Part I Love Lucy, Bewitched and The Brady Bunch, WandaVision is about to tickle your nostalgic funny bone as genres collide in a small screen implosion.
But it will also take you a few episodes to see the bigger picture….
WandaVision is a half hour series which centres around Marvel Universe characters Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany), and takes place after the events of Avengers: Endgame (2019).
Both are now happily ensconced in American suburbia circa late 1950s. Life is a black and white sitcom -complete with audience laughter- on a set that could be straight out of I Love Lucy. Daily toils are suitably simplistic when Vision brings home his boss & wife for a home dinner on the night Wanda is ready to celebrate their apparent anniversary.
What makes our couple different is their super-powers. Wanda, aka Scarlet Witch, has Bewitched-like magic which she is keeping secret to outsiders. Vision is an android with the ability to assume human features for his office job. But there’s a deliberate and distinct lack of shared back story and when their black and white lives is injected with a burst of colour, it’s clear there is more going on for both characters and audience.
The town of Westview, arguably a stone’s throw from Pleasantville, is also home to nosy neighbour Agnes (a perfectly cast Kathryn Hahn). There’s also Monica (Teyonah Parris) who knows more than she is letting on, a society snob, and genial husbands who all look like they’ve been to the local hardware store.
Writer Jac Schaeffer holds back on her full ‘vision’ for the show, which may leave the viewer a bit perplexed as to what they are watching. Episode one is almost entirely a ‘classic sitcom’ with minimal subversion. But by episode two we move into a ’60s Bewitched era, while they are living in a Brady-esque ’70s house by episode 3. All of this unfolds with absolutely no ageing of characters, and it doesn’t matter a jot. In sitcom-world, you always end up where you started anyway…
Oh and did I mention the period commercials that are injected mid-episode? Mmmm Toastmate 2000!
Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany spark off one another to great effect here. Romping amid period sets and decked in classic fashions, they deliver with a knowing wink. Kathryn Hahn draws upon the likes of Gladys Kravitz and Ethel Mertz as the suitably nosy neighbour. It’s worth noting producers have ensured a lot more casting diversity than the sitcoms of the 50s & 60s (ok Ricky Ricardo was Cuban-American, point taken).
If you love your nostalgic TV you’ll welcome the show’s attention to detail and enjoy spotting all the subtle nods, whether as production design or scripted.
If nothing else, WandaVision is playful and full of unexpected potential in a cookie-cutter world.
WandaVision begins today on Disney+.