Movies & TV

WandaVision Isn't Perfect, But It's Perfect for Right Now

Wanda's escape into sitcoms mirrors our own viewing habits over the last year.
IMAGE MARVEL STUDIOS/ DISNEY
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I am not a massive WandaVision fan. It’s fine! A lot of people like it and that’s nice. I don’t have any great depth of feeling for it though.

The first few episodes were interesting and occasionally genuinely creepy, but as it’s worn on it’s become more obviously a bridge between one mega-successful film series and the next. It's less a coherent TV series than a formidable piece of structural engineering, and formidable pieces of structural engineering can be very hard to love. I'm impressed by the Thelwall Viaduct; I'm not in a rush to watch 10 half-hours of The Thelwall Viaduct Adventures.

The latest episode did touch a nerve though. As Agatha led Wanda through her memories, we saw how the soft, circular rhythms of sitcoms were where Wanda felt safe.

"Always sitcom, sitcom, sitcom," Pietro grumps as she demands another black market disc of The Dick Van Dyke Show at home in war-torn Sokovia. Other traumatic events are soothed with The Brady Bunch and Malcolm in the Middle. She doesn't seem to laugh much at them. Instead, the managed dysfunction, and the core belief that everyday problems can always be overcome by relying on your family and your friends, are what drew her in.

Photo by MARVEL STUDIOS/ DISNEY.
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I've never had to put up with most of the things in Wanda's past which sitcoms have salved for her (mortar fire and ensuing orphanhood, exploitation by neo-Nazis, death of brother who can run at speed of light, death of robot husband, second death of robot husband) but over the course of the pandemic I've retreated into sitcoms in the same way.

I’m on my fourth or fifth time through Stath Lets Flats, and since lockdown one last March I've run or rerun through Chewing GumThis Way UpSunny DPeep ShowGhosts, Fawlty Towers, and Back to Life, as well as snacking on odds and ends kicking around the streamers. At one particularly bleak point I managed 10 minutes of George & Mildred.

I'm not the only one either. (I may have been the only one to watch George & Mildred.) Last May, TV channel Gold reported that viewing figures for Only Fools and Horses were up 20 percent compared to before lockdown and Drama's reruns of Last of the Summer Wine were up 30 percent. With literally nothing to do and literally the entirety of recorded media to dive into, the only thing that would do was a veteran British character actor careening down a Yorkshire hillside in a bath.

Granted, that's probably not a gigantic real terms leap, but NBC's The Office was the most-streamed thing on American Netflix in 2020 by a huge amount: its 57 billion cumulative minutes of streaming dwarfed 39.4 billion minutes spent watching the second-most streamed show, Grey's AnatomySchitt's Creek and New Girl popped up in the top 10 too. Over here, comedy viewing was up 40 percent in the early weeks of the first lockdown.

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While much of WandaVision has been an exercise in fandom-feeding and slightly leaden reveals, this part of Wanda's story touches on something universal and timely. That timing was quite accidental – WandaVision was first announced back in April 2019 – but it's a truth that's become more pronounced over the last year.

Through a deeply shit and worrying time, sitcoms have been a comfort for a lot of us. The kinds of big family sitcoms which Wanda escapes into represent a stable past and a certain arc into the future, one which bends all the way around to the way thing were at the beginning: the same half-hour, again and again, for as long as you need it.

This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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