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WandaVision has turned what could have been a one-joke spoof of sitcom nostalgia into something both chilling and relatable

  • "In early 2021, a streaming series about television as both escape and prison is practically a documentary," says James Poniewozik. "WandaVision, a pleasantly weird ornament on the narrative megalith of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is TV’s latest diversion from the pandemic and perhaps its best metaphor. It is also a meta feast for pop culture scrutinizers, a mash-up of two American mass-culture mythologies. It smushes the chocolate of superherodom into the peanut butter of feel-good sitcoms, making for two great empty-calorie tastes that, together, add up to a balanced meal....The early read on WandaVision was 'sitcom parody.' It’s not very groundbreaking as that, since spoofs of sitcom clichés — on Saturday Night Live, In Living Color, Mad TV — have been around so long that they’re clichés in themselves. (The Brady Bunch alone, the target of the third episode, went through its own self-ironizing cycles, complete with a parody movie, a solid generation ago.) Fortunately, WandaVision is more than parody. It excels first as bittersweet romance and second as horror, playing off our dual relationship with family sitcoms: that we return to them as a place of familiarity and comfort, even as we know that they’re uncanny and false. Technically, the mimicry is astonishing, from the swanky midcentury set design to the comic-misunderstanding subplots to the period-appropriate fake ads. ('Forget the past — this is your future!' promises a toaster ad in the first episode, a bit of Space Age pitchmanship that also hints at the amnesiac nature of Wanda’s reality.) The tiniest details are there, like the handheld-camera push-ins on the handheld-camera comedies of the aughts. In a few quick strokes, WandaVision is a remarkably compact tour of sitcom history: black-and-white to color, multi- to single-cam, sincerity to special episodes to snark. I could quibble here and there. (If you think of Malcolm in the Middle as just an anarchic kids’ romp, you’re forgetting it was one of TV’s better sitcoms about living paycheck-to-paycheck.) But the whole suggests that the creative team’s childhood hours in front of the tube were gainfully wasted."


    TOPICS: WandaVision, Disney+, Elizabeth Olsen, Kathryn Hahn, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez, Coronavirus, Marvel, Music and TV