Tuesday, January 26, 2021

WANDAVISION -- My review

DISCLAIMER: I know I’m not the target audience.

DISCLAIMER 2: I am not fully briefed on the Marvel Comics Universe.

DISCLAIMER 3:  I will probably get more hate comments than a anti-Trump post.

And that brings me to WANDAVISION. 

I watched the first two episodes of WANDAVISION on Disney +.  I can honestly say, “What the fuck is it supposed to be?”  

The first episode is Wanda & Vision (two aliens? creatures from an alternate universe? A fever dream?  What????) move into a 1950’s black and white sitcom.  

Why?

They’re clearly poking fun at the genre, but here’s the thing:  for an audience to get the joke they have to understand the reference.  I assume this show is designed for Millennials.  How many Millennials know the tropes of bad 1950’s sitcoms to appreciate what’s going on?   And it’s done in a very smug manner.  Non-comedy writers trying to write comedy.  So they load the show with lame jokes and assume the fun is the hip audience laughing at just how lame the jokes are.   Granted the actual 1950’s sitcoms were lame, but they were earnest.  This is just cynical and condescending.   They say it's a loving homage to THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW.  As someone who reveres THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, I thought the tone was very snarky. 

Would it have been so terrible to try to write a show in that genre that was genuinely funny?  Instead, it’s just a big long sketch that’s a one-joke premise.  

Writing didn’t seem important but the production values were.  BEWITCHED-type animated opening titles, lots of special effects — dishes flying,  a character walking through walls, etc.  But all the characters are one-dimensional and you just don’t care about them.  Why should you?  The story is a standard trope, the characters are cardboard thin, it’s not funny, and there’s nothing emotional to hang onto.  

Episode two also starts in black-and-white, also is spoofing a genre only AARP members get, but from time to time flashes of color appear.   I’m guessing this takes the story in another direction, and for all I know that new direction is great.  But why did we have to see essentially an hour of the bad ‘50s sitcom?   As of this writing, only two episodes have dropped.  Maybe a third has come along.  I haven’t gotten to it yet. (So is that DISCLAIMER 4?) 

Again, aficionados of the Marvel Universe might find this completely understandable.  Maybe if you know the legend of WANDAVISION it all makes sense and is necessary for telling the whole story.  

But for Joe Lunchpail like me, it was confusing, not entertaining, and the cheesy plots, mugging, and one-liners made for an unpleasant hour of television.   

Prove to me you can write a good retro sitcom before you trash it.    And you better tell me why I’m watching this by the end of Episode 3 or it’ll be WANDA-WATCH-SOMETHING ELSE.

53 comments :

404 said...

Ken, as an avid Marvel movie-goer I have to say that you have to know the show and the characters to "get" this one. Some of the questions you raise are valid, but the point is some of your critiques are objecting to things that were done ON PURPOSE. The bad comedy writing, flat characters, etc? Most of that was a choice they made to tell the story a certain way, because by the end of ep 2 and certainly in ep 3 you start to figure out there's a much bigger thing at play, and a reason for all of that happening. They weren't trying to write a good sitcom episode. They were trying to write something that is turning out to be the product of an unhinged mind. I don't understand it all yet, but I'm already hooked.

You're right, though -- if you don't watch Marvel, then you're not going to really understand, appreciate, or care. I think that's okay. Not every show needs to be written for the uninitiated.

It's like my parents who called me up to tell me they watched AVENGERS: ENDGAME. They didn't like it. I asked how many other Marvel movies they had seen. None. Of course they hated it!

Herman Glimscher said...

It was as exciting as warm skim milk. So I loved it.

Joseph said...

I agree that the show is slow. They could have cut a lot from the first two episodes and combined them into one. I also don’t quite understand what tone they’re going for since none of the jokes (at least I think they’re supposed to be jokes) are funny at all. Episode three was more of the same only now they’re making fun of shows from the 70s like the Brady Bunch. It’s also annoying that their super powers are unclear and seem to come and go depending on what the writers need storywise, Wanda can make stuff appear and mess with time but has trouble making dinner?
If it didn’t have the mystery element it would have nothing going for it and even that is wearing thin.
Hopefully future Marvel DIsney+ shows are better.

VP81955 said...

This has essentially been done before on series like "Hi Honey, I'm Home!" and in more serious films such as "Pleasantville." Not to say the premise couldn't be worked again, but from your description, it sounds so patronizing, so smug.

I've recently been watching early episodes of "Leave It To Beaver" (which precedes "Perry Mason" mornings on MeTV), and while the series is easily satirized, it's surprisingly good, viewing life from a child's perspective while also giving parents some slack. (It also helps that the writing is solid and the cast is talented.) There's a reason its reruns have been popular for generations. The same can be said for the more teen-oriented "Dobie Gillis," whose breakneck pace made it ahead of its time.

Hamilton Matthews said...

it’s fantastic. the twist is weird as cats, which is also lovely, because rarely an i surprised anymore. it is a very particular show. i look forward to watching it unfold, it could completely fail for me, which is what makes it exciting.

johnachziger said...

Ken, since you're not familiar with the Marvel Universe, of course this is over your head. It's like trying to explain baseball to someone from Lower Slobovia (or explaining Cricket to an American). Wanda has tremendous powers, but has mental issues that come from losing her brother and her lover (Vision is actually dead) and either she is compensating by creating these fantasies, or someone (possibly an evil someone) is feeding them to her. The show isn't intended for everyone, but is a gem to long-time Marvelites.

estiv said...

I'm not an MCU fan and haven't seen WandaVision, but I think you're mistaken in saying only older people will be familiar with the original shows. With so many nostalgia channels, pretty much all the classic series are available, and there are some younger people seeking them out, if only to see what they're like.

John said...

C'mon -- the robot getting drunk from eating gum .... COMEDY GOLD I TELL YOU!

Rob Sisco said...

So, yes, you must know the Marvel Universe to appreciate this one. Watching with my 18 year old son, he paused every few minutes to explain the back story. Knowing that actually helped quite a bit so, I’m guessing the writers didn’t really care about non Marvel-ette viewers.
I did however make him watch an episode of my pal Rupert Holmes’ Hi Honey I’m Home. That show nailed the revisitation of the early sitcoms era. It’s worth a YouTube search if only for Rupert’s opening theme!!

Glenn said...

Part of the problem for me is that I've seen all of the Marvel movies, but I know nothing about the comics that inspired them. Apparently, everything they've shown in the first three episodes are all from comic book story lines. That said, I still can't tell where this is going and am not super into it just yet.

William Where said...

I think you are right. I am in the target audience, and I am enjoying Wandavision for its place in the MCU. As others have pointed in these comments, that is needed to enjoy it. But that does not excuse what you are saying: why not make it so it can be enjoyed without that knowledge with a better script? If then you want to highlight that this is not just a newly found episode of a long lost 50s-60s series, then you can do it at some point. But half an hour of just that (and then another half an hour the next episode, and another after that) seems a lot like a missed opportunity.
It seems they are moving a decade-ish (maybe more like 5 years-ish) in every episode (the first one is early 60s Van Dyke, then late 60s Bewitched, and then Brady Brunch early 70s. Will there be eventually a Cheers-like episode in episode 5 or 6? Maybe, or maybe the series will leave this trick behind and focus on the Secret-Thing-That-Is-Really-Happening.

Roy DeRousse said...

I see it both ways. As a Marvel fan, I think that I get what they're trying to do. (They are deliberately setting up mysteries, so I don't totally understand it myself.) As a boomer, I enjoyed all of the references to old TV shows too.

Honestly, this might have worked better as a film. Having watched 3 episodes, my reaction is, "That is nice, but what does it all mean?" But I am willing to stick with it. For someone not already invested in the characters or Marvel Universe, I can understand your reaction. If this had been a film, they could have squeezed the first 3 episodes into the first half of the movie and then had an actual payoff by the time the film ended. Maybe you would have liked it better that way.

Anonymous said...

Why is it the "you don't get it" people always turn into Josh Trank (fired from directing Fantastic Four because he fucked it up) or Richard Kelly (directed Southland Tales which was booed right out of the Cannes Film Festival it was so bad). Both of their careers in flames yet they continue to this day defending their work by telling everybody "you didn't get it!"

Craig Gustafson said...

Writers Who Are Tone Deaf for Comedy of a Different Era:
My wife and I loved the first season of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel." The 1950s atmosphere, the relationships, the character-based comedy - it was all terrific.
We trailed off during season two and haven't seen it since. Why? Because Midge is supposed to be this super-hot night club comic. As she gets more experience, every audience is dying at her observational humor. The problem? It's all observation and no humor. There is nothing remotely funny about her material, she just says what's going on in her life and it's supposed to be automatically hilarious. It was just annoying.
Feh.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

I just want to take a moment to say that my friend Paul Iverson got to work on this show as a "Laugh Track Consultant"! Paul is one of the world's leading experts on all things laugh tracks, audience reaction, the Laff Box, and the mysterious Charley Douglass - almost everything you read about Charley Douglass, his work, and his legacy online is the result of Paul's tireless research, because of just how mysterious and secretive Douglass was about his work. Paul has also, over the years, re-recorded tons of old Charley Douglass laughter and reactions (as have I for my own original productions), and even has his own YouTube channel that he uploads his "homebrews" to, re-inserting Douglass laughter to old DePatie-Freleng Enterprises cartoons such as THE PINK PANTHER, THE INSPECTOR, THE ANT AND THE AARDVARK, and others.

Paul always wanted to do this on a professional level, not just as a hobby, and as it turns out, Marvel Studios found out about him, and gave him an opportunity to finally turn his dream into a reality! He supplied them with his expansive Charley Douglass library to use on WANDAVISION to utilize in their attempts to bring some authenticity to the era of sitcoms they parody . . . unfortunately, they ended up using more modern-sounding laugh tracks instead, but if you pay attention, you'll still see Paul listed in the credits as a "Laugh Track Consultant."

Either way, he was so excited about the opportunity he had, and was happy to have the experience to work for such a powerful studio as Marvel on a project like this.

Jim S said...

Ken,

I grew up reading comics and get many of the references. I enjoyed the Marvel films and saw all of them and enjoyed just about every one of them. So no newbie am I.

Your critiques are spot on. But I don't blame Marvel per se. Rather I blame the way we watch "TV" these days.

Back when TV was broadcast only, there were rules. Shows had to stay in their time slots for fear that viewers would get out of the habit of watching a particular show. And episodes have to be self contained. Every episode was someone's first, so the premise had to be easily understood and the characters had to be self-explanatory.

But about 30-40 years ago things started changing. Steven Bochco created "Hill Street Blues" and that show changed everything. It had a large cast of regulars and a larger cast of guest characters who could appear three, four or five times a season. Plots might unfold over several episodes. It was easy to get lost. So if you watch the previously on part of the show, there would be a brief recap of the relevant plots and characters.

Then is 1987 Stephen J. Cannell created "Wiseguy" in 1987. This show was unique. There were arcs. The heroes would pursue a particular villain and that might take up to 10 episodes. Then the show would recreate itself with a new villain. While characters might skip a couple of seasons, they might appear in other arcs. But Cannell was smart. While each episode was part of a larger arc, each episode could also be viewed as a stand-alone. It had a beginning, middle and end. So while it might have advanced the arc, it also had its stand-alone element.

This arc method of story-telling has gone from unique to quite common, especially with streaming show. But streaming shows are now made to be binged. The seasons are short, so it's now possible watch an eight episode season of a streaming show on a rainy Sunday. This is where WandaVision comes in. Its initial run is weekly, but it will be streaming forever. We wait week to week as initial watchers. But everyone else will be able to binge all episodes in one day once the first run is over. I suspect the writers are writing for streaming and not broadcast. Watch it in a day and the whole thing makes sense. Watch one week at a time and it's slow and you don't get the point until week 7. Watch all at once and you get the big picture all at once.

I think Vince Gilligan got it right with "Breaking Bad" and "Never Call Saul" in that there are arcs and continuing stories, but episodes have a beginning, middle and end that tell their own story, but also end on cliff hangers that make us want to tune in next week. Binging improves an already great experience.

But that's me. I admit this analysis could be wrong.

Boss.Goss said...

Meta is the word. The Marvel Extended Universe is exactly that... you need to understand the back stories of the characters, their nemesis and the comic books the particular product is based on. This isn’t a television show that’s meant to stand alone. To enjoy it correctly you need to know the Scarlet Witch, her powers, her past lives, that she is either stuck in her mind losing it or trapped in their s world by nefarious forces and that will come out as the mystery unfolds. So your review of it as a sitcom doesn’t hold up because it’s not a sitcom it’s a drama about a super hero being sent to a sitcom world where she’s possibly being held prisoner. By who? So even though the inspiration is sitcom it can’t be reviewed as sitcom. I’ll give you a food analogy. Imagine your reviewing Coca Cola but you’re trying to review it when it’s being used as an ingredient of carnitas. You need to be reviewing carnitas not the Coca Cola in the recipe. The sitcom has been broken down for its sugar content and that’s all. I love it but I’m used to multiple world building in stories where you need to know the comic, the TV shows, the video games, the movies and the online chatter to get it.

Brian Fies said...

You and my wife. I'm a fan of both the Marvel comics and movies, so I get what they're going for. The series is basically Pleasantville meets Billy Mumy from the Twilight Zone. A grieving woman with godlike power is desperately trying to create her perfect world. Even after giving my wife background and context, her review is "It's weird," and not in a good way. After three episodes she's out and I'm in, with enthusiasm. It's not for everybody and that's fine, but I think if Marvel expected this to be their "Mandalorian" they'll be disappointed. Everybody gets the Mandalorian in the first five minutes: it's a gunslinger and a kid. WandaVision rewards fans but is too impenetrable to hit big.

Jeffrey Graebner said...

I think it's kind of bad luck that the pandemic changed the order of the Marvel series released on Disney+. I suspect that the upcoming "Falcon and the Winter Soldier", which is basically a continuation of the Captain America stories, is the one that was always more likely to be Marvel's "Mandalorian" and it was originally supposed to debut first.

I'm liking "WandaVision" a lot, while my wife, who has only seen a few of the movies and has no familiarity with the comics, is rapidly losing interest. I'm really glad that Marvel Studios was willing to take on something this complicated and, frankly, weird. It's a bit unfortunate that it ended up being the first new Marvel content in a year and a half, though.

McTom said...

I was right there with you at the end of Ep 1, and I've seen all the Marvel movies, albeit "only" once each. Totally slow going and just aping a genre vs expanding on it. After the end of Ep 3 - totally hooked. Yeah, it's a little annoying that you have to be a superfan to get all the references that are salted throughout, and after reading about it, there are about a bajillion. On the whole though, I'm OK with it. If people decide it's not for them, ok. But I think this is one of those "your patience will be rewarded" things. People give the likes of David Lynch a pass for occasionally infuriating slow-burn shows (see many Twin Peaks S3 episodes...), and maybe it's not fair to give Marvel the same pass because it's "just a comic book show". But intelligent people can disagree. Isn't that nice these days?

Anonymous said...

Hi Craig Gustafson
It is very difficult for characters performing comedy — unless the characters are bombing— to amuse a Film/TV audience.
There is often a Film/TV viewer’s resentment of such scenes, almost regardless of a performer’s skill or the material’s quality.
And the onscreen reactions of those watching the comedy acts seldom seem to ring true.
The Chaplin and Keaton act was successfully handled in Limelight, but are there many other such triumphs?
Mickey One? Punchline? The Lenny biopic?

Hi Mr Levine
WandaVision is more enjoyable {Spoilers} once you realize the main character is Howard The Duck.

DBA said...

If you compare WandaVision to a sitcom, you'll be confused. A better comparison is to Legion, also based on Marvel stuff, also very weird, also doing a lot of world-building in a world that seems familiar but clearly isn't quite right. I will say the show definitely assumes you know what Vision is and what Wanda's powers are. You don't necessarily need to know the whole history of both characters (although it helps), but you do have to know those two things for a lot of it to make any sense, and to trigger a viewer asking the right questions about why they're being shown what they're seeing.

To me the "homage"ey parts were not in any of the writing, but rather the detail in the reproduction of the sets.

I'm also 35, and in middle and high school Bewitched and Dick Van Dyke were my favourite shows.

I think the comment above re: coke in a carne asada recipe explains it beautifully.

Troy McClure said...

Wandavision may be amazing or it may be garbage. I won't know because I've got Marvel fatigue and I'm done with them. They have so contaminated the cultural landscape, not just with their own products but with all the other comic book crap churned out by studios trying to make Marvel sized dollars.

Blockbuster event movies stopped being special about eight years or so ago because they all look and feel the same. Back in the day, films like Batman, Batman Returns, Die Hard, Terminator 2, The Mask and Blade were genuinely unique and memorable. Can anyone honestly tell a random scene in Captain America 2 apart from one in Captain America 3, or Ant-Man and Ant-Man 2, or Fast and the Furious 6 and Fast and the Furious 8? They're assembly line products crafted to exact formulas that rake in billions but leave no enduring mark or memory because they're identical experiences.

Blade was one of the best comic book films of the 90s. A terrific R rated action horror by New Line. Now that the rights have come under Marvel Studios ownership, the planned reboot will almost certainly be a load of PG-13 shit designed to tie in with the rest of the anodyne, bland MCU output.

Liggie said...

The creators actually consulted and worked with Dick Van Dyke himself on setting up the homage/similarities to his show. He said he was unaware of how big the Avengers/Marvel movie universe was, but when he found out he was very flattered that they approached him.

Kevin said...

Thank you for this PSA, Ken. As someone who doesn't watch Marvel movies, I wasn't sure if I should check this out. They've done a good job advertising it as something that would interest me, but I was hesitant not knowing the Marvel universe. You just saved me some time. I'm sure I'd hate it.

Unknown said...

Wow. No insults, I think we've turned a corner. People who don't agree with you are understanding and accepting. I think today's post is a flashback to the 50s.....

Jon B. said...

Hang in there, Ken. Episode 3 begins to explain, albeit obliquely, why everything in the first two episodes seems just a bit off. If, for example, you thought the "jokes" weren't sufficiently funny, or that the laugh track was overly intrusive, we are starting to understand why.

KB said...

FRIDAY QUESTION:

I recently checked out the new Fox sitcom "Call Me Kat" and was so appalled at how terrible it was that I had to find the sitcom it was based on. I found that show, "Miranda," on Hulu. It's like night and day. "Miranda" is laugh out loud hilarious while the American remake is so bad it should have a "groan track" instead of laughs.

So my question is, what are your favorite American sitcom remakes and which were the worst?

Dan Wolfe said...

My understanding is that the production team actually consulted Dick Van Dyke himself to bring as much authenticity to the production of at least episode 1. And yes, without the backstory or having experienced the original sitcoms, it's completely useless. WITH the backstory AND having experienced the sitcoms of that era, I find it fascinating and I love what they're doing, even though I'm anxious for what's coming.

Jon B. said...

I fear many readers will decide the series is not for them based on your early review. Having said that, I concede the show is not going to be a favorite for those who love sitcoms and dislike sci-fi. Many of us, however, can and do enjoy both. Even those of us who are old enough to have seen The Dick Van Dyke Show in its first run.

Of course, I have only seen the first three episodes. Maybe the upcoming episodes will be terrible and the series will be a failure.

Tony Collett said...

As someone who is in the intersecting portion of the Venn diagram of comic book fan and sitcom fan, you've confirmed the concern I had about the other circles not getting it. I've read comics fans state they didn't get the sitcom aspects of the show, and now there's your critique from the sitcom side. And all this is a shame.
Even the introductory mini show on Disney+ called "Marvel Legends" didn't do a good job (their one job) of telling us who Vision and Scarlet Witch are.
Dick Van Dyke was hired as a consultant for the first episode, and I hope he was utilized better than Stan Lee was on the Marvel TV shows in the 70s (So you say the Hulk talks and fights super villains? Sure, Stan, we'll take it under advisement ).
But back in the day when Stan was writing the books, he believed that every book was someone's first comic, and care should be taken so that new reader wouldn't be confused or alienated, maybe even like it enough to buy subsequent issues. A complaint in comics is that they've strayed from that, and alas, it looks like they've done so with WandaVision.
Sure, I liked it, but I'm 57 years old, hardly the target demographic.



goodman.dl said...

Gets to the basic point of "but, it's bad on purpose..." is that... I can recognize that there's an artistic reason to have a stretch where an episode looks bad because it's illustrating a character's fractured psyche.. but....

You are still asking an audience to sit through it. Part of the Joke of "30 Rock" was that the show-within-the-show wasn't very good. But they also didn't ask you to watch more than snippets of that. If you're asking viewers to watch a half-hour, the show-within-a-show needs to be worth watching. I'll stop caring that it's building to a point, and just skip ahead to that.

kcross said...

The Mandalorian did it correctly by giving us a character in the first episode that we cared about instantly (Baby Yoda). It made us want to continue watching the series to ensure he came out all right. After 3 episodes I don't care about anyone in WandaVision, even after reading the comic book series that the TV show might be based on. Even the mystery behind it seems murky and un-engaging, though I will probably finish the first season for completeness. This reminds me of the HBO series named "John from Cincinnati" back in 2007 that tried the "mysterious things keep happening", but the resolution just wasn't worth the time.

Tudor Queen said...

I'm in that sweet spot where I love WandaVision but totally understand why you don't.

I'm not a total Marvel geek, but I do enjoy the Marvel Cinema Universe a lot. Although they were never the 'leads', I really loved both Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch and Vision, and think Elizabeth Olson is, in general, a terrific actress who deserves a much higher level of fame.

However, someone with no familiarity with the MCU probably wouldn't like WandaVision because you wouldn't note those moments when it is clear that something is definitely wrong in sunny sitcom land, and when the strange voice comes on the transistor radio to ask "Wanda, who's doing this to you?" in the second episode, it may indeed be Wanda "doing it" to herself.

There's a whole second layer there, maybe more than that. And it's part of what keeps me tuning in. But I do understand why you don't care for it.

WandaVision is probably 'niche' programming. Happily, streaming services like Disney Plus are where some niche shows can survive nicely.

Greg Ehrbar said...

Hey, as I said. I just keep streaming The Smurfs. I'm up to episode #356 now. And yes, they also keep adding characters and relationships that are from the original Belgian comics, combined together for the series, or created from scratch. But I'm keeping up and waiting to get my two virus shots.

DBenson said...

Re Jim S on story arcs, etc:

Yes, back in broadcast days most shows were designed to be a package of self-contained and interchangeable episodes. But Disney's "Zorro" made use of story arcs. The show was not so much progressive as a conscious throwback to serials, even employing serial talents. There were no cliffhangers. Each episode gave Zorro a victory, but left the villains in place for further mischief. No substantial subplots to speak of, beyond Sergeant Garcia's comedy relief. The first season opened with Zorro versus the corrupt commandant, while the rest of the season offered a variety of evildoers who were in fact minions of the mysterious Eagle, who arrived in person to be defeated in the season finale. A few unrelated tales were laced in.

Season two shifted to shorter arcs and more stand-alone stories, although there was a sort-of ongoing continuity. A love interest or rival would make an entrance, stay for multiple episodes and make a formal exit. The action moved to Monterey for a stretch (using the same sets). Don Diego's father found out he was Zorro, and that became part of the status quo. The evolution was definitely towards purely stand-alone episodes.

DBenson said...

Did anybody catch the "Agent Carter" series on ABC? That was a direct sequel to the first "Captain America" movie, with Hayley Atwell's Peggy Carter adjusting to postwar life after the presumed death of Steve Rogers. She was coping with that, working in a sexist intelligence agency, and taking tentative steps towards a relationship. Oh yes, she was up against sadistic villains eager to unleash a super weapon on New York.

The first season was pretty good, a superhero show about life after the superhero. The second season started with promise, moving to Hollywood and bringing in more scifi as well as intriguing side trips (agism and interracial romance, among others). But an infuriatingly silly finale scotched it for me.

The only movie you needed to see was the first "Captain America", and even that was optional if you were content to pick up the references to the departed Cap.

MikeN said...

You should keep watching since it seems like shows you worked on might end up being parodied/homaged.

Key details- Vision died(in the movie you saw and posted a critical review).

Mike Bloodworth said...

TUDOR QUEEN, you beat me to it. I haven't seen "WANDAVISION." So I can't comment on it. But it does show the state of television today. "WANDAVISION" isn't "probably 'niche' programming," it definitely is. It seems that more and more shows are niche programming, targeting very specific groups. Viewership is becoming even more fragmented. The watercooler, "Did you see...?" Is becoming a thing of the past.
I'm not "blowing smoke" when I say that it makes what Ken used to do all the more impressive. Being able to write for shows that tens-of-millions of people watched every week seems impossible today.
I'm also not a fan of the serialized show. Or as I call it the "soap operaization" of shows. I hate it when missing one episode can screw up the rest of the season.

M.B.

MattP said...

I've noticed how impatient I've become with new shows. Normally if a new show isn't switched off in the first 15 minutes, it is worth watching. I tolerated the first episode of Wandavision but won't bother with any more. It was very annoying, deliberate poor communication to set up the main event is a lazy device.

Plus why would anyone with "superpowers" be stuck at home all day chatting with a neighbour rather than making a real difference in society?

Clearly I expect too much.

James Van Hise said...

I haven't watched WandaVision yet but I have seen all of the Marvel movies and according to the movie universe, The Vision died in Avengers Infinity War and in the sequel Avengers Endgame Wanda confronts Thanos in the final conflict and says, "You stole everything from me!" so apparently The Vision is still dead. I think the TV show is a bizarre fantasy world created by Wanda using her powers and imagining that The Vision is still alive. We'll have to wait and see.

Peter said...

I DO know something about Marvel, and I also grew up with reruns of Dick Van Dyke and even first runs of Bewitched. With those provisions, I can say I completely agree with you. And based on my scientific review of data--viz. scrolling through comments in my Facebook feed--quite a lot of Marvel and/or sitcom fans agree with you. And me. Us.

Stephen Gallagher said...

I was an avid Marvel reader in the mid-sixties which means I'm, er, mid-sixties myself now, so I also experienced the old sitcoms in context. There was a tradition back then that comic book movies were always poverty-row travesties but we loved them anyway, just because. Donner's SUPERMAN was the game-changer.

It took me a while but I grew jaded with the Marvel movies, AVENGERS especially, heart sinking as yet another 25-minute CGI battle loomed. I'd pretty much given up on the MCU but WANDAVISION has pulled me back in. It's an essay in creeping dread. Like a dream of being in the audience of a familiar play and slowly realising that the actors' faces are stitched-on masks and they're being fed their lines. I retained very little of the Wanda/Vision backstory but that doesn't seem to matter.

Ken, I seem to recall that you were similarly critical of the new PERRY MASON but later wrote of it with more appreciation. You may not care to stick with this one but if you do, I'll be interested to read how that goes.

RobW said...

I checked out the third episode of WandaVision last night since like many, I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt that this thing is actually going to go somewhere eventually. I will say that Elizabeth Olsen is a major talent ; she really shines in this for what she has to work with. But it was the end of the show that brings me to several questions and rants :

Ken, what do you think of this new practice of streamers shrinking the final credits of their series and often bumping you into the next episode of the series after 30 seconds or so ? I know most people don't read them, but I do and I hate having to dive for the remote every time this happens and then futzing around to restore the credit box to the full screen. I usually let the final credits of almost everything run so I can either listen to the final music score or to scan the credit lists for interesting tidbits. Last night I discovered that Willie Garson, who went on to play Stanford in Sex & The City, was the waiter in the Cheers episode The Cape Cad. Didn't quite recognize him during the episode, partly because he had a full head of hair.

However, I also think film and tv credits have gotten way out of hand. The credits for a 25 minute WandaVision episode were the equal of a full-length feature film. This brings me to another pet peeve; Why are so many inconsequential people listed in the credits today ? When I see people like drivers and assistants to talent listed I can't figure out why they have the clout to get an on-screen credit. Has a film or tv producer ever watched anything and then thought to himself " That show was extremely well-driven. We need to get those guys in the credits to be drivers on our movie!" Has the final result of any product been improved because the star's assistant fielded calls or looked after their dry cleaning ? I know these things are often contractual, but really ? And don't get me started on the Disney executives whose egos must be stroked in the WandaVision credits.

RikerDonegal said...

I don't think "they’re clearly poking fun at the genre" - Really. In fact, to me, it comes across as a lot of love and affection for these old sitcoms. Otherwise, it's a lot of time and money spent to poke fun at something and generations have loved. And that kind of mean-spiritedness isn't what the MCU is all about. It's more of a 'love letter' than anything else. I watched the first season I Dream of Jeannie about the magic act at the talent show just before Christmas. Then I saw WandaVision do the same magic-act-at-talent-show story and I thought they nailed it. At a tribute, not to poke fun. And I loved it, for that reason.

Anonymous said...

I am familiar with the Marvel universe, and I've always thought The Scarlet Witch was one of the lamest characters in it. They should just call her "Deus Ex Machina Woman". Any time a writer is in a corner, all they have to do is have The Scarlet Witch literally wave her hand and something, anything, happens to save the day. She's a lazy writer's dream.

I like Elizabeth Olsen a lot, but not enough to watch anything based on The Scarlet Witch.

Nick Alexander said...

All I can say is, my kids are MCU fans, but have expressed zero interest in this; at the same juncture, their favorite TV show is the Garry Schandling show from the 80s, which itself is a parody of bad sitcom writing, except that it’s genius.

Elf said...

I get the feeling that practically everything we're seeing and hearing in the show has some deeper meaning or connection. As mentioned above, this is all in Wanda's head or some tangible fantasy world she conjured up with her powers. Remember, 1) she's from a small, poor European country where she likely saw a lot of old dubbed American TV shows, 2) she has many emotional issues after having watching Vision killed then being a victim of "The snap" and 3) she has vast powers that are likely affected by her emotional state. So it makes perfect sense that she's in a strange mental state using familiar and comfortable environments where everything always ends happily. And because this is all a product of her head, of course it's not going to sound like the best sitcom writing of the period.

So they're not trying to salute old sitcoms with Marvel characters, they're taking us inside the head of a damaged woman, and I'm happy to be along for the ride since the show is clearly destined to end up completely different from how it began after how the last episode ended.

Ed said...

So, I'm probably a very rare viewer of WandaVision: I grew up in the '60s, so I experienced a number of classic sitcoms firsthand, and I've been a Marvel/comic book fan since the 60s as well. I've also seen every Marvel movie (most more than once), and know many of the original stories that Marvel uses as springboards for the movies.

So, with that said, I'd like to make a couple of points. First off, if you haven't seen any of the Marvel movies, you're not going to have any idea who anyone in WandaVision is, or what led up to the situation Wanda and the Vision are currently in (and anyone who didn't see the Thor movies or Ant-Man and the Wasp would have no idea that you're supposed to know who Jimmy Woo and Darcy Lewis are). I'm not arguing that it's the best idea to do a show that requires you to know so much going in, but that's a different discussion. I'd have been shocked if you liked the show: would you recommend someone start watching M*A*S*H with the 11th episode of season six?

As far as the use of sitcoms goes, I've been entertained by it. I didn't see what they were doing as snark: I saw it as a tribute (but of course, YMMV). I was laughing at the shows, not in derision, but in enjoyment, but since I knew there was something strange behind the whole thing (and that Wanda has had issues dealing with trauma in the comics), I'm looking at it in a different way than you are.

This is not meant as a dig at your opinion at all, of course, but just a response from someone in your age bracket (more or less) with a love of comics and sitcoms, and who saw the show differently. For what it's worth, the fourth episode clears up a lot of the mystery, so if you'd like some idea of what's behind this you might want to give it a look. Or you might have decided you've given enough time to the show, which is certainly fair. I, of course, will be taking the ride to the end!

Anonymous said...

As I was born in 1977, the way I saw MASH was mostly through syndicated reruns. And actually, you can start with a random episode in season 11 and get it. That goes for most sitcoms. It's not hard to understand that there are bunch of doctors and nurses with distinct personalities, out there treating patients on a battlefield far, far away, who would rather be at home in the USA.

A show like WandaVision, well, I don't expect anyone to be able to start in the middle. Yet if you're starting from the pilot, a viewer should care about the characters without having to bring anything to it. That's the job of the producers, directors, and writers--to create a world and story that gets you to care and want to keep watching these people. From Ken's review, and from the many comments here, it doesn't sound like they've succeeded. It feels like they focused too much on replicating old TV looks & tropes (and I think they meant to do so lovingly, see talking to Dick Van Dyke). They should have been focusing on making a compelling story for Wanda and Vision themselves, and seemed to have spent too much time focusing on set dressing.

Max said...

I'm very familiar with Marvel (comics and movies) and while you would certainly be less lost with that lore under your belt, it wouldn't make the show any less boring and slow.

I see a lot of people (including the showrunners) gabbing about how it's a slow burn before revealing plot twists. The thing is, it doesn't build suspense, it's just a bunch of nonsense strung together. As you say, it's never genuinely funny, the only real humor is "lol old shows were lame" and it's relentlessly trite.

Episode 4 does reveal exactly what's going on and spoiler - it's what most people familiar with the characters would have assumed it to be by the end of episode 1. Completely unsurprising and definitely not worth the wait. I highly recommend skipping the first three episodes and just starting the show from episode 4, if you're going to give it a chance at all. You would be wise to watch Infinity War and Endgame first, so you know the context of the story. To be familiar with all the characters you would also need to watch Ant-Man, Thor, and Avengers movies.

MikeN said...

Ken, you've repeatedly complained about how Emmys give out nominations to people and shows in the wrong category. Well, check your DisneyPlus. It lists WandaVision not as comedy, but drama and mystery. The drama appears to be Wanda coping with having killed Vision, and everyone else who died in the movie you watched came back to life, but not Vision.
This is a short single season series that might be more similar to Joker.

Dimension Skipper said...

Frasier and Wings both made this admittedly silly list over at Tor.com...

12 SFF Reboots of Nostalgic Sitcoms I’d Like to See
By Leah Schnelbach

It's dated Thu, Feb 18, but it was obviously inspired by WandaVision so I figured I'd toss it your way under this older relevant post (rather than under something more current, but completely irrelevant) in case you or anyone else might find it of some mild interest.