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WandaVision: The Subtle Nod To The Dick Van Dyke Show You Missed

Fans of classic television were in for a real treat when WandaVision premiered with its first two episodes on Friday. The Disney+ MCU series begins as a black-and-white homage to some of the most iconic sitcoms in TV history, featuring superheroes Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) attempting to conceal their eccentricities and fit into the mold of those cutesy screen couples who delighted live audiences for so many decades.

The show is overtly reminiscent of many classic series; Wanda's ability to levitate dishes and materialize items on command calls back to shows with other magical leading ladies, like Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie. There are also winks to Leave it to Beaver and I Love Lucy contained in the settings and Stepford-style demeanors of the characters. The classic sitcom that influenced Marvel's WandaVision the most, however, is The Dick Van Dyke Show, and the creators made sure to honor that all-timer in a lot of ways — including one little nod you might have missed.

The director went straight to the source for key inspiration

The first episode of WandaVision reintroduces us to the MCU power couple as newlyweds who, for reasons that have not yet been revealed, have moved into a cookie cutter house in the '50s. They concern themselves with mundanity like making nice with neighbor Agnes (Kathryn Hahn) and hosting Vision's boss and his wife — Mr. and Mrs. Hart (Fred Melamed and Debra Jo Rupp, respectively) — for dinner in hopes of getting that promotion. That's right — even though Vision died in Avengers: Infinity War when Thanos (Josh Brolin) removed the Mind Stone from his head, and Wanda a.k.a. Scarlet Witch returned from the dust in Avengers: Endgame to defeat the supervillain, they're somehow together again here, pretending to live this mundane existence, fretting over failing to impress the boss with a home-cooked meal.

The simplicity of the situation they face in the series' opening episode is part of how WandaVision pays homage to The Dick Van Dyke Show, which ran from 1961-1966 on CBS. Director Matt Shakman and Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige famously consulted with Dick Van Dyke himself about the series in 2019 and learned that the trick to achieving relatable TV scenarios is just to keep it real. Shakman told Entertainment Weekly that when he asked Van Dyke how to achieve situational authenticity, the star explained that the rule of thumb should be, "If it couldn't happen in real life, it couldn't happen on the show." Even though Wanda and Vision wield extraordinary powers that are decidedly not grounded in reality, the kitschiness of their conundrum does make the episode fit right into the mood of that era of TV.

The classic klutz is a subtle, but direct wink

In addition to setting the tone for WandaVision, Shakman revealed that another crucial thing he learned from Van Dyke was how to bring physical comedy into the fold. He told ET Online that his meeting with Van Dyke also taught him that by grounding the storyline in realistic circumstances, they would earn "the permission to be incredibly silly and to fall over the ottoman and do pratfalls," which was "very helpful in how we approached the tone of [WandaVision]." 

Van Dyke's own goofy demeanor and physical comedy became the hallmarks of The Dick Van Dyke Show, and it appears that WandaVision's very first act is to honor that legacy — and upend it a bit, as well. In the first few moments of the premiere, as the newly-wedded Wanda and Vision move into their picture-perfect little neighborhood, Vision attempts to carry Wanda across the threshold but walks straight through the front door, dropping Wanda on her rear. Then, when he finally brings her inside, he walks straight through the ottoman before putting her down. That first bit is reminiscent of many, many moments of slapstick in The Dick Van Dyke Show, but the second is exactly the opposite, as Van Dyke famously tripped over his furniture time and again throughout the series, while Vision suffers no such clumsiness — perhaps the first clue that these two definitely do not belong in this reality, however cozy it may be.

The first episode is a full-on love letter to Dick Van Dyke

WandaVision's premiere also honors The Dick Van Dyke Show and its contemporaries from the annals of television history in a few other practical ways. The cast and crew filmed part of the series at the Warner Bros. Ranch's Blondie Street location, which was previously used for other classic shows like Bewitched and Just the Ten of Us, the latter of which featured Shakman as a child star. The specific methods of the shoot — from the types of camera lenses to the use of a live in-studio audience — were also era-appropriate touches.

As Olsen explained to Emmy Magazine, "Our first episode's a big love song to The Dick Van Dyke Show. We tried to film it as authentic to that time period as possible, so we used lenses from that time [and] lighting from that time." 

Bettany added, "We shot the first episode in two days because we did it with a live studio audience ... all of our crew were dressed in 1950s costume."

Fans of WandaVision can expect the coming episodes to continue to honor relics of television past as the secrets of the series are revealed, as Bettany teased, "It's an homage to American sitcoms. The decades are all represented, and they're all represented by a style of sitcom that you will recognize."