The Marvel Cinematic Universe is coming to television like never before this December with the Disney+ launch of “WandaVision,” and a new Entertainment Weekly cover story proves the creative team went to great lengths to ensure the MCU series would feel like a classic 1950s sitcom. “WandaVision” is set after the events of “Avengers: Endgame” and picks up with Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) living in the suburban town of Westview. Head writer Jac Schaeffer calls the series “a love letter to the golden age of television,” so it was important the “WandaVision” pilot not only felt like a 1950s sitcom but was made like one, too.
EW reports the pilot “went full midcentury sitcom, filming in classic black and white in front of a live studio audience (all of whom signed very, very strict NDAs). Crew members came to set in ’50s-era clothing and used period lenses and lighting to capture that dreamy vintage glow. The special-effects team employed wires and camera tricks straight from ‘Bewitched’ or ‘I Dream of Jeannie,’ making wine bottles appear to pour on their own and household appliances zoom about like magic. And when Vision’s familiar maroon skin didn’t look quite right in grayscale, the makeup artists painted Bettany blue instead.”
“It was insanity,” Olsen said about filming in front of a live studio audience. “There was something very meta for my own life because I would visit those tapings as a kid, where my sisters were working [on ‘Full House’].”
Bettany added, “We were all so high by the end of it, we wanted to keep on running the show. Maybe take it out on tour or something. ‘WandaVision’ on ice.”
“WandaVision” director Matt Shakman and Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige even consulted with acting legend Dick Van Dyke about the ins and outs of making a classic broadcast TV sitcom. Dick Van Dyke starred as Rob Petrie for five seasons on CBS’ beloved “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” Shakman and Feige invited the actor to Disneyland in summer 2019 for a lunch meeting in which they picked his brain about all things sitcoms.
“[‘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. “His answer was really simple: He basically said that if it couldn’t happen in real life, it couldn’t happen on the show.”
Even the filming locations for “WandaVision” were grounded in the history of classic American sitcoms. Per EW: “‘WandaVision’ also filmed partly on the famed Blondie Street at the Warner Bros. Ranch in Burbank, home to classic sitcom houses from ‘Father Knows Best,’ ‘The Partridge Family,’ and ‘Bewitched.'”
“If you haven’t seen any of [the MCU movies] and just want to step into this weird thing because you love ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show,’ it’s going to work,” Feige said about the show. “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.”
“WandaVision” will kick off its six-episode run in December. A specific release date has not yet been revealed. Head over to Entertainment Weekly’s website to read the full cover story.