Marvel Studios’ first television production, WandaVision, has become one of the most anticipated shows of 2020, with the trailer creating fanatic buzz and surpassing the first-day views of the Avengers: Infinity War trailer. Aside from speculation, the notoriously secretive Marvel Studios have kept many details about the series and its production under wraps, until now. In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, the cast and creators of the Disney+ series discussed bringing classic sitcom tropes to life, with a Marvel Cinematic Universe twist.
— WandaVision (@wandavision) November 10, 2020
“The show is a love letter to the golden age of television,” WandaVision headwriter Jac Schaeffer (Black Widow, The Hustle) told Entertainment Weekly “we’re paying tribute and honoring all of these incredible shows and people who came before us.” The team at WandaVision is doing more than just paying tribute to classic sitcoms, they’re consulting it’s stars. Schaeffer and WandaVision director Matt Shakman (Game of Thrones, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) – once a child actor who grew up on the sets of Just the Ten of Us – scheduled a meeting with television pioneer Dick Van Dyke (Mary Poppins, Diagnosis Murder) to discuss his time on the set of The Dick Van Dyke Show.
Authenticity to this classic sitcom format was further achieved by filming WandaVision in front of a live studio audience. According to Entertainment Weekly, the crew themselves dressed entirely in 50s garb for the black-and-white portion as they “employed wires and camera tricks straight from Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie.”
As newlyweds Wanda Maximoff and Vision settle down in the fictional neighborhood of Westview, the production set up home on the Warner Bros. lot famed Blondie Street where sitcoms such as Father Knows Best, The Partridge Family and Bewitched were all filmed, via Entertainment Weekly. “You can’t find a real street that feels like Blondie Street,” Shakman, who filmed on Blondie Street in Just the Ten of Us as a kid, told Entertainment Weekly “you need it to have that weird sense of fakeness.”
Marvel Studio’s painstakingly detailed reproduction of classic family sitcoms through the ages brought that same full-circle feeling that Shakman experienced on Blondie Street to the show’s star, Elizabeth Olsen (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Avengers: Infinity War). “There was something very meta for my own life because I would visit those tapings as a kid, where my sisters were working,” Olsen referred to her time behind-the-scenes visiting her twin younger sister’s Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen on the set of Full House, via Entertainment Weekly.
Olsen described WandaVision as “a conversation of the American sitcom through the decades with a marvel film” in a video interview with Entertainment Weekly and her co-star Paul Bettany (Avengers: Age of Ultron, A Knight’s Tale). Because, despite its decade spanning love letter to the family sitcom, WandaVision is still a piece of the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe, one met to set the stage for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and introduce Teyonah Parris (Dear White People, Mad Men) as an adult Monica Rambeau.
According to Entertainment Weekly, Bettany himself thought he’d been fired from Marvel Studios after Vision’s dual-onscreen deaths in the Avenger’s Infinity Saga and his existence as a seemingly living paramour of Wanda’s in WandaVision has been the source of much speculation. In the trailer itself, Kathryn Hahn’s (Transparent, Mrs. Fletcher) nosy-neighbor character refers to Vision as “dead” leading some fans to wonder whether she knows more than she lets on. For answers about both Bettany and Hahn’s characters fans have turned to Marvel’s source material – comics.
Comic books were Olsen’s motivating factor for joining the MCU as Wanda Maximoff, as certain Scarlet Witch storylines captivated her imagination. Five years after joining the MCU and Olsen is finally able to explore these storylines in WandaVision, telling Entertainment Weekly that “I’ve always been hungry to lean into the comic book stories that we’re leaning into in this show.”
— WandaVision (@wandavision) September 21, 2020
Though which Scarlet Witch stories Olsen and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige first discussed upon her hiring have been kept secret, it’s no secret that The House of M is one of Wanda Maximoff’s biggest moments in comics. In the series, Maximoff uses her immense power to entirely reshape reality upon the loss of her children. While Olsen’s character did not have children in the MCU, she did suffer two great losses – that of her brother, Quicksilver, in Avengers: Age of Ultron and the Vision, twice. A reference to the famous comic book story arc can even be seen in WandaVision’s trailer, as the wine Wanda pours for her dinner guests is seen emblazoned with the logo “House of Mepris”, which Cinemablend says “proves WandaVision is an adaptation of Brian Michael Bendis’ beloved 2005 storyline.” It’s certainly possible that Wanda’s MCU losses have led her to reshape reality and could, in fact, be the reason Hahn’s character spoke of Vision as “dead” in the series trailer.
Departing from House of M, another prevailing theory about Hahn’s character is that she is an adaptation of the character Agatha Harkness, a witch and mentor of Wanda’s. Inverse spearheaded this theory when a photo leaked of Hahn’s character being burned at the stake and they doubled-down on this notion when she later appeared dressed as a witch in the trailer.
Though Feige cites Nick at Nite’s comforting array of sitcoms as inspiration for WandaVision, another comic book that readers can’t help but draw comparisons to is Tom King’s The Vision. Much like WandaVision, King’s miniseries saw Vision and his family settling down – sans Wanda – in a D.C. suburb, creating instant aesthetic comparisons. King himself has been keeping a close eye on the details of WandaVision, tweeting a side-by-side comparison – that Comic Book Resources speculates was no coincide – of one of his The Vision panels with a shot from the series trailer.
— Tom King (@TomKingTK) February 3, 2020
“In a sense, [a TV show] is a multi-issue comic-book run,” WandaVision showrunner supervising producer Mary Livanos (Captain Marvel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2) spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the show’s unique cross-section of the rich worlds of comic book, MCU and sitcom storytelling. Feige went on to report that the show will have plenty for those hardcore theorizing fans to love while also being accessible for those who have never interacted with a Marvel property in their life. “If you haven’t seen any of them and just want to step into this weird thing because you love The Dick Van Dyke Show, it’s going to work,” Feige addressed potential viewers when speaking to Entertainment Weekly “But if you’ve been tracking the 23 movies we’ve made and following along the stories into Phase 4, there’ll be a wealth of rewards waiting for you as it all unfolds.”
Parris, another MCU tie-in playing in the world of WandaVision as adult Monica Rambeau, described the show as “six Marvel movies packed into what they’re presenting as a sitcom” (Entertainment Weekly). The ambition required to marry all these concepts is not only a bold way to usher in Marvel Studios television wing, but Screen Rant speculates that it has the potential to unlock a “new era of experimentation” in the MCU as a whole.
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Image Credit: Raymond Flotat