Things are seeming kind of flat lately, and sometimes downright colorless. Everything looks reasonably placid, but something’s not quite right with reality. The days feel … episodic. Does the world taper off at the end of the block? Does life loop back on itself? Are your neighbors with you, or against you?
This has been the premise of “WandaVision,” Marvel’s latest foray into the intricate, immersive universe first cobbled together in the comics by Stan Lee six decades ago. Not incidentally, it’s also an apt description of life in many corners of America during this pandemic micromoment.
In an era when meticulously crafted fictional universes are entertainment’s billion-dollar baby, “WandaVision,” whose inaugural and probably only season concludes Friday, took it all a step further, turning the seven-decade tradition of the American sitcom into a decade-hopping suburban prison.
Episode by TV-homage episode, it pinballed through unsettling sendups of “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “Bewitched,” “The Brady Bunch,” “Family Ties,” “Malcolm in the Middle” and “Modern Family,” swallowing an entire New Jersey town and its people and, along the way, serving up a darker version of Marvel’s already dysfunctional funhouse mirror.
The pitch-perfect result: a distorted reflection not merely of America, but of the way it has seen itself through its broadly drawn television comedy across three generations.
How did this show manage (inadvertently, of course, since it was conceived before the virus arrived) to match the tenor of its comfort craving moment? Because it reached so lovingly into the mannered, structured lore of sitcoms, which were comfort food for the American TV watcher’s brain long before the word “streaming” ever tumbled into the lexicon.
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