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Marvel Studio's 'WandaVision,' Reimagines Classic Sitcoms


Marvel has a new series of shows for Disney+. New actually is kind of a stretch. It is remixing and reimagining classic sitcoms. Here's NPR TV critic Eric Deggans.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: As "WandaVision" opens, superheroes Wanda Maximoff and Vision are in a place you've never seen them before, a 1960-style, black-and-white sitcom with their own backstory-providing theme song.


UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL GROUP: (Singing) A newlywed couple just moved to town, a regular husband and wife, Wanda-Vision.

DEGGANS: Turns out these two kooky newlyweds are living in a suburban home that looks identical to the set from "The Dick Van Dyke Show." But Wanda, played by Elizabeth Olsen, is still a witch who can transform matter with a gesture. And Vision, played by Paul Bettany, is still an android who occasionally struggles to fit in with humanity, like in this moment when Wanda offers to blink into existence a little breakfast...


ELIZABETH OLSEN: (As Wanda) What do you say to silver-dollar pancakes, crispy hash browns, bacon, eggs, freshly squeezed orange juice and black coffee?

PAUL BETTANY: (As Vision) I say, oh, I don't eat food.


OLSEN: (As Wanda) Well, that explains the empty refrigerator.


DEGGANS: ...Or this moment where Vision is crunching numbers at an office job faster than any human possibly could.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Gee Willikers (ph), that was fast.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Hey, the music isn't bothering you is it, pal?

BETTANY: (As Vision) In terms of distraction from work or the largely nonsensical nature of the lyrics?


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) The first one.

BETTANY: (As Vision) Ah. No. Thank you.


DEGGANS: Wanda and Vision's life unfolds like a classic TV sitcom, complete with laugh tracks, a tough boss and wacky neighbors. Both of them are hiding their powers in the same way beautiful witch Samantha hid her sorcery skills as a suburban housewife on the classic sitcom "Bewitched." But there are odd gaps. They can't remember when they got married or where they moved from. And there are times when it seems someone outside their perfect life is trying to communicate with them, like here, when an argument with a nosy neighbor ends with a bizarre message coming through a nearby radio before it explodes.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) I've heard things about you. But I assure you, I don't mean anyone any harm.

OLSEN: (As Wanda) I don't believe you.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) Wanda. Wanda. Who's doing this to you, Wanda?


DEGGANS: The first three episodes of "WandaVision" are entertaining and more than a bit unexpected. The last time Marvel fans saw these characters together was in the film "Avengers: Infinity War," where mega-villain Thanos - spoiler alert - killed both of them. Like all good fanboys, I have my own theories about why they're now trapped in a sitcom fantasyland. Let's just say they involve Nazi-like bad guys Hydra and Wanda's own deep desire to still be together with Vision. But half the fun of watching WandaVision is trying to figure out exactly what's going on. So I won't say much more.

This wasn't supposed to be the first streaming TV show from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to show up on Disney+. But pandemic lockdowns pushed back the debut of the more action oriented "Falcon And The Winter Soldier." So this wonderfully weird homage to TV sitcom history is the first of at least 10 new Marvel series to reach the public, which is perfect because a show that goes beyond flashy costumes and fight scenes to entertain with a sly knowledge of pop culture and earnest humanity is exactly what Marvel's best work is really all about. I'm Eric Deggans.


Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.