Thing (The Addams Family)
|This article relies too much on references to primary sources. (December 2007)|
|First appearance||The New Yorker cartoon, (1938)|
|Created by||Charles Addams|
Thing T. Thing, often referred to as just Thing (it's also stated the T. stands for "Thing"), was a fictional character in the cartoon The Addams Family. Thing was originally portrayed as a whole person (always seen in the background watching the family, but never getting noticed or shown fully), but was changed to a disembodied hand for the television series.
In Spanish-speaking countries it was named Dedos ("Fingers"); in German-speaking countries das eiskalte Händchen ("the little ice-cold hand"); in Portuguese-speaking countries Mãozinha ("Little Hand") or Coisa ("Thing"); and in Italian was called Mano ("Hand"). It was also named "Ting" (An easy word for calling dog in the Thai language).
In Charles Addams's original cartoons, Thing's prototype is a being who is often seen peering down on the Addams Family from the top of the stairs or a crack in the wall. A cartoon published in The New Yorker in 1954 depicted two hands coming out of a record player. Thing's name is first mentioned in a cartoon showing the house with a sign that said "Beware of the Thing". When Charles Addams expanded on his characters for the television show, he suggested that Thing be a disembodied head that rolled through the mansion on various ramps and pulleys. It was decided that a disembodied hand would be a bit more palatable.
Thing was the creation of Charles Addams, who drew the Addams Family cartoons in The New Yorker magazine, beginning in the 1930s. He first appeared in Addams's 1954 book Homebodies. One of Addams's cartoons shows the Addams mansion with a sign at the front saying "Beware of the Thing." Additionally, Thing has been in the original television series (1964-66), the revived series The New Addams Family (1998), in the related movies The Addams Family (1991), Addams Family Values (1993) and Addams Family Reunion (1998), and the 1992 animated series.
In the 1960s television series, Thing—strictly speaking, a disembodied forearm, since he occasionally emerged from his box at near-elbow length—was usually played by Ted Cassidy, who also played the lugubrious butler Lurch, although the two characters occasionally appeared in the same scene (in which case Thing would be played by a crew member, notably assistant director Jack Voglin). Thing customarily emerged from a series of boxes, one in each room in the Addams' mansion, and the mailbox outside. He occasionally emerged from behind a curtain, within a plant pot, or elsewhere.
In the later films, thanks to advances in special effects, Thing (played by Christopher Hart) is able to emerge and run on his fingertips, much like a spider. In Addams Family Values Thing is shown driving a car into Debbie, in order to rescue Uncle Fester. After this, Fester gets into the car and Thing drives them off to the Addams Family Mansion, albeit erratically, frightening Fester in the process. This is also true for the 1998 revived series, The New Addams Family, where Thing was played by Canadian magician/actor Steven Fox, who hails from Toronto. His classic box only appears in one episode of the series (the remake of "Thing's Romance"); in others, it is revealed that he lives in a closet that has been modified as his own little "house-within-a-house."
Since Cassidy was 6' 9" (2,06 m) tall, using him to depict Thing caused great technical difficulties on the set of The Addams Family. In many scenes he lay on his back on a wheeled trolley, below the line of sight of the cameras, and inserted his arm through the bottom of the box. Thing was usually a right hand, but Cassidy sometimes played him as left, simply to see if anyone would notice. Thing is credited as "itself" at the end of each episode.
In the musical, Thing only appears in the beginning, when he opens the curtain. He is played by a member of the ensemble. In the tour version, Pugsley carries him on a pillow at Wednesday's and Lucas's wedding, while he holds the ring.
When the television series was dubbed into German in Europe, Thing was referred to as "Gizmo", as in "Guten Tag, Gizmo". The character Cousin Itt was simply called "Ess" (based on the German word for "it" being "es").
Role in the series
Thing's many useful roles included fetching the mail, handing cigars to Gomez Addams and then lighting them, changing the channel on the Addams TV set, holding Morticia Addams's wool while she knits, turning grapes into wine in under a single minute, and turning over records on the phonograph (particularly when Gomez and Morticia dance the tango). He accompanies the family on drives by riding in the glove compartment, and in one episode, where Gomez appears in court, he emerged from Gomez's briefcase. Thing and Grandmama are fond of arm-wrestling. In a flashback episode on how Gomez and Morticia met, it is revealed that Thing has been with the Addams family since Gomez himself was a child, suggesting Thing is the son of an earlier generation of hand-servants (see below).
Morticia is always very appreciative of Thing's services, and her frequent "Thank you, Thing" is one of the best known lines of the series. Thing cannot talk, but he does sometimes snap his fingers to attract attention, and is also able to communicate by signaling in Morse code, writing, or with the help of the manual alphabet. This can be very disconcerting to visitors to the Addams' mansion; in a running gag in some episodes, a visitor to the Addams home, profusely grateful for some kindness of the Addamses', enthusiastically shakes hands with everyone present—"Thank you, Mr. Addams! Thank you, Mrs. Addams!"—and is then offered a handshake by Thing. "And thank you..." begins the visitor, before realizing who and what he has been confronted with, recoiling in inarticulate shock, and fleeing the premises.
In one episode, Morticia gets goosed, and initially suspects Thing, who had been nearby moments earlier. However, Gomez immediately appears and admits responsibility, explaining: "Thing just likes to hold hands".
On the 1960s TV series, two similar hands were introduced in the episode "Morticia Meets Royalty":
- Lady Fingers: a female "handmaiden" who was the servant of Cousin Millie, also known as Princess Millicent von Schlepp. When Millicent came to visit, Thing and Lady Fingers fell in love. Lady Fingers later returned in the 1977 Addams Family Halloween special and the 1998 series revival.
- Esmerelda: another female hand hired by Millicent after firing Lady Fingers. Esmerelda turned out to be dishonest, and Millicent rehires Lady Fingers.
In the episode "Thing Is Missing," Gomez and Morticia find a portrait of Thing's parents, a male hand and a female hand. The 1990s revived series implied the existence of other hands as well.
Appearances in popular culture
Thing's influence on popular culture is expressed by his being referred to on several otherwise unrelated TV shows.
- On The Prisoner episode, "The General", accessing the Village broadcast studios required a token to be inserted into a Thing money box. This was a toy bank from which a "Thing" hand emerged to snatch coins which were placed in a slot at the front. This item was reportedly included at the request of Patrick McGoohan.
- On Good Eats, Alton Brown is often provided with ingredients and equipment by an unseen assistant's hand, to which he often replies, "Thank you, Thing." During the behind-the-scenes episode, Brown reveals that the hand is apparently the original Thing's son (according to Brown, the original Thing died because of an addiction to "finger food").
- A short in an episode of Robot Chicken has Thing leaving the Addams' house and getting a job in the modern world. Among other gags, it shows him finally meeting and falling for a female hand named "Emma Jig".
- In the pilot episode of The Cleveland Show, Cleveland Brown says to Donna Tubbs that he'll "do his thing and she'll do her thing. Which would probably include her thing and Robert's thing." Robert being Donna's ex. Then Cleveland continues; "Oh, which way is the bar, Thing?" The disembodied hand then emerges from a black box and points in a direction for Cleveland.
- In an episode of Ben 10: Alien Force, Ben gets sent to the null void while his hand remains on Earth. It gets around by moving in ways similar to Thing.
- In the Doctor Who episode Flatline, the TARDIS is shrunk to five inches tall with the Doctor still inside, when Clara tells him to move it "like... Addams Family." He uses his hand to walk the TARDIS off a train line, echoing the movements of Thing.
- Article at TV ACRES
- Unofficial episode guide to the 1960s series
- Unofficial episode guide to the revived series