If you’ve seen WandaVision episode 1, the reality-bending new instalment in the MCU, then you’ve probably noticed it looks a lot like a vintage sitcom – and Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios, has talked before about how these programmes have influenced the series. In black and white, with Wanda sporting some stylish gowns and Vision rocking a suit and tie, the first episode takes us back to a bygone era of swooshy skirts and gossipy neighbours with recipe cards.
But WandaVision lovingly spoofs one sitcom in particular in its first entry: The Dick Van Dyke Show. Unsurprisingly starring Van Dyke, the show follows his character Rob Petrie, the head writer of a comedy series, and lets audiences into his work and home life. It also features Rob's wife Laura, played by Mary Tyler Moore, and their son Ritchie (Larry Mathews).
The Dick Van Dyke Show
So inspired by The Dick Van Dyke Show is WandaVision that Feige and series director Matt Shakman actually went to the star for advice. They sat down with him at, naturally, Disneyland as Shakman recounted to Entertainment Weekly.
“[The Dick Van Dyke Show] can be very broad with silly physical-comedy gags, and yet it never feels false, and I wondered how they did that,” Shakman said. “[Van Dyke’s] answer was really simple: he basically said that if it couldn’t happen in real life, it couldn’t happen on the show.”
There are also a few similarities between both series' first episodes. The Dick Van Dyke Show's first instalment sees Rob’s producer, Mel Cooley (Richard Deacon) invite him to a dinner party – and the bespectacled man even bears some resemblance to Vision’s own boss. He's also similarly the “straight man,” which essentially means he keeps his cool while others act weird.
Plus, Rob asks his wife how her satin evening gown is – and Wanda wears an especially fancy dress of her own after a misunderstanding makes her think her and Vision are celebrating their anniversary, rather than hosting the android's boss.
Sitcom style production
Feige and Shakman apparently took Van Dyke’s filming advice to heart, because they used period techniques to produce the episode – and filmed in front of a live studio audience. However, it's worth noting that, while the episode's meant to be set in the '50s, the Dick Van Dyke show actually started in the early '60s.
As Entertainment Weekly revealed, even the crew were in ‘50s style clothes, and their lenses and lighting were also from the era. As for the special effects, which saw Wanda send household objects flying, these used the same kinds of techniques as sitcoms from the era, with wires and some clever camera trickery. The commitment to accuracy didn’t stop there – Paul Bettany ended up painted blue, since Vision's red-toned skin looked off in the episode's grey colouring.
We can expect each episode to spoof one sitcom each from now on as the series hops decades, which promises some retro fun each Friday. You can check out our WandaVision release schedule to make sure you don't miss the next delightfully strange instalment.