Prime Video was, for example, breathtaking.
To keep viewers on the edge of their seats, the creators of the series "Wednesday" used codes that were "extremely well mastered" by the target audience: "A post-Harry Potter teenage audience. Wednesday' borrows from many other series like Teen Wolf or Riverdale. The series targets teenagers with the codes that work best, those of fantasy and detective stories," explains the ULiège professor.
Moreover, word-of-mouth has played an important role in the success of the series: "The series integrates in a very intelligent way the word-of-mouth modalities of today's teenagers, by proposing a dance scene calibrated for TikTok and which is a hit on social networks right now. There's an undeniable sense of marketing," adds Dick Tomasovic.
If reboots and spin-offs tend to work well, the success of "Wednesday" can also be explained by the gothic universe of the Addams Family: "At the moment, everything related to witches, Tim Burton, or anything that is quite dark works rather well," says the professor at UCLouvain. The heroine of the series is also in the air of time: "A teenager who challenges the society in which she lives, who does not smile, who is cynical, dressed in black, who does not want to put water in her wine ... it corresponds quite well to the current world where we discuss a lot about the place of women and gender stereotypes.
The success of "Wednesday" is certain and many fans are already looking forward to a sequel. According to co-creator Miles Millar, the series could continue for several more seasons. However, we will have to wait a few more weeks before knowing Netflix's decision on the renewal of the series.
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